Smile Politely

Clear the roads! Marathoners ahead!

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready. Ready to run the Christie Clinic Illinois (Half) Marathon. Yes, I’ll be running as Abe again this year. I’d retired him after last year’s disastrous performance with temperatures in the 7,000s and 800% humidity. But this year, I’m bringing him back. OK … it was in the mid-60s at race start last year and the humidity was only 88% according to Weather Underground. Yeah, I was thirsty from the moment I stepped into the Abe outfit.

This year the race is a two-day event, with the 5K on Friday night (4/29). The 5K, which had gotten the short end of the stick on marathon day, gets its due. There’s an “I Challenge” for those who run both the 5K and the half or full marathon the next day. Those runners get an additional metal, among other things.

April 30th now plays host to a 10K in addition to the half marathon and full marathon. There is also a 1K Youth Run starting at 2:30 p.m. for kids under 10 and their parents.

The half marathon course (pdf) looks unchanged. I have to admit, however, that I can’t tell. Mostly because, last year, once I got to mile 8 and Meadowbrook Park, things started to get a little fuzzy. My friend Brian ― who was supposed to run the full 26.2 miles ― and I limped our way through miles 9, 10, and 11. I lost him after that. There was a picture of me in the Daily Illini (below) that made me look pretty badass. The reality of it was that I was just trying to survive. You can see on everyone’s faces that survival was the only thing on their mind. Get `er done.

One negative to this course is the last mile. It includes a switchback, something most runners hate, especially in the last mile of a race. It also includes heading towards Memorial Stadium but requiring participants to run around three sides of it. Marathoners who ran the first Illinois Marathon in 2009 will remember that course had runners run within half a mile of the finish line, but required that they retrace Green Street for the third time. Running around Memorial Stadium at this point is most painful.

The full marathon starts 30 minutes before the half marathon. This serves several purposes that I can see. First, it gives the full marathoners their due respect from the spectators. It also makes it easier as a runner to know who is going to be with you for the full 26.2. It also moves people through Urbana a little more quickly than in previous years.

The full marathon course (pdf) is identical to last year’s course. The key will be the incline from mile 22 to 25. Hills in Champaign are nothing to worry about. Still, that late in the race, any hill is painful. And, mile 24 will be tough along the Country Club.

A spectator’s view…

Here are some of the best spots to catch the Illinois Marathon in Champaign and Urbana.

  • Relay Station A ― East of Philo on Amber Lane. Last year, this area was teeming with people, from marathon relay teams to spectators. This would be a good point to cheer!
  • Green Street ― You’ll see runners two times here for the marathon, plus with the marathon and half marathon starting 30 minutes apart, you’ll have double the action.
  • McHenry ― Urbanaites were out in force on McHenry last year with front yard parties. Sip your Bloody Marys while runners pass. And, don’t be surprised if someone asks to use your bathroom.

  • Church Street ― Champaign residents will have a good parade-like atmosphere along West Side Park and the road to Eisner Park.
  • Anywhere from miles 18 to 23 ― Runners are going to need support in the latter half of the marathon, and this stretch of five miles is less densely populated and ripe for spectators to cheer on weary runners.
  • Hessel Blvd. ― It’s the last mile. Bring your cowbells!


Unless otherwise stated, all photos taken from The Illinois Marathon Facebook page.
Photo of “Beer Guy” by Mike Kaylen. Used with permission.

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