- 3 miles/5K, 6 miles/10K, 13.1 miles/Half Marathon, 26.2 miles/Marathon, Virtual Race
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During the Illinois Marathon weekend, I took part in the Half I-Challenge - running the 5K Friday night and the half marathon on Saturday morning. My weekend in Champaign-Urbana was incredible, and the energy of the spectators and excitement of the runners really made this an A+ event. The Illinois Marathon team put on a great event, and if you’re looking for some fun (or a PR), I would definitely add this race to your calendar. The communication from Illinois Marathon RDs was also excellent leading up to the race weekend. They utilized Facebook and Twitter and interacted with participants, and sent out several emails regarding race info, packet pickup, and after parties.
Each race had its own drawstring race bag and t-shirt. The half marathon shirt is great — a bright neon yellow short-sleeved tee with a breathable tech material. I also love that it’s v-neck. The drawstring bag for the half has a mesh back and extra zippered pocket in the front. Challenge runners get two shirts AND two bags (and all the flyers within).
The course for the half marathon was flat — and it was fast (I ran my 2nd fastest half marathon time). A lot of it was run through neighborhoods and some through paved trails in a park, but I didn't find any of boring. There were several aid stations, including one with oranges (!!!) around 6.5 miles into the course. Some hydration stations had water and others with both water and Gatorade. There was also a GU stop, with several different flavors available. The race finishes in Memorial Stadium - which is the big appeal of the race. Also at the finish was both water and muscle milk. If you're a Challenge finisher, DO NOT FORGET YOUR EXTRA MEDAL (I got all the way up in the stands before I remembered and had to return to the field). Inside the concession areas was pasta, and GOOD NEWS GLUTEN-FREE RUNNERS: there was gluten-free pasta available. The 27th Mile celebration was just outside Memorial Stadium, similar to the party the night before after the 5K — free beer for participants and free cake and live music.
The college was celebrating its 150th birthday in 2017, and race day was a PARTY (did I mention there was free cake at the finish line to celebrate?). I really, REALLY enjoyed myself in Illinois — even the hotels totally supported the runners, opening up breakfast earlier and keeping the food out late; my hotel even had free bottled water and fresh fruit set up in the lobby and the marathon posters hung up around the elevators.