Seventh annual Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon experienced downpour Saturday

Jie Yang, of Urbana, runs the final stretch to the finish line during the Christie Clinic Marathon at First & St. Marys Road on Saturday.

Torrential downpours and cold weather did not stop runners from participating in the seventh annual Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon early Saturday morning, despite advice to halt the race because of the inclement weather.

Participants in both the full and half marathon race began running in waves around 7 a.m., only to have the remainder of the race cancelled at 10:15 a.m. due to lightning in the area.

There were approximately 15,610 individuals participating in the 5K, half marathon and full marathon, according to the marathon’s website.

Rick Atterberry, public information officer for the Champaign County Emergency Management Agency, was stationed at the emergency operations post in Urbana during the race, and said after consulting with the National Weather Service, organizers decided to recommend runners seek immediate shelter.

“There was lightning in the area, and when there is lightning in the area you have no choice,” Atterberry said. “We were concerned for the safety of runners, their families and people working the race.”

Atterberry said some runners preferred to finish the race, but officials notified them that they would be running at their own risk.

It took officials an hour and a half to pick up almost 300 runners along the course who decided to seek shelter. Twenty-five lightning strikes were recorded in the area, according to the marathon’s website.

Matthew Holdup, junior in Engineering, who participated in the half marathon said he still enjoyed the race, despite the weather.

“I ran to prove to myself that I could do it,” Holdup said. “It was good running in the rain because it made the overall race more of an experience.”

Brett Schmidt, sophomore in Engineering, ran the full marathon and had less appreciation for the rain.

“It was wet and cold, and during the torrential downpours, I was almost blinded,” Schmidt said. “It didn’t slow me down too much. It was just uncomfortable.”

Schmidt was at the 17th mile marker when officials urged runners to seek shelter. Schmidt said he and runners around him decided that they were too far into the race to quit.

Rain or shine, Schmidt said that he reminded himself while running that the marathon was for a good cause.

The marathon raised over $25,000 in proceeds, which will be donated to 16 charities, including March of Dimes and the Humane Society.

“In the end, charity is as good a reason as any to run a marathon,” Schmidt said.

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