Marathon organizers look for ways to improve
Not even a week after the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon, the race directors are already considering how to make the event better next year.
Reflecting on last weekend's races, marathon co-directors Jan Seeley and Mike Lindemann were pleased with many aspects of the race and identified several areas in which they hope to improve.
Among the successes a revamped medical team that treated more people along the course; the I-Challenge, in which runners did the 5K on Friday night and either the half or full marathon on Saturday; and the volunteers.
About 1,500 people participated in the I-Challenge, Seeley said. A possible addition for next year's races scheduled for April 27 and 28 is a mini-I-Challenge, for runners who want to do the 5K on Friday and the 10K on Saturday.
"A number of people did that anyway," she said.
The medical plan included a dozen golf carts with paramedics or firefighters with emergency medical training on the course.
"We were both very relieved the weather cooperated and the medical team was on top of things," Seeley said, noting that only five people were taken to the hospital this year, compared to 25 last year.
Seeley recounted reports of volunteers who went out of their way to help runners, from one offering a place to stay for an elite racer from abroad who arrived late on Friday, speaking little English, to another taking an elderly half-marathoner who experienced problems in the race to lunch, then helping her find her car.
In addition, there were just a handful of calls on the race hotline from frustrated motorists. The race directors worked hard to accommodate those trying to get to Ebertfest, and access to parking Friday night for the expo and the 5K seemed to go smoothly. The youth run with a new start line outside Memorial Stadium and more heats for runners according to age group also went well, Seeley said.
"That was a wonderful way to end the day," she said of the youth run.
There were some glitches. The sound system for the Friday night 5K was too far from the start line for all the runners to hear. The half marathon start was delayed a few minutes, because it took a little longer than anticipated for the 10K runners to get far enough along on the course to not interfere with the half marathoners, Lindemann said.
And it was difficult at times for spectators to get from the start area into the stadium.
"That's one of the huge problems to work on for next year," Seeley said.
Another major area the race directors and their team will revisit how to improve the flow inside Memorial Stadium and alleviate crowding in getting to the post-race food.
"We're confined by the space into which people can move after the finish," Seeley said. "We know we need to solve how we feed people more efficiently. That's a big priority for us."
In terms of the race course, Lindemann's biggest concern is keeping Meadowbrook Park as part of the course. Each year, runners complain that the park gets too congested. The course was altered between the first and second years so runners reached the park later in the race and were thus more spread out.
This year, the full and half marathon starts were separated by a half hour. That meant many fewer runners were effected by crowded conditions in the park this year, Lindemann said. But the fastest half marathoners reached the back of the marathon pack inside the park.
Lindemann and Seeley are considering a wave start for next year that would have full and half marathoners starting together, but would divide runners into five to seven waves based on their projected finish times.
"I think that's the only way to keep Meadowbrook Park in play," Lindemann said.
He said the 10K route will likely change next year so that it diverges from the marathon course at some point, and that race will start after the full and half marathon wave starts.
The end of the route for the 5K and half marathon may also change, to get runners off Kirby Avenue and have them approach the stadium from the north on First Street. That would eliminate spectators leaving the stadium from having to cross the path of runners.
The race likely won't grow much.
"Our goal is not to get over 20,000," Lindemann said.
The 5K, 10K and youth run can accommodate more runners, and the marathon has never filled to capacity. The number of runners this year was between 18,500 and 18,600, Seeley said.
"We're very thankful everybody is so supportive of the event, and everybody had a great time," she said. "There are things we need to work on. We take them seriously, but we know we can fix them."