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Regin Igloria Runs Circles, Lots of Them, to Complete His 40th Marathon

By Patty Wetli | July 11, 2014 5:25am | Updated on July 11, 2014 12:35pm
 Regin Igloria ran 105 laps around River Park's track to complete his 40th marathon timed with his 40th birthday.
Marathon Laps
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ALBANY PARK — It was a summer night like most at the North Park track in River Park.

Neighbors poured outdoors to enjoy the mild evening and the company of family and friends. Soccer players chased each other up and down the turf field. Kids raced around on their bikes. The ice cream man pedaled his cart, jangling its siren call.

Few, if any, took note of the lone runner who circled the track. And circled. And circled.

Artist Regin Igloria, founder of the community bookbinding space, North Branch Projects, would complete 105 laps before he was finished, all those quarter-mile trips around the oval adding up to a 26.2-mile marathon.

The run marked Igloria's 40th marathon — 38 of them officially sanctioned — timed to coincide with his 40th birthday.

Finish Line Serenade
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DNAinfo/Patty Wetli

Patty Wetli joined in for 7-8 miles and talks about the experience of running along with Igloria:

His first marathon, run in 1993 when he was 19, had nearly put Igloria off the sport for good.

"I was completely unprepared and naive. It was just really hard — I hit the wall pretty early at mile 15," he recalled. "I was afraid of the distance for years. I had to figure out what I had done wrong."

He conceived of his latest endeavor as one part athletic pursuit, one part performance art.

"Jocks" and artists are often perceived as polar opposites, said Igloria, but he's long had a foot in both camps.

In 2010 he organized a chip-timed 10k run in Finland, with each participant submitting a phrase or quote in advance. The race results were posted, not in minutes, but with those phrases next to each person's name.

"It became this freeform poetry project," he said.

Though distance running and art may seem like very different pursuits, "I actually see them as very directly related," he said.

Igloria drew parallels between coaches and curators, high-paid elite athletes and the soaring prices certain artists fetch at auction, and, on a personal level, between the pain, struggle and eventual euphoria experienced while running a marathon and creating a work of art.

"Today is bringing all of these ideas into reality," he said. "I hope that somewhere in the middle [of the run] there's going to be an epiphanous moment or truth revealed, similar to when I'm doing a piece of art."

In choosing the track for his canvas, of sorts, Igloria aimed to create something of a spectacle — albeit on a much smaller scale than the Chicago Marathon or the Olympics.

"I think the laps, much more than any other marathon, where you're running point to point, here people can see the whole thing before their eyes," he said.

When he crossed the unofficial start line at just after 5 p.m. on Wednesday, the sun still high enough in the sky to bathe the east side of the track in a bright heat, the lone witness was Amy Sinclair, who works with Igloria at both North Branch Projects and Ragdale and is a frequent collaborator.

As Igloria completed each circuit, Sinclair would flip the numbers on Jerry-rigged lap counter. She photographed each turn of the digits through Lap 40, when her smartphone ran out of battery power.

Somewhere around the fifth or sixth mile, Igloria's running pals, many of them fellow members of the Chicago Area Runners Association, began to trickle onto the sidelines.

"I gotta see this," said Sintayehu Regassa, a college sophomore mentored by Igloria for several years as part of the CARA Road Scholars program.

A cross-country runner for Lake Forest College, Regassa said, "One thing I hate is running around a track; it's really boring. I think this is crazy, this is insane."

"It sounds like hell, it sounds like total hell," agreed Grayson Walker, who recently ran a Ragnar Relay with Igloria, in which teams cover 200 miles, relay style.

Others were more philosophical in their assessment of Igloria's pursuit.

"I love it," said long-time friend Larissa Nikola-Lisa. "It shows dedication to your own life."

Walker and Regassa were among the half-dozen runners who took turns sharing laps with Igloria, some for a few miles, others for as many as 18.

As twilight set in and the lap counter flipped from 54 to 72 to 98, a palpable electricity filled the air. Friends armed with cowbells joined the small band of spectator-cheerleaders urging Igloria on with shouts of "You're looking great" as he ticked off another 400 meters. Sinclair held out handfuls of gummy bears for Igloria as he passed by, a sugar buzz fueling the last miles.

A group of five-year-old boys, sensing something unusual in the offing, approached Igloria at various intervals during his final laps, hands outstretched for repeated high-fives.

His support runners boosted Igloria's morale with descriptions of milestones from the Chicago Marathon route that coincided with his current lap. "You're passing IIT." "You're coming up Roosevelt." "You're turning onto Michigan."

Finally, Lap 105 was in sight, some three and a half hours after the counter had initially registered 000. No tape across the finish line. No television cameras. Just a heartfelt serenade of "Happy Birthday" from friends to bring Igloria home.

Bent over, his hands on his knees, Igloria caught his breath.

The laps, he said, had gone by quickly and "surprisingly I didn't get sick of the scenery."

And that epiphanous moment, did it come?

"I've got lots of words of wisdom," he said, "but not any right now."

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