Annual Illinois Marathon Kicks Off In Champaign-Urbana
This weekend marks the sixth year that thousands of runners will race along the streets of Champaign-Urbana in the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon, which kicks off at 7 AM on Saturday near the State Farm Center.
As of this week, nearly 2,100 runners had entered for the full marathon.
The Illinois Marathon also includes several other events, from a half-marathon down to Friday’s 5K Run and Walk. Marathon co-director Jan Seely said many people who started out as volunteers for the event, are inspired to enter a race that fits their comfort level.
“Because we offer that ladder of events, we see people do the 5K for a couple of years, and, ‘Hey, maybe I can do that 10K,’” Seely said. “And of course, we throw the I-Challenge and, ‘Oh, maybe I’ll do both of those’. So, it doesn’t surprise us that more and more people from the community are getting involved.”
The “I-Challenge” invites runners to run the 5-K race on Friday night, and then the 10-K, half-marathon or full marathon on Saturday morning.
Some of the athletes competing this year have won marathons in other parts of the world, from Indianapolis to Pisa, Italy. But Seely says they measure the Illinois Marathon’s success by the individuals and families they bring in at all athletic levels, and how good a time they have.
The Marathon airs live Saturday from 7-10AM on WCIA/Champaign, WMBD/Peoria, and WTVO/Rockford. The 5-K Walk/Run is Friday 7:30pn. The full Marathon, Relay and Half Marathon all start at 7 AM. The 10-K Run/Walk begins at 7:40 AM. The Youth Run is at 2:30 PM.
Some 21,000 people registered to take part in the Illinois Marathon in Champaign-Urbana over the weekend, and the recent Boston Marathon bombings were clearly on the minds of many of the runners.
Naperville’s Nick Hird won the 5th annual Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon on Saturday morning.
Organizers of the Illinois Marathon say they are still short by about 100 volunteers for this weekend’s events in Champaign-Urbana.
Next weekend’s Illinois Marathon will have a new rule --- or rather, tougher enforcement of an old rule.
Officials at the Illinois Marathon in Champaign and Urbana say they will meet to talk about security ahead of their April 27 event after explosions at the Boston Marathon.
Once again, registration for this weekend's Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon in Champaign-Urbana is at a new high, according to figures as of Friday morning.
Race Co-director Jan Seeley says participation in the Saturday morning marathon itself will be about the same as last year, with 2,269 long-distance runners. But she says registration for all events --- including a half marathon, and 5 and 10 K races --- had reached about 20.300. That's up by about 1,700 from last year.
Seeley says the Illinois Marathon has probably gotten as big as it can get, and still be manageable in a metro area the size of Champaign-Urbana. In fact, she says the big challenge for the organizers and volunteers is making sure people get to where they need to be for the various events.
"We've spent almost all of our brain-trust energy this year, working on ways to move people", says Seeley, who notes improvements in crowd management this year at the Health and Fitness Expo that accompanies the marathon. "And hopefully the changes that we've instituted tomorrow, on the field and up in the food area will show that we've made good changes in logistics, moving people. That's been just a huge goal of ours this year. "
The field of runners includes 43 top-flight runners, categorized as Elite Athletes. Mike Olmquist of the sports event management firm Go Far Events is working with the Elite Athletes. He says the Illinois Marathon is giving more top runners reasons for returning each year.
"Number one, is it is a flat, fast course; it's got a reputation for being fast", says Olmquist. "Number two, it's well-managed; all the bells and whistles are here; they know they're going to have well-organized, marked race. Course safety is an issue. And number three, they really enjoy the east-central Illinois hospitality. There's a good community support here, there's fans. People are very gracious here.
Some of the top contenders in the Saturday marathon include Jose Munoz of San Antonio, who won last year's marathon; Kenyan runner Kipkurui Geofry; ... and Kentuckian Peter Kemboi, who's won marathons in Mississippi, Scranton, Akron and Louisville.
The women's field includes Jackie Pirtle-Hall, who won the GO! St. Louis Marathon earlier this month.
The 4th annual Illinois Marathon kicks off Saturday morning, April 28th at 7, on a route that travels around Champaign and Urbana. But the first race is a 5-K run and walk set for Friday evening at 6:45.
For Frank Shorter and Lorraine Moller, victory in a marathon was beating the other runners. But the two Olympic medalists note with approval the increase in people who run marathons to achieve their "personal best".
Shorter and Moller are guests at this weekend's Illinois Marathon in Champaign-Urbana. Shorter said that when he started competing, the marathon was a sport mostly for competitive runners --- but he said that's changed.
"The race has become de-mystified in a good way," Shorter explained. "It's the idea that if you just put in the time, and you just put in the effort and put in the training, you can actually run a marathon. So we're actually at the point where everybody benefits from that."
Moller said she came to understand those benefits as her competitive running career came to a close. While she could no compete against the world's top runners, Moller said she discovered intrinsic rewards from running that didn't require being among the top performers.
"And gradually those intrinsic rewards, such as just the joy of moving, and running and feeling good --- and having that communion with nature and with my higher self while I was out running --- were rewards in themselves," Moller said. "And those are the things that, when I retired, that still get me out the door to go out for a run."
Frank Shorter took the gold and the silver medals in the marathon at the 1972 and '76 Olympics respectively --- while Moller earned a Bronze medal at age 37, in the 1992 women's marathon in Barcelona. Both were speakers Friday at the Illinois Marathon's Health and Fitness Expo on the University of Illinois Urbana campus. In addition, Shorter will be running in the 10K race Saturday morning.
About 19,000 people have registered for this year's Illinois Marathon events. That includes the marathon itself on Saturday morning, a Half Marathon, a Wheelchair Half-Marathon, a Marathon Relay, a Youth Run, the 10K Run and Walk, and a 5K run on Friday evening.
Elite athletes in this 3rd annual Illinois Marathon include Kipkurul Geofry, Siyoum Debele Lemma and Jeffrey McClellan among the men, and Habtamnesh Gashaw, Holly Fearing and Lucie Mays-Sulewski among the women.
Saturday's Illinois Marathon in Champaign-Urbana could alter the schedule for some shoppers at this season's first Market at the Square.
The Market will start its 31st season this weekend at Illinois and Vine Streets in Urbana. Vine is also one of those streets that will see more than 10,000 runners pass through from the west, as the marathon and half-marathon races get underway at 7:30. Starting their route at the U of I by going up 1st Street, runners will be entering Urbana on Green Street, north on Race, and east on Main Street. Lieutenant Kent Jepsen is the special events coordinator with Urbana Police. He expects the intersection of Main and Vine Streets to re-open around 9, but says there will be some gaps. "Prior to that, of course the runners will have lightened up," said Jepsen. "You'll be at the back of the pack of the 9-to-10,000 runners, so there will be pusling across Main and Vine as runners allow. In other words, when there's light runners and gaps in between them, the officer and volunteers will allow traffic to pulse through southbound." Market at the Square shoppers who live just south of that intersection won't be impacted. The runners will continue east on Main Street and south down Cottage Grove.
A total of 14,200 runners are now registered for the 2nd annual Illinois Marathon. Full details are available on line at the Illinois Marathon website. Event Co-director Mike Lindemann says motorists in Champaign won't see the same impact, with some streets limited to one lane. "I don't want to say there won't be delays in Champaign, there will be." said Lindemann. "But if people are patient, or if they look at that web site, there's a beltway map to get around the course. And to get around it, obviously you have to drive a few miles out of the way, but it might be better than waiting 15 or 20 minutes at a corner to get across the street." Lindeman says the event has now recruited the volunteers necessary for Saturday's events. Six countries and 46 states are represented in the marathon, half-marathon, and 5K race.
Police in Champaign and Urbana are preparing for more than nine thousand runners, many of whom will take a 26 mile tour around the two cities Saturday morning.
The first-ever Illinois Marathon will require patience from drivers as runners hit the city streets. Champaign police sergeant Scott Friedlein says on many parts of the course runners and vehicles will share the roads, so motorists will have to take extra precautions or find alternate routes.
"When you mix runners and traffic, you run a risk of situations occurring," Friedlein said. "The better we do at marking and making it very clear where people are supposed to be -- and we're working on that diligently on that as we speak -- then the safer the route becomes."
Friedlein says some streets will also be totally closed at times, and no-parking signs are going up along the marathon routes in both Champaign and Urbana. He calls it the largest event he's ever had to prepare for in his 15 years on the force because of the long route and hundreds of volunteers.
It didn't take long for organizers of the first-ever Illinois Marathon to find the volunteers they needed.
The marathon will be held on the streets of Champaign, Urbana and the U of I campus on the day before Easter. But local police said organizers needed to show by April 1st that they had 350 volunteers ready to help with traffic control, if they wanted to keep their special-events permits.
Marathon volunteer coordinator Mary Anderson says they issued the call for help on Monday, and by Tuesday night, they had enough volunteers signed up to ensure the race will take place. She says they're grateful for the response, but they could still use even more volunteers. Anderson says nearly 8-thousand runners have signed up for the Illinois Marathon and its related races --- and they'll need a total of 2-thousand volunteers. Volunteers will help staff the marathon and related events on Friday and Saturday, April 10th and 11th.
To volunteer to help on the Illinois Marathon, go to their website, www.illinoismarathon.com, and click on the volunteer link.