C-U residents race through Illinois Marathon


Runners in the Illinois Marathon head East on Green Street on Saturday morning.

By Jacob Hurwith

When Mark Knutson and Jan Seeley started planning the Illinois Marathon in June of 2007, they had no idea that close to 9,500 people would register for this inaugural event.

“We expected 2,500 people,” said Knutson, executive director of the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon.

“We could not have asked for a better turnout.”

Champaign Mayor Gerald Schweighart helped kick off the event Saturday at 8 a.m. in front of Houlihan’s Restaurant and Bar, 1902 S. First St.

“This was amazing for the first year,” Schweighart said. “It will grow and grow each year.”

Runners from all over the world participated in what hopes to be an annual event.

Even though 86 percent of the runners live in Illinois, 42 states were represented along with six countries including Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Germany, New Zealand and the United States

The marathon consisted of five events: a full marathon, a half-marathon, a marathon relay, a 5K run and 1K run for children.

All races except for the 1K were sold out by Saturday.

Gary Guardia, a volunteer and resident of Champaign who has ran 27 marathons before, said there were no serious injuries and felt the day went pretty well.

Seeley, media liaison for the marathon, said Christie Clinic decided to hold a lottery to add an additional 250 spots because of the number of late applicants.

With the amount of additional runners, Knutson and Seeley said they needed help guiding the participants through the streets of Champaign and Urbana.

More than 2,600 volunteers signed up to help direct runners, hand out medals and hand out water and Gatorade during and after the race.

Pam Ray of Danville was one of those volunteers. She said she wanted to help out even though she is not a runner.

“I have friends in it, and it is a way to get involved,” Ray said.

“It was very rewarding to see all the people out here.”

Volunteers were not the only ones helping out Saturday. Coca-Cola was the official beverage container recycler of the Illinois Marathon.

After the event, water bottles were brought to the Coco-Cola production facility in Maryland Heights, Mo. to be processed and made into new materials, said Seeley.

Other sponsors for the event included Biaggi’s, Papa John’s, Fazoli’s, Campus Recreation, Kirby Foods, D.P. Dough, Chicago Athlete Magazine and Busey Bank.

Drew Erdman, server for Biaggi’s, said the restaurant donated enough penne pasta and marinara to feed over 6,000 people.

Patrick Ford, sophomore at Parkland College, said he needed some of those carbohydrates after he finished first in the 5K, clocking in at 17 minutes, 5 seconds.

“It was nice having people all around the course,” Ford said.

“The atmosphere and the crowd roaring made the experience amazing.”

Bart Yasso, chief running officer of Runner’s World magazine, felt finishing on the 50-yard line of Memorial Stadium really gave the runners that extra push.

“The stadium finish takes it to a whole new level,” Yasso said.

Katherine Perry and Carolyn Highland, freshmen from Northwestern University, said they could not have asked for a better conclusion for their first half-marathon.

“Running through the stadium was the best feeling in the world,” Perry said.

Daniel Luis, senior in AHS, accomplished his goal of the completing the full marathon in 3 hours, 6 minutes.

“That advantage of having the home field really gave me that extra motivation,” Luis said.

“Finishing in a place like this is like running in the Olympics.”