With the 2010 Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon in the rearview mirror, co-directors of the race, Mike Lindemann and Jan Seeley, talk about some of the changes they made this year and how they worked. And they give us a preview of ideas they’re mulling for next year.
The marathon and half-marathon courses were revised this year to eliminate some problems and take runners through downtown Urbana.
Runners got to Meadowbrook Park later in the race — at about eight miles rather than four — and a water stop was moved outside the park to eliminate the bottleneck of runners as they entered the park last year.
“Moving the Meadowbrook piece later in general worked, but it was still pretty thick in there,” Seeley said. “More people were walking than we anticipated, and that was just because of the heat.”
At the eight-mile mark, many people who went out hard in the heat were walking by the time they got to the park, or doing a combination of walking and running, Lindemann added.
The race directors are looking at how they might help to eliminate crowding in the park, and one possibility is a wave start, with groups of runners starting the race at designated intervals. A wave start would also help keep the first several aid stations from being overwhelmed — another issue of concern this year.
The 5K race was moved to start a half-hour before the marathon and half-marathon this year.
The race started a little late because not all the security people were in place and there were still cars trying to get through on streets that were to be closed to traffic, Lindemann and Seeley said. That meant the marathon and half-marathon also started late.
There were also some very slow walkers that needed to get beyond a certain point on their course before the wheelchair racers and the runners could start, Seeley said. Otherwise, the walkers would have been run over.
One possible solution is to start the 5K earlier. Another is to hold the 5K race on Friday night of race weekend, Lindemann and Seeley said.
“I think you would get enough crazy people that would do the 5K (on Friday) and the half (on Saturday),” Lindemann said. “I like the idea of doing the 5K on Friday. But I understand people’s concerns that they’re not part of the overall event.”
Other changes to the course that were well-received this year: having two locations for runners to cross Mattis Avenue made it easier to keep traffic flowing, and marathoners were happy not to be routed away from the stadium to Green Street when they reached First Street.
What about the possibility of reversing the course next year, so the half-marathon is run through Champaign and the full marathoners continue into Urbana?
“We don’t want to do that,” Seeley said. “If we just change the course every year, we have a new set of problems we have to resolve every year. We don’t get to fix the ones we’ve got.”
She and Lindemann met with public safety officials for a debriefing after the race, and they would like to see the same course used again next year. If it stays the same, residents will become more familiar with it and it will be easier for them to make plans for getting around town if they need to, Lindemann said.
The race directors have received mostly positive comments from runners, Seeley said, and they haven’t heard any complaints from the public. Seeley credits a race hotline opened up 10 days prior to race day with helping keep problems to a minimum.
“We took a lot of calls. They helped us troubleshoot areas before they became problems,” she said.
And residents are more familiar with what to expect in the second year of the race, Lindemann added.
“I have to think that we made some nice strides with public acceptance of the race, and it’s more of a celebratory thing now and it’s great for the community, with $7.8M in economic impact,” Seeley said.
The community involvement was noted by the runners.
“Overall for our runners, their number one (compliment), outside of finishing on the 50-yard line, was the way the community stepped up and cheered and handed out water,” Lindemann said. “The key to the whole race is community, to keep people coming back.”
He said he and Seeley hope to be able to announce the date for next year’s race in early June. Registration will open July 4.