On Saturday, Champaign, Illinois hosted the first ever Illinois Marathon. Over 9,000 runners competed in races, including the 26-mile marathon, a half-marathon, 5K, 1K, wheelchair, and relay events. Seasoned marathoners from across the country arrived in Champaign for the event, but many of the participants were locals including a group of firefighters who ran the marathon relay with 25-pound airpacks on their backs. Others included a Marine running in full battle gear--including combat boots!--and a Marine who carried the Marine Corps banner for the whole marathon.
I was involved, too--no, no, no, I didn't run any of the races. They would have had to carry me out on a stretcher before the end of mile 2, ha, ha. No, I was on "grandma duty," keeping two of the grandchildren overnight and during the day of the race so that Son #2 and Daughter-in-law could be rested for the big day. My son has run several marathons in the last four years, but this was the first full marathon for my daughter-in-law. They were thrilled when Champaign announced its plans; participating in marathons usually involves a lot of travel, which is difficult for working parents, not to mention expensive.
Because I was in charge of the children, we didn't make it to the beginning of the race, which would have given me much better photo opportunities. Instead, we waited a couple hours, then camped out on the street corner near Son #1's house, hoping to get a glimpse of the kids' Mom and Dad. If you've never attended a marathon, it's not easy knowing where your favorite runner will be. I had estimated what time they would pass by here, and all five grandchildren, Son #1, Daughter-in-law #1, and I cheered on every runner that went by, some of whom looked a little exhausted after running 17 miles already. After an hour, Granddaughter #2 decided she was too cold and wanted to "PLAY!", so we gave up and went inside. Unfortunately, as I later learned, we gave up too soon, as their parents passed this point about 10 minutes later.
Everyone involved with planning the event was very satisfied with the outcome. Everything went smoothly, thanks in part to over 2500 volunteers, including the gentleman on the left whose duties included directing the runners to the next leg of the race and stopping drivers--most cheerful, but a few not so nice--from crossing the street while runners were present.
The organizers took care, too, in plotting out the course, choosing scenic runs through the heart of campus and through several parks, including one of my favorites, Meadowbrook Park. And they couldn't have chosen a better day for the weather. The day before, it was cold, very windy, and rainy, but on Saturday the skies were clear with temperatures reaching the low 50's by mid-day.
For any runner, crossing the finish line has to be a very satisfying conclusion, but it had to be particularly thrilling for local runners as they ran into Memorial Stadium and crossed the finish line at the 50-yard line in front of a crowd of cheering onlookers. The winner was a Kenyan who finished in 2:26. He was disappointed in his time, but that's 26 miles at a little over 5 1/2 minutes a mile, which I think is amazing! Son and Daughter-in-law finished a little over twice that amount of time, which was much slower than my son usually runs. But he ran at a pace to stay with my daughter-in-law, giving her encouragement all along the way. And except for those who race to win, for most marathoners just completing the course is satisfaction enough.
Unfortunately, once again I misjudged the time, and, after a quick lunch and packing everybody up again, the two grandkids and I arrived at the stadium just after Son and Daughter-in-law crossed the finish line.
Because the race was such a success, organizers are hoping to make this an annual event. Next year, I hope to participate---WALKING the 5K! You heard it here first--hold me to this!