Area runners have been able to test their endurance over 26.2 miles in Champaign-Urbana since the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon debuted in 2009. Now they can test their speed over one mile at a new race the marathon organizers have created.

The Mile at the Pines is a series of 1-mile races -- with different waves for different age groups and speeds -- that will be run Nov 12 along Philo Road. The race will benefit the CU Schools Foundation.

“There’s so much excitement around our (marathon) race weekend. We were looking for a way to have another event that is something fun and a different distance, a different format, and a fundraiser that benefits both cities,” said Jan Seeley, co-director of the Illinois Marathon.

She noted that more than 7,000 people who enter one of the Illinois Marathon races live in Champaign County.

Blog Photo“This event gives us the opportunity to connect with those runners outside our normal race weekend,” she said. “I have been working on this race in my head for three years.”

Seeley was inspired by a mile run that was held along Mattis Avenue in the late 1980s.

“It was super-fun. It was the same idea of individual mile races,” she said.

Seeley has also been following the resurgence of mile races in the U.S. and the Bring Back the Mile movement to promote mile running events. The number of mile races in the U.S. has gone from 730 in 2010 to 1,530 in 2016, and the number of people finishing a mile race went from 69,000 in 2010 to 149,000 in 2016, according to Running USA, a trade association for the running industry.

Seeley said Susan Jepsen, the Illinois Marathon race accountant, and her brother Greg Reynolds, a member of the marathon’s owners group, were asked to choose the beneficiary of the race proceeds.

Jepsen said she and her brother are Champaign-Urbana natives who attended public schools.

“We are very aware of the budget struggles that Illinois is facing and the school funding issues that come along with those struggles. The Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon has always supported many non-profit organizations over the years, but when the owners decided to pick one charity for the first year of the mile race, Greg and I thought CU Schools Foundation would be a perfect choice. We wanted to help offset some of the deficits that the schools are encountering this year,” she said.

Molly Delaney, executive director of the CU Schools Foundation, said the timing is perfect as this year is the 30th anniversary year of the organization.

“Our catch phrase this year is: ‘Strong foundation. Promising Future.’ Mile at the Pines epitomizes both,” she said.

Delaney said the money donated from the race will be used to expand the organization’s collaborative grant program, for classroom grants and scholarships, and to provide homeless students with clothing and a safe place to stay.

“Their 30 years of giving to our public schools speaks volumes for their commitment to our students, staff and community,” said Champaign school Superintendent Susan Zola. “We are continually grateful for their generosity and impact on the day-to-day teaching and learning experience.”

Delaney said CU Schools Foundation will work with the school districts to encourage students and their families to run in the event as they do for the Busey Youth Run during marathon weekend.

The mile races will be run along Philo Road from Curtis Road to Windsor Road. The race will include waves for male and female youth runners, male and female open runners, and male and female masters runners over age 40, all divided by age groups. There will also be a non-competitive community mile, as well as elite waves for women who can run a sub-5:45 mile and men who can run a sub-4:45 mile.

Seeley said Philo Road is a perfect place for a mile race. In addition to the road being in good shape, a race with the staging area at The Pines Shopping Center will bring customers to businesses that suffered during the long construction project on Windsor Road. Several businesses at the Pines -- Milo’s Restaurant, Subway and Red Bicycle Ice Cream -- are providing gift certificates for age group winners. Body ‘n’ Sole Sports is providing prizes for the overall winners.

Seeley chose a date late in the fall so the mile race wouldn’t overlap with high school cross country season. She hopes the race will draw many high school runners.

“We want young people to be involved,” she said.

Because the race date is just after Veterans Day, the mile stretch of Philo Road will be lined with American flags for the race and the race will include awards for the top military veteran finishers.

The weekend is also Dad’s Day weekend at the University of Illinois, and the top UI alumni finishers will also receive awards.


Jodi Heckel, a writer for the University of Illinois News Bureau, is a runner, swimmer and triathlete. You can email her at jheckel@news-gazette.com, or follow her at twitter.com/jodiheckel. Her blog is at www.news-gazette.com/blogs/starting-line/.


How to register:

Registration is open for the Mile at the Pines. To register online or for more information about the event, go to www.mileatthepines.com.


Photo: Jan Seeley and Mike Lindemann -- co-directors of the Illinois Marathon -- get ready for the Nov. 12 Mile at the Pines races, which will take place along Philo Road. Photo by Heather Coit/The News-Gazette


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