Record Sign-Up for Illinois Marathon Events
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.