In case you hadn’t realized, and apparently there were some in the area who didn’t, the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon swept through town this past weekend. News reports showed motorists sitting in cars with their engines on, complaining that the mass of runners cost them a half a tank of gas while they waited for a break in the clogged streets. If you can hear the unconcern in my words, then I’ve hit my mark. They must have lived in a cocoon these last few weeks as media coverage ― TV, The News-Gazette, and, of course, Smile Politely ― have been awash in stories stating that thousands of runners were coming to town. Not to mention the signs telling us of race route closures or the billboards counting down the days to the race. Those of us who knew the race was coming were not disappointed with the results.
Who can blame us? When something brings millions of dollars in revenue to our community, it’s kind of hard to complain.
Who really benefited from this race? The answer is quite staggering. Everyone. Hotels were booked solid in town. They may fill up for football weekends in the fall, but nothing beats filling up hotels in the spring. If you visited any local restaurant on Saturday afternoon, you likely saw medal clad runners recovering with margaritas and friends. Grocery stores were hopping with post-marathon purchases of burgers, fruit salad, potato salad, and hot dogs for post marathon parties. Gas stations saw out-of-town runners fill up on snacks, bottles of water or Gatorade, and gas as they made their way out of town and back to wherever they came from.
The cities of Champaign and Urbana (and the greater community) benefited too, with much needed tax revenue. The goodwill of their citizens on display and the race volunteers on the course and at the Expo showed the world ― literally the world ― what Champaign and Urbana have to offer. It was nothing short of awesome.
I am proud of our community in so many ways:
- The friends I saw along the route
- The strangers I heard cheering on runners who chose to visit our town
- Elvis near mile four, belting out oldies and giving me a special nod in recognition of my Abe costume
- The volunteer in Urbana around mile five who could win a “Mr. Enthusiasm” award
- The Kennekuk Road Runners water station on Race St. in their tie-dyed shirts
- The Navy guys near the Education Building ringing that enormous bell as we runners passed.
The race organizers, Jan Seeley, Mike Lindemann, the race committee, and everyone involved in making it all happen, pulled off a tour de force this year. Moving the 5K to Friday night gave those runners who can’t or don’t want to run a half or full marathon their just due. Adding an “I-Challenge” (a medal for those who competed in the 5K on Friday and either the half or full marathon on Saturday) added to the celebratory feeling after Saturday’s race. Adding a 10K on Saturday gave those who felt a 5K too short and a half marathon too far something to shoot for. Starting the half marathon 30 minutes after the full marathon (plus a five minute delay to let the 10K runners get through the starting mile) allowed us half marathoners to cheer on the full marathoners and watch the crowd go by. Plentiful water stations, awesome volunteers, well-placed medical tents, cool but windy weather (neither the flag nor I particularly liked the wind at mile six in Urbana), and cheering crowds all lent to a spectacular show.
I am very proud of Champaign-Urbana. The very best of this community was on display this weekend!
Mark your calendars for next year’s race weekend … April 26–28, 2012.
All photos by Travis McDade.