Runners are everywhere these days.
With just seven and a half weeks until the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon on April 28, we’re entering the Monster Month. That’s what Runner’s World magazine calls the time in a marathon training schedule where runners are doing their most mileage, with 18- and 20-mile training runs.
In light of those upcoming long runs, I’ve asked some local marathoners about their favorite routes for a long — or not so long — run. Maybe you’ll find a new route that will help get you through a 20-miler.
Kristy Powell, White Heath
“There are some good rolling hills in my neck of the woods. There is a 7.75-mile loop in rural White Heath. (Many Second Winders call this the Centerville loop. Runners are not going to find Centerville, Ill., if they search for it ... or if they do, it will not be the correct Centerville.) The route is easiest to start from Ingram Cemetery, which is just off Route 10 (Springfield Avenue), not far from the intersection of Route 10 and Interstate 72. I have created numerous additions to the loop to create longer runs.”
Powell said she likes the route because it’s close to her home, there are usually fewer cars than the number of miles she runs and the tar and chip surface is more forgiving than concrete. She said Ingram Cemetery is a good place to leave extra water bottles if she is doing several loops of the route for a long run.
Also, Powell said, the area is quiet and peaceful. She passes a tree farm and a forest preserve park, and she often sees or hears wildlife such as owls, deer, coyotes and occasionally a fox.
Finally, there are the hills. “People who live just 10 to 15 minutes away in pancake-flat Champaign may not believe me, but there are some quality hills here,” Powell said. “In fact, many seasoned Boston marathoners-in-training make a point to do long runs at Centerville.”
Brenda Mehnert, Champaign
“It has been at least six years since I’ve trained for a full marathon. The best long run would have to be the Allerton Park 23-miler. Beautiful first five miles on trails in the park, then open country roads for the next 18 miles. The farm field beauty of central Illinois and the quaint farmhouses with the locals waving a friendly hello and wondering why we run and if we need a ride somewhere are something to look forward to on that very long run. The other memory I have is the people I spent the whole morning with conversing about life. Great therapy.”
Danny and Eileen Lichtblau, Champaign
The Lichtblau’s favorite route for long runs is from their central Champaign home to Centennial Park, around the park, then west on Sangamon Drive. They follow the Illinois Marathon route through the Maynard Lake area, then continue across Duncan Road, to Valleybrook Drive and along the route back to Sangamon before heading home. They’ll cover 10.3 miles, and if they need to run more miles, they’ll do so by heading back toward Centennial Park. For a 20-mile run, they do the route twice.
Debby Rehn, Champaign
“I normally don’t care for repeated loops or out-and-backs, but I do like running the trail at Lake of the Woods for long runs. It’s nice to get off of city streets and into nature. Plus, you don’t have to worry about distracted drivers hitting you. My weekday runs are in the early morning hours. My running buddies and I like well-lit, low-traffic streets since it’s pretty dark. Campus routes are nice because you can throw in parking garages (or stairs) along the way — about the only way to train for hills in Champaign-Urbana. I don’t run in the country much, but nothing beats jogging along and seeing the sunrise over a cornfield in early September.”
John North, St. Joseph
North doesn’t have a route that he runs routinely. When he’s not running trails, he often runs on campus.
“I feel it’s safer due to the fact that drivers are more tuned in with pedestrians (runners),” he said. “The Union is also a great point for grabbing water and a Gu or using the bathroom.”
North likes the Second Wind Running Club route from the University of Illinois Armory. Club members run it on Tuesday evenings in the winter. It includes campus and a portion of Urbana, with a long stretch on Pennsylvania Avenue.
“My favorite running street due to the great old residential architecture and mature trees,” North said.
The route is 5.8 miles, and he repeats it for longer runs.
Another favorite run is through the UI Arboretum and down gravel roads to Windsor Road and back.
“This run also includes the hill in the middle of the route, which I usually do several times,” North said. “The course is around 2.7 miles, and I typically do it multiple times or make it a part of my campus run.”
I have a few favorites of my own. I’ve always liked an old 14-mile route that Second Wind used during marathon training. It starts at Hessel Park and goes into Urbana along Pennsylvania Avenue to Cottage Grove, back through campus and through nice neighborhoods in Champaign along Lynn and Hill streets, McKinley Avenue and John Street. It goes around Centennial Park before ending at Hessel Park.
I also love running through the South Farms to Meadowbrook Park and back through the UI cross-country course at the Arboretum.
Runners looking for a local route can check the following websites. They offer maps of routes other runners have posted, and you can also create your own route.
Photo: Runners pass Memorial Stadium near the start of the 2011 Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon. Photo by Rick Danzl/The News-Gazette.