- 3 miles/5K, 6 miles/10K, 13.1 miles/Half Marathon, 26.2 miles/Marathon
- Road Race
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The Illinois Marathon took place on Saturday, April 22 with a 7am start. This was my first year running it and it was my fourth marathon. I had trained really hard for this race and wanted a PR badly. Not all of my long runs went super great, so I wasn't sure what was going to happen, and then the weather wasn't looking perfect either. Luckily, the rain never came, and I enjoyed the cooler temps. What I didn't love was the heavy winds - 15-25mph. Temps started in the mid-40s (feels like 35) and when I finished 6+ hours after the start I think it was in the high 50s and sunny. I was getting warm towards the finish. Once we started and my hands thawed out around mile 3, I was pretty comfortable in a rolled up long sleeve shirt and shorts. Anyway... My review of the expo and 5k can be found here: https://www.bibrave.com/races/christie-clinic-illinois-marathon/7308#.WQJeSbGZNdA
PROS of the MARATHON:
+ SWAG was on point. Gender specific tech t-shirts. Marathon color was cyan (light blue) + a sweet drawstring bag with a zippered pocket and mesh backing. Finish line you received a cool medal with a charm and if you did the Full I-Challenge, you also received that medal. I came across the finish line with only one other person in my vicinity, and so I got a lot of attention and basically didn't have to search out my medals or my finishers blanket (marathoners only) which was nice. I was also given a branded heatsheet.
+ PR bell you could ring! And I did!
+ Parking on race day was easy. They also had a good amount of port-a-potties spread throughout the race area - I never saw lines too long. Also - free! I appreciated the map in the event guide that pointed out all of the lots near the expo/race areas.
+ For the first 12.5ish miles marathoners ran with the half marathoners, and then the course split. I was running with a good crowd up until then, and then I was practically by myself the rest of the way. Every now and again I would come across another runner or two, we would chat, and then I'd move along.
+ The course was very well marked with cones, volunteers, signs, and police officers. Also bike EMTs checking on the runners.
+ The volunteers on course were fantastic. The second half of the race, as I said, I was by myself for the majority of it, which can feel lonely. This course had so many volunteers placed along it that I still saw someone every block or so. I made sure to thank them, or at least wave when I was too tired to speak, and they all clapped, cheered, thanked me, and/or gave encouraging words. It really lifted my spirits and kept me going. Though the course was not lined with spectators like Chicago is for most of its 26.2 miles, the volunteers and police made up for it. Not to mention that plenty of the community members would sit on their porch or be out by the street cheering us on. Some even had their own aid stations stocked with water, gatorade, candy, etc. It was so nice and filled my heart with so much joy. I might have been running and tired, but I knew they had all been out there themselves for the same amount of time as me, and even though I was slower than the majority of others and they were still out there being as enthusiastic as they were = true champions. I know how tiring being on the sidelines cheering is - so a huge THANKS to them (and all vounteers everywhere - a race cannot happen without you!).
+ Plenty of aid stations on course. I brought my own hydration, but they had plenty Lemon-Lime Gatorade (first) and water (second) and plenty of volunteers to hand it out. I did take a Gatorade later on course, maybe around mile 18 or so, and noticed it tasted a bit off (the water down there is different than Chicago). I was happy when at mile 20ish they had some bottled water, so I took one of those to wet my whistle. So anyway, if you are sensitive to this, I'd suggest carrying your own. My mom said for the 10k she didn't notice it tasting any different, so could just be the few of us that do haha. I always prefer to carry my own hydration of choice, knowing I can drink whenever I want and not to rely on aid stations (I've been to races where they run out, and that's not cool. Luckily - not an issue here - they had so much and I was grateful even though I didn't really need it). There are 16 hydration stations on the course (see course map on pages 16– 17). GU (at mile 6.7; mile 13; mile 17; and mile 21). Each GU station will have vanilla bean, strawberry banana, and chocolate outrage GU. All flavors of GU have caffeine except strawberry banana. Bonus: They had all of this information in the event guide, so you knew what was where.
+ There were a few hills on course, but generally it was flat. I think the biggest was during mile 24.
+ The course ran through suburban type settings, a fun paved path through a preserve type area, downtown Champaign, U of I campus (not necessarily in that order). I enjoyed the scenery.
+ Oranges at approximately mile 6; Oranges and bananas stop at mile 21.5.
+ Finish on the field of Memorial Stadium.
+ Post-race food = bananas, granola bars, big bag of pretzels, pasta, pizza. Beer and Cake at the 27th mile party (though this was all packed up when I finally made it out there).
+ Showered at ARC on a $5 day pass. Made the drive home way better.
+ Legit any question you might have about race weekend was on the website or in the event guide. They did a great job putting it all together.
+ Price was reasonable (starting at $85 and topped off at $110 online or $115 at expo if there were still spots available)
+ The race puts together an extremely helpful spreadsheet of the hotel partners. It gives the phone number, address, distance from start line, phone number, reservation code if needed, and if there was availability or if it was sold out (updated maybe once a week). Notes included whether there was a 2-night stay minimum. This made choosing a hotel much easier. I guess the only thing missing was price ;)
+ The partner hotel we were at was about 3 miles from the start and they had late check out (till 1 - still too early for this slower runner) along with breakfast in the morning starting an hour earlier than normal for the runners. Included was yogurt, fruits, bagels, muffins, breakfast bars, cereal, and I saw syrup so I think maybe waffles or pancakes?
+ Lots of signage from the race along the course. Fun tidbits about the school, health, fitness, etc made some of the miles go by quicker. There were also some great signs held by spectators that made me chuckle, but of course can't think of them now, and I didn't always have the energy to get out my phone for photos.
+ All intersections were monitored by volunteers, and police officers were placed at the most busy. I always felt safe on course, even when it was open to traffic in the neighborhood areas.
+ There were shelters in place in case of bad weather. I saw a bunch of signs pointing to them, and there were volunteers nearby as well (I'm sure they would help usher runners there if needed).
I can't think of any problems I had with this race. I think it was very well-organized, packet pickup went smoothly, lots of race communication from the RDs, plenty of aid stations, nice scenery, elevation wasn't too bad, and parking for the most part was easy (only slight hiccup was to the expo, but mainly it was a bit slow to get into the lot because of heavy pedestrian traffic).
I would HIGHLY recommend this race weekend. I had a great time meeting up with other BibRave Pros and hanging out. The marathon, though painful at times, was a wonderful experience and I smile thinking of how I pushed through some difficult times to hit my PR. I'm planning on making the trip in 2018.