These are the folks who make the race RUN

These are the folks who make the race RUN

Longtime runner Bill Thornhill looks forward to the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon every year, even though he's never run the race. Thornhill has been a course volunteer since the first year of the marathon, when he was hoping the new event would be a success.

"I love to be able to stand out there and see people I know running by. And I love to see the crowds of runners," Thornhill said. "To see that many people coming out of Meadowbrook (Park), it's as thrilling to me as if I was actually running in the race."

Blog PhotoThornhill lives near Meadowbrook Park in Urbana, and he's a course guard at the park, directing the runners coming out of the park onto Windsor Road and making sure they know to turn north on Race Street. He also keeps an eye out for anyone who is struggling or injured. And he looks for friends who are running the race.

"Since I'm a runner, I know how important volunteers are out there, both for directing people where to go and keeping them safe, and also runners like to have some encouragement," Thornhill said.

He also enjoys seeing the other volunteers, many of whom have been stationed at the park for several years as he has.

Blog Photo"That's the only time I see them all year, but I recognize them. We know one another," he said.

Although Thornhill has run about 80 marathons and ultramarathons, most in the 1970s and '80s, "I'm perfectly happy being a volunteer at this."

Doug Hanner of Oakwood has also volunteered at every Illinois Marathon, along with other members of the Corvette Club of Illinois. Hanner and the club members like helping out at a community event.

"We're good at volunteering. We enjoy it," Hanner said.

Blog Photo"We see how much fun it is and how it helps the community. Volunteering is not that hard," he said.

About 30 club members work at a water station along John Street in Champaign, at about the 17-mile mark of the marathon. Another 10 club members work as course guards at intersections within a couple of blocks of the water station.

Hanner uses a golf cart to go back and forth between his volunteers and bring them anything they need. And he occasionally is called on to take a runner unable to finish the race back to Memorial Stadium in the golf cart.

Blog PhotoHanner is understandably proud of the coordination of the club's volunteers for the water station and course guards. Just last week, a marathon official contacted Hanner and told him another volunteer was needed in the area. Could he find a volunteer?

"I will make it happen," was his reply.

The club members also enjoy showing off their cars. Their location on John Street is near a parking lot where they can park their Corvettes.

Hanner recruits his nephew, a DJ, to play music at the water station.

Blog Photo"It's fun for the club members. More than anything, it's interacting with the runners," Hanner said. "When they come down over the hill there and hear our music, it sort of pumps them up. Our people are yelling at them. It just makes it fun."

Want to help? There are still many volunteers needed

Volunteers such as Bill Thornhill and Doug Hanner are essential for the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon races to proceed safely. The marathon uses about 3,000 volunteers, both on the course to man water stations and work as course guards at intersections and also for non-course positions such as handing out bib numbers and T-shirts at the race expo, helping with parking, handing out finisher medals and serving post-race food.

As of last week, the race still needed 600 volunteers — about 340 for non-course jobs and the rest on the course team — for race weekend April 28-30. Volunteers get a T-shirt and string bag, and the satisfaction of helping put on a community event. To volunteer, go to and click on the volunteer link or the "Get Involved" tab on the top of the page.

Jodi Heckel, a writer for the University of Illinois News Bureau, is a runner, swimmer and triathlete. You can email her at, or follow her at Her blog is at

Photos: Volunteers at the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon come in all shapes and sizes and hold all kinds of jobs — before, during and after the race. Photos by The News-Gazette

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