Reagan Run: Belvidere's Paul Zeman captures fourth title

DIXON – When Paul Zeman ran underneath the purple arch that marked the finish line of Dixon's Reagan Run 5K, he didn't slow down much.

Zeman, a Belvidere resident who runs cross country at the University of Illinois, finished in 15:24 to capture his fourth title over the past 5 years and third straight.

He jogged off the road and into the grass where he quickly found his biggest supporters, his father David, and grandfather Paul.

"He does it all for his grandpa," David said. "There are few things that make [Paul] happier than watching his grandson."

The three family members ran the event in 2011, the lone year Zeman didn't win since competing in Dixon's premier 5K event. But Paul fell on the final uphill and hasn't run since, opting instead to watch his grandson dominate the race.

A picture of the three is still something that Zeman cherishes as his granfather opted to participate to show his support for his grandson.

"I always have to come back and run it for him," Zeman said of his grandfather. "Dixon is his hometown, and I know he really enjoys watching me run and appreciates it. This is a great event, and it's always a tough field and the course pushes to you more than you expect."

Zeman has been upping his mileage recently, as he is working himself back into shape for the upcoming cross country season at Illinois. The 20-year-old has been running around 93 to 100 miles each week, and Saturday's race fit nicely into Zeman's workout schedule, and allowed him to gauge where he is in a race setting.

His time this year was around 12 seconds off last year's record-setting pace, but accounting for his 13 miles a day, was happy.

"This is something I point to in July," he said. "It wasn't my best time, but running against the tough competition is great."

The top three runners, Zeman, Sterling's Dylan Reyes and Elmhurst's Ronald Hedman, finished in the same order as last year. Zeman started to pull away after the first mile when the terrain of the second mile switched to numerous hills and a woodchip ground.

"The first mile I don't really count or pay much attention to," Zeman said. "There are a lot of downhill parts and the second and third miles have lots of rolling hills and makes it tough."

While Zeman was the overall champion, Byron's Bob Godman, a 74-year-old runner, traversed the tough course each year it has been held, and won the 70-and-over age group with a time of 33:30.

Godman lived in Dixon for nearly 30 years, making a living working for the insurance company USF&G. He remembers when the course used to take runners around the prison, and enjoys coming back to his hometown to run through the town of Dixon that he still calls home.

He makes sure to come back each year and tries to better his time by running around 4.5 miles per week in preparation for the event.

"I absolutely love it here," Godman said of Dixon. "This race is one of the best things the town does. I love seeing everyone come out and support each other.

"I'll come back as long as I'm able. This is the best managed, organized and friendliest race there is."

Top 5 men

1. Paul Zeman, Belvidere 15:24

2. Dylan Reyes, Sterling 15:35

3. Ronald Hedman, Elmhurst 15:36

4. Simon Thorpe, Dixon 15:53

5. Thomas Hedman, Elmhurst 16:25