Students train for this weekend’s Illinois Marathon

By David Rothmund

For the past five years, thousands of individuals have traveled from across the globe to run on the flat terrain around Champaign-Urbana in the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon races. This year, the marathon’s events will begin Thursday and continue until Saturday. 

Last year, the event attracted a variety of participants. Race organizers continue to offer a youth run, 5K, 10K, relay, half marathon and marathon. Participants can also attempt one of the three I-Challenges, which are a combination of the 5K along with an additional race.

According to Jan Seeley, co-director of the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon, the organization is planning to attract over 20,0000 entrants this year.

Over the years, more and more participants have gathered to finish their races in Memorial Stadium, and now having been named one of the “best new marathons” by Runner’s World magazine, the numbers continue to grow, according to Seeley.

Paul Chae, junior in Business, will be participating in this year’s race. Chae, who has raced in two Christie Clinic Illinois half marathons, said he signed up to run his first marathon this year.  

Even though Chae is recovering from a knee injury, he said he is determined to finish the race.  

“It’s my goal, I want to accomplish it,” Chae said.

Chae said he began training at the beginning of the Spring semester and is utilizing other forms of cardio to train, such as cycling, because he said it is easier on his joints.  

Registered or not, Seeley said training is crucial when deciding to run long distances. 

“Don’t run a race you’re not prepared for,” she said.  

According to Seeley, the event has gained a high reputation the past five years because Champaign-Urbana and the surrounding communities have embraced it. 

“Their attitude is a backdrop for us to have for the race,” she said. “(The event helps) improve the health and wellness of the community. It’s the most important thing that we’re doing, we’re changing lives.” 

Chae said he believes the community has embraced the event, mainly because of all the attractions, which include live bands playing music on the sidelines of the race’s course. 

“The entertainment they have on the course helps me keep my mind off of things,” he said.  

Having been a runner since junior high, Chae said his main goal is to finish the marathon and prove to himself that he can work to improve his running in the future.

However, Chae said signing up for such a huge commitment was not easy.

“Finding the balance to workout, do well in school and be social is hard at first, but after a while you get into a routine,” he said. 

Chae said that if you are having troubles with training, try to “put the workout times in your calendar so you can physically see it.”  

“(I) set the goal of running the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon to be held accountable for staying active,” he said.  

Chae is not the only one staying active during this time of year. According to Seeley, the Champaign-Urbana community is “in a running boom,” and she can see a difference in the number of people staying active since the Christie Clinic races began in the area.

Julie Mills, cross-country coach at Edison Middle School in Champaign, said she is contributing to the process of determining Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon’s elite runners. After receiving the elite runners’ applications, Mills has a list of qualifications that will help determine if the runners are eligible to receive free registration.  

“There’s an elite runner coming from Brazil,” Mills said. 

According to Mills, the difficulty of determining the elite runners is that the runners are all well-trained making it hard to turn some of them down.

However, Mills said that she does not want any new runners to be deterred from registering for a race. 

“As experienced runners, we have to welcome in the new runners,” she said. “It’s something you can do until you’re old.”

No matter what a runner’s final time is, “finishing 26.2 miles is such an emotional thing,” according to Mills. 

David Rothmund can be reached at [email protected]