Today (July 1) is the first day of registration for the 2012 Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon, and those who are running will have several new race options.
A mini i-Challenge. Participating in what race organizers hope will be the state's largest 5K. And slightly altered courses for nearly all the races.
One of the biggest changes for the April 28, 2012, races is that organizers are instituting a wave start for the full and half marathoners and marathon relay. That means groups of runners will start together, with several minutes between each group's start. It's another effort to alleviate congestion early in the race and at Meadowbrook Park.
The full and half marathons and the marathon relay will all start together again next year, after the half marathon start was moved a half-hour later than the marathon for 2011. The runners will start in up to a half-dozen waves, based on their predicted finish times.
There will be 1,500 to 2,000 runners in each wave, with three to four minutes between each wave, said Mike Lindemann, co-director of the race. The number of waves, runners per wave, and time between waves will be determined by the number of entrants in the races and their predicted finish times, he said.
"Ideally, nobody should catch anybody" in the previous wave, Lindemann said.
But that depends on runners providing realistic predictions of their finishes. It doesn't penalize anyone to start in a later wave, Lindemann said, because the chip timing system begins recording each runner's time when he or she crosses the start line.
Race organizers altered the course after the first year of the marathon so runners would reach Meadowbrook Park later in the race, and separated the start of the full and half marathons for this year's race — both efforts to relieve congestion within the park.
Lindemann said he's talked with runners about their concerns with the park, and he believes a wave start will make a difference.
"I feel pretty good. I think it's going to work," he said.
The full and half marathon courses will change slightly. Runners in both races will run down Pennsylvania Avenue to Sixth Street, where they'll turn north, rather than the full marathoners turning north on Lincoln Avenue. The marathoners will run north on Sixth to Green Street, then continue along the course as in the past.
The half marathoners will turn west on Gregory Drive, then south on First Street and enter Memorial Stadium. Eliminating the section of the half marathon course on Fourth Street and Kirby Avenue will mean better access to and from the stadium for spectators.
Spectators will now be able to enter the stadium from both the east and west sides, rather than just the east. And those coming and going from the stadium will be able to cross Kirby Avenue more easily.
"We will no longer have half marathoners ... making it impossible for spectators to get into the stadium," said Jan Seeley, co-director of the marathon.
"The change of how runners finish helps alleviate a lot of problems of access for spectators," she continued. "We are still looking at the flow once people finish — getting people up into the Great West Hall, how we feed them. It's the year of moving people better."
Lindemann and Seeley are still working on the 5K and 10K routes. They'll change slightly as well, with the 5K likely starting on Oak Street rather than First Street, and the 10K route incorporating some of the Boneyard Creek improvements.
Runners who complete both the 5K and the 10K will get a mini i-Challenge award. The mini i-Challenge was added to the full, and half I-Challenges for runners completing the 5K on Friday night and either the full or half marathon on Saturday.
"One hundred people did it (this year) without it even being something," Seeley said of runners finishing both the 5K and 10K races. "We know there will be some appeal for that."
She expects the mini i-Challenge to increase the number of runners in the 10K race next year. And Seeley and Lindemann are hoping to make the 5K race the largest in the state. To do so, they need more than 5,000 runners. This year, there were almost 4,700 runners in the 5K race.
There could be more than 20,000 runners total in the 2012 races, up from 18,594 this year.
There is no cap on the number of entrants in the 5K. The marathon will again have a cap of 3,000 runners, and the number of spots in the half marathon will be increased by several hundred runners to 8,000.
The number of spots in the 10K will increase from 2,000 to 3,000. The caps for the marathon relay and youth run will remain the same, at 350 relay teams and 1,500 children.
In the first week of registration last year, 123 people signed up, compared with 40 people signing up in the first week of registration for the 2010 race.
One thing that is not increasing for the 2012 races — the entry fees. The early registration fees are the same as last year.