Champaign County to host its first world class marathon in 2009

By Crystal Kang

The Urbana City Council discussed Monday night Illinois Marathon Organizer Mark Knutson’s plan for the Champaign County to host a marathon within the University setting. The Council had approved Knutson’s plan prior to the meeting and invited Knutson as a formality to give a public presentation.

The Champaign County is scheduled to hold its first Illinois Marathon on April 11, 2009. The event will kick off at the Assembly Hall and end at Memorial Stadium.

“The goal is to create a first world class marathon in Champaign County and partner with the University in all applicable arenas,” said Knutson. “I’ve invested over $50,000 in the marketing campaign to date. It’s necessary to lay the groundwork for people to come. The goal is to put on a quality event.”

Knutson added that the marathon’s course was certified as world class. Runners in the Champaign-Urbana marathon have the potential to qualify for the Boston marathon, which Knutson said was the oldest and most notable marathon in the world.

According to Knutson, this event is estimated to attract between 2,000 and 4,000 runners.

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    About 750 people have already signed up for the Illinois marathon. That figure rose from the 230 people who signed up last month.

    The events include the marathon, half marathon, 5-kilometer fun run, half mile and mile race for the youth, and the four-person marathon relay. This will bring the community together and encourage people to give back to the community through charity donations and fundraising for the event.

    Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing is especially fond of this local marathon because it promotes healthy lifestyles.

    “There will be a cost for the city, but I believe this community is oriented to healthy lifestyles, so (the marathon) fits right in,” said Prussing. “We think it’s a benefit to the city. People here are aware of the value of exercise. And this will involve people of all ages.”

    Knutson mentioned, however, that people would have to deal with roads closing down on the day of the event.

    Knutson said the marathon has a key economic impact on Urbana and Champaign with an influx of people staying in motels and filling up their gas tanks. In many ways, attending a Champaign-Urbana marathon is less expensive and more community-centered than the Chicago marathon.

    Prussing emphasized that Urbana is a city that deserves more public attention.

    “In many ways, Urbana is a hidden treasure,” said Prussing. “We have tremendous cultural amenities.”