Making the Race Run

Making the Race Run

You’re not a runner, but you’d like to be involved with the Illinois Marathon on May 1? There’s plenty for you to do.

The marathon needs at least 2,500 volunteers to put on the event safely. That includes people to hand out bib numbers and chips and help with the pasta dinner at the marathon expo; man the water stations on the course; help control traffic at intersections on the race course; hand out finisher medals at Memorial Stadium; and do post-race cleanup.

“This is an awesome community event for us,” said Mary Anderson, the volunteer coordinator for the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon. “As it grows, you know someone involved and it makes you want to be involved. There’s something that feels good about watching someone run marathons. It’s inspiring.”

Anderson said course volunteers [--] 600 of them [--] are crucial.

“They’re so important. The course is almost lined with volunteers to make sure the course path is identified to drivers and also to runners, to make sure a runner doesn’t make a wrong turn and a car doesn’t get on the course,” Anderson said. “Those course team jobs are just vital to get the race started. The gun will not go off until we know the course is going to be safe.”

Some changes to the event’s Web site this year will allow volunteers to sign up for the specific intersection and shift they want.

“If you live near the course, you can just walk to your location that morning and you’re checked in from your spot, so you don’t have to report to Memorial Stadium,” Anderson said.

The University of Illinois ROTC program will provide about 100 volunteers for the course. Many other community clubs and organizations have also stepped forward to help.

About 200 students from University Laboratory High School will be doing course cleanup after the race, and Reynold’s Towing will haul away the trash and recyclable materials they pick up.

“We’re hoping the course will look cleaner after Uni High does their sweep than before the race started,” Anderson said.

Sally Walker, athletic director at Uni High, said she wanted to give back to the local running community, which helped for many years with the school’s 5K race.

The water stations require groups of 30 to 50 people, and many are already filled. Among those volunteers are the UI’s Kinesiology Student Association, which will coordinate people to man three water stations on campus; the Edison Middle School cross-country team; Grace Community Church; the Champaign Lions Club; and Champaign Rotary West.

Runners will also see a group decked out in Hawaiian shirts, grass skirts, and maybe a shark hat or two. The Eastern Illinois Parrotheads will be handing out water, and playing the music of Jimmy Buffett, at a water stop at Main and Race streets in Urbana.

The Jimmy Buffett fan club includes many runners, said Jeannine Reese, who is coordinating the group’s volunteers for the marathon. They ran a half-marathon in Nashville together two years ago [--] as the Running Parrotheads [--] and “in order to pay back for the volunteers who’ve helped us in our races, we wanted to make sure this one succeeded,” Reese said. She enjoys hanging out with her friends, and cheering on runners she knows.

“It was interesting to be on the other side of the race,” Reese said. “You always knew there were people who put in time and effort to have a decent race for you, but to be on the other side and put in some man-hours, it was nice. I really enjoyed doing it. Our whole group had a blast.”

So did the Corvette Club of Illinois. They didn’t really know what to expect when they volunteered last year, said Doug Hanner, the club’s president. But they had a great time cheering on the runners.

This year, expect “some more hoopin’ and hollerin’,” he said. And, of course, a display of 20 to 25 Corvettes parked near their water station at John Street and Lawndale Drive in Champaign.

Anderson got involved with the event after watching her husband run marathons. “You see people who are inspired to commit to this goal and finish it,” she said. “It isn’t for everyone, but volunteering feels good to.”

Anyone interested in volunteering for the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon can go to, and click on “Volunteers” on the bar at the top of the page. You can select the job and shift. All volunteers will receive a T-shirt and a string bag; some will need to attend a pre-race training session.

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