With 1 month to go, Illinois marathon short on volunteers

The Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon is once again at a loss in volunteers. For each of the marathon’s four years of existence, it has struggled to find enough volunteers to sign up well in advance of the race.

This year’s marathon will run from April 26 to 28 and is about 720 people short of the necessary 3,400 volunteers. For the race to go on, 237 volunteers must sign up for the course team, which monitors the entire 26.2-mile marathon and 5K courses, said Kim Nystrom, volunteer coordinator for the marathon’s course team.

“(Course teams) are so important because they truly are the hosts,” said Mary Anderson, volunteer coordinator.

The team also protects the runners from traffic at about 280 intersections and other busy areas. She said the about 450-member course team provides protection for the runners by placing one to four volunteers along every block of the route.

Anderson said there is a sense of urgency to fill the course team vacancies as soon as possible because the positions require training, which takes place in mid-April. Jan Seeley, co-director, said without course teams, the marathon cannot happen.

“The police would basically not allow us to have it,” she said.

Even still, this year’s level of volunteering is “on pace with previous years,” Anderson said. She said every year they have seen a volunteer shortage that required a final push in order to fill the remaining positions. Many volunteers do not commit to a position until the marathon is near because they are not sure of their availability more than a few weeks in advance.

Nystrom noted there are also many course team openings for Friday night positions along the 5K route. Because this race has a quicker pace and the route is confined to campus, which is more populated than many of the marathon’s segments, she said the course team members must be “anywhere anybody could step out onto the course.”

There are also several hundred vacancies for the hydration stations, but Seeley said she is confident local organizations and businesses will be able to fill the positions. There are 15 stations for the marathon and one for the 5K race. The first half of the marathon requires about 60 volunteers per station, while the second half only requires 30 because of the decreased number of runners. There is an 8,000 runner capacity for the half-marathon race and a 3,000 runner capacity for the full marathon.

Despite the relative uncertainty, Anderson remains hopeful that marathon leaders will be able to recruit enough volunteers for the marathon to go on.

“Our community has stepped up every year,” Anderson said. “Now is the time to commit.”