Photo courtesy of Travis McDade.
Legend has it that Pheidippides exclaimed, “We won!” before he died. He’d just run from Marathon to Athens to announce victory over the Persians. His run gave birth to the modern day marathon. Damn right, we won. We won on Saturday, April 27 because we ran together.
The bombings at the Boston Marathon on April 15 had people jittery in the run up to the 5th Annual Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon (IM), but no one ran in fear. If anything, runners were more unified than ever.
The Boston Marathon is the pinnacle of our sport. For runners, it is the Super Bowl, the Kentucky Derby, and the Daytona 500 all wrapped into one. If you’re a runner, you marvel at how fast the Boston winners are, you consider what it would take to qualify for the race (if only to shrug it off as some pie in the sky goal), and if you are fortunate enough to qualify for the race, you can’t wait for the chance to hear the girls of Wellesley and experience Heartbreak Hill.
It was no wonder, then, that we runners had Boston on our minds on Saturday. Boston was everywhere. “Boston Strong” t-shirts, Boston stickers on our bibs, and “4.15.13.” signs. It was a somber beginning to what normally would be a very festive experience.
For me, I spent the first six miles thinking about the bombings, the spectators, and the victims. I was dressed as Abe Lincoln again this year (pictured right, photo credit: The News-Gazette), and I carried a Boston Red Sox Nation flag in support. I also thought about Murelle Plottner. She’s a St. Joe 8th grader and amazing runner who is recovering from myelodysplastic syndrome, what used to be called pre-leukemia. I can’t wait until we can run speed workouts again. I carried Murelle’s fight in my thoughts.
After six and a half miles though, when I reached the first exchange for the marathon relay, with hundreds of runners and spectators there, all of that weight and worry was lifted from my shoulders. I was no longer fearful, sad or worried. This, I thought, this is why I run. The crowd. The cheers. The support of perfect strangers for some dude in a stupid Lincoln costume, with them yelling, “Go Abe!” or “Go Boston!” It was awesome. Anywhere in the world people will cheer runners on, and C-U did right by us this year!
I interviewed several people about the race. I asked them about Boston, their race experience, and anything they saw about the race that could be improved. Many mentioned that Boston weighed heavily on their thoughts, but that overall the IM was a very positive experience.
Amber and Ryan Anderson at the finish line.
Amber Anderson (26, St. Joseph, marathon, 4:06:08):
The bombings … definitely made me push myself more than I may have otherwise. I wasn’t at all nervous/scared, etc. It was also amazing to see all of the support for Boston, not only on the runners themselves (shirts, pins, stickers), but by the spectators too (posters).
The most positive aspect was all of the crowds. There were people along the entire race course, always cheering everyone on & being very encouraging. This was especially helpful during those tough miles (18–24). The race organizers did well with everything. My only criticism is that there was no mile marker 21 and Meadowbrook was quite crowded this year. But I know that can’t be helped.
My race went really well. I was very happy with my time. It was 33 minutes better than my previous (first) marathon, which was only in September. So to cut that many minutes in that short of time was amazing to me. My legs got really tired around mile 22, and I walked for short periods over the course of a mile or two, but I’m still very happy with how I did.
I do plan on running again next year, most likely the half marathon, since I kept saying that this would be my last marathon (ask me again in a month when the soreness is gone).
Ryan Anderson (30, St. Joseph, half marathon, 1:46:19):
My race did not go all that well. I felt like I was fighting most of the race. However, I fought on thinking of all the runners in Boston who had their race cut short, and I finished only one minute off my PR. The bombings didn’t affect me before, during, or after the race in terms of feeling safe. I felt very safe during the entire race. I did think of the runners as I was racing and hurting. I wanted to stay strong and run for those who were not able to finish.
The crowds were a lot of fun. I love reading all the different signs the spectators make. The corral starts were good, as well as the pacers. THE BEST PART IS THE GOLF CART RIDES BACK TO THE CAR. I even got a ride on the back of a Vespa.
Not sure what could be improved; there were two 6 mile markers and one was in the wrong spot. One thing I would like to see at the Illinois Marathon would be a way to track runners. After I finished the half, a lot of people were asking how Amber was doing in the full, and I had no idea. Some sort of text message alerts would be nice. I know other races do it.
Erich Adickes after finishing his first half marathon. Photo credit: Beth Scheid.
Erich Adickes (55, Urbana, half marathon, 3:06:09):
For my part, the most positive aspect of the race was to run in it. As a first timer, I thought the race organizers did an excellent job — from registration, to packet pickup, to race day details, and water, Gatorade, etc, along the route. My race went well in that I finished. I was slower than I had expected to be, due to some leg issues. I have learned much that will help me do better next year. Yes, I will probably [run] the Half once again. [After the race,] I joined my friends from Second Wind Running Club at the home of Chris Delis and Sandra Loeb. [About Boston,] I thought about it before the race, but my mind was on the race during it.
Gen Long (magenta hat) waves before the race.
Gen Long (33, Champaign, half marathon, 2:10:05):
This year there was the added challenge of making everyone feel safe after the incident in Boston. I think the race organizers did a great job with ramping up the security without really affecting the feel of the event. I was really surprised that I was allowed to walk to the finish with Keith. I was expecting someone to tell me I couldn’t enter the stadium again, since I had my finisher’s metal on and my bib was not visible. That was special, but wasn’t really part of my race.
The race directors did a fabulous job. However, there is always room for improvement. While I love running through Meadowbrook, this area was overly congested. My other comment is that it is very congested when trying to get out of the stadium (or up to the food). It seems like everyone is trying to go up and down the same set of stairs. And perhaps there could be more routes available to exit (perhaps a route that doesn’t involve going up stairs at all?). I am pleased with the variety of events that are offered. I also thought the QR code on everyone’s bib was brilliant! I was scanning all my friends’ bibs after finishing to see our chip times.
I finished the half marathon within two seconds of the time it took me to finish in 2011. I should have been happy with that because I was afflicted with food poisoning earlier in the week and was not fully recovered yet. So, under the circumstances, I was happy to be able to finish the race at all. But last year I was able to finish the half marathon a full minute per mile faster — so there is a trace of disappointment that lingers in the back of my mind. I have every intention of running the half again next year.
Sandy Loeb and Chris Delis, happy marathon finishers.
Sandy Loeb (41, Champaign, marathon, 4:33:54):
To me, the most positive aspect of the race is how deeply the Community embraces it. I am not sure exactly what the race organizers do to create that feeling, but they must be doing something, if not everything, right.
I might be biased, but I really do not have any criticisms. The only thing that was missing was the ability to track runners via text messaging.
I thought the race was really tough, but it was my first marathon. I was satisfied with the result because I finished my first marathon.
Yes, I am confident that I will run at least one of the events next year. I am still getting over the marathon, so I am not ready to say which one it will be.
I took off my shoes, threw on some warm clothes, met some friends, and hobbled to my car. After showering and devoting an hour to my couch, I threw an afternoon party at my house.
Photo of “Abe” from The News-Gazette.