A new tradition

A new tradition

The first race Jeremy Wright ever ran was the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon.

It was not just the first marathon he ran. It was his first race. Ever.

And he trained for it almost by accident.

The rural Monticello man started running regularly in the fall of 2015 to get in shape. A good friend, Christopher Wendt of Champaign, was a runner, and both Wright and Wendt kept track of their training runs on a Nike running app. Being competitive, Wright made it a goal to try and beat Wendt for the most miles run each month.

“I’ll never beat him on speed. He’s way faster than me. But on miles, I can usually beat him for the month,” Wright said.

Wendt was training for the 2016 Illinois Marathon, and Wright thought, “Maybe I should do the half. Then I thought, well, I’m doing enough miles, maybe I should do the full.”

Blog PhotoWright’s goal was to break four hours. He endured the cold and rain on race day, and just before he got to Memorial Stadium, he saw someone he knew among the spectators. He picked up his pace and finished with nine seconds to spare.

“I like the feeling of being able to have some mastery and being able to accomplish something. If I need to get from point A to point B, I can run there,” Wright said. “There’s a certain amount of pride in being in shape.”

Wright’s son, Owen, was inspired by his dad’s accomplishment. Owen inherited that competitive streak too, and he decided he wanted to run the Illinois Half Marathon.

“Once I said I was interested, a lot of people told me to go for it. It became a big goal,” Owen said.

“He’s a big-time competitor with Christopher on board games. It’s another layer of competition, and something to do with us,” Wright said of Owen’s running.

Blog PhotoTo enter the half marathon, runners need to be at least 12 years old. Race day in 2017 was four days after Owen’s 12th birthday. He was excited to be one of the youngest runners in the race, Wright said.

Father and son trained together, with Wright running with his son on trails near their home. They would complete Owen’s training run, then Wright would continue on to get in his mileage for his second marathon (and second race ever).

“He would push me to run faster,” Owen said of his father. “He wouldn’t tell me to run faster, but the fact that he was running next to me inspired me.”

Owen got to the point during his training that he could run 6 miles before he needed to take a walk break. But during the race, he had to walk during the third mile. He questioned whether he’d be able to run a good time. The two Wrights and Wendt ran together until about mile 8 or 9 of the race. Owen finished his half marathon in 2:10:42.

“I did a lot better than I thought I would,” Owen said. “There were people rooting for you almost all the way. It made me so happy to stop walking and run, because the chanting was great. A lot of people went out of their way to cheer for me. I really felt accomplished afterward.”

Owen said he enjoys running even when it is painful. “It’s kind of addictive,” he said. He plans to run the half marathon every year, and he’s hoping to beat last year’s time in this year’s race.

“I was really proud of him for completing the training. He was proud of being a part of something with adults and getting the medal and everything,” Wright said.

Owen’s grandfather is planning to run the half marathon with Owen this year, and Wright will run the marathon again. His daughter, India, played music along the route last year and plans to do so again this year.

Wright is hoping the race will become a family tradition.

“I’m hoping it will live up to last year’s expectations,” Wright said. “It was really a highlight of our year. It was a milestone.”


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/.

Photos: Top, Owen and Jeremy Wright pose with their medals after finishing their races at the 2017 Illinois Marathon. Bottom: Owen Wright finishes his 2017 half marathon. Photos provided by Jeremy Wright 

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