Winning streaks

Winning streaks

Since the first running of the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon in 2009, just 19 runners have run the marathon every year and are registered to do so again this year, the 10th anniversary of the race. They have different reasons for continuing to run at Illinois every year, but some things many of them like about the race are the flat course, running through Meadowbrook Park and residential neighborhoods, the enthusiasm of the spectators and the finish line in Memorial Stadium.

Here is what the marathon streakers had to say about the race.


Blog PhotoBilly Adelman, 46, Bloomington:

Adelman said the reasonable entry fee and the short distance from his home in Bloomington keeps him coming back to the Illinois Marathon.

“I’m sure everyone likes to see the finish line, but I enjoy the Meadowbrook Park section of the race. Plus, I love to read the different motivational posters/signs that people hold up on the side of the race route.”


George Brown, 57, Clinton:

Brown will be wearing bib #110 at this year’s Illinois Marathon, which will be his 110th marathon.

“Jan Seeley has done an excellent job from year one of orchestrating the whole process of the marathon. It’s a pleasure doing that marathon because you know what to expect and it’s organized really well.”


Larry Butler, 56, Lee’s Summit, Mo.:

This year’s Illinois Marathon will be the 50th marathon that Butler has run.

“The Illinois Marathon is a very, very well-run event and has the organization typical of a much larger event, yet it retains a local feel and the personality of the C-U community is apparent. Generally, you have to sacrifice one for the other. Not so with the Illinois Marathon. And no marathon, large or small, has post-race grub as good as the Illinois.”


Benoit Collard, 53, Okemos, Mich.:

Collard was living in Champaign when the Illinois Marathon debuted.

“It was natural for me to run the local marathon every year. I moved to Michigan in 2014 and I decided I would continue to run this beautiful marathon.”


Bob Dluzen, 55, Carol Stream:

Dluzen’s most memorable Illinois Marathon was his second, in 2010.

“That year my son (Kevin Dluzen, a University of Illinois graduate) ran his first marathon. Also, I had run three marathons (Boston, Big Sur and the Illinois Marathon) in 15 days, which was a real challenge.”


Vince Donohue, 58, Bloomington:

One of Donohue’s favorite memories from the marathon is entering Memorial Stadium for the first time and hearing his name announced and seeing his image on the scoreboard screen.

“I love the crowd support from the Chambana locals as they truly make this a fun event that I look forward to every year. The volunteers at the various water stations are also very enthusiastic and do an outstanding job, too, in supporting the runners.”


Blog PhotoRachel Gibson, 35, Gainesville, Ga.:

Gibson will run the Illinois Marathon this year while 20 weeks pregnant. It’s not the first time.

Her most memorable marathon was in 2014, “the year I ran it 30 weeks (seven and a half months) pregnant! The other runners were such an encouragement, and I'm excited to run it pregnant again this year! Actually, it'll be the third time I've run the Illinois Marathon pregnant. I’m hoping that legacy gets passed on to my daughters. I'd love to run with them someday.”

She plans to extend her Illinois Marathon streak beyond 10 years … if she can get a babysitter.


Richard Grady, 45, Battle Creek, Mich.:

Grady is a University of Illinois alumnus.

“The Illinois Marathon gives me a good excuse to come down at least once a year, touch base with old friends and see how much the campus has changed from when I first arrived in the early ‘90s. I also keep running into some of the same runners from year to year -- the sort of casual friends that you pace along for a few miles -- catching up and vowing to see each other again next year.”


Blog PhotoBrendan Harley, 40, Urbana:

Harley trained for the first Illinois Marathon after moving to Urbana in the fall of 2008, and he enjoys the routine of getting ready to run the marathon every spring.

“There are a lot of points that make this race familiar and a favorite: The person on Vine Street in Urbana that hands out bacon, the bands playing in Meadowbrook Park, the Corvette Club handing out candy in Champaign. Weirdly, another high point is the turn in Champaign by the Armory where those folks running the half marathon go straight to finish, and we (running the marathon) turn right to go another 13 miles. That’s the point where you look around and see who else was crazy enough to run the whole marathon, then start forming the small groups that will help get you through to the finish.”


Blog PhotoEarle Heffley, 67, Champaign:

Two of Heffley’s favorite parts of the race are the live music along the course and the cheers of the spectators.

“One of the most memorable experiences is the year I received the finishers medal from my son, who was distributing medals as part of a Boy Scout service project.”


Tammy Hellings, 37, Momence and Chicago:

Hellings has a “do not repeat” rule for most races she runs so she can experience as many as possible, but the Illinois Marathon is the exception to that rule.

Her most memorable experience at Illinois: “Seeing the volunteers still at the finish line giving out medals and blankets in the downpours of 2015! That is dedication. My hat still goes off to them.”


Kathleen Jensen, 63, Kankakee and Harristown:

Jensen has run a marathon in every state and she is now working on running a marathon in every state capital and the Canadian provincial capitals. Her most memorable Illinois Marathon experience was helping a UI student finish his first marathon in 2015 during the thunderstorms.

“We sang the Alma Mater song, the UI fight song and ‘Singing in the Rain.’ ... I even got an award in my age group that year. However, my greatest sense of pride (in this or every other marathon that I have ever run) is helping a first-timer finish his marathon in horrendous conditions!”

Blog PhotoSven Johnson, 42, Sadorus:

Johnson runs in costume for Imerman Angels, an organization that matches people with cancer with cancer survivors.

“I look forward each year to finishing on the field at Memorial Stadium with cheering people and seeing the finish on the big screen. It is exhilarating! It’s truly a memorable experience.”


Blog PhotoAdam Kreuzman, 56, Greenwood, Ind.:

Kreuzman usually wears Hawaiian shorts to run his races.

“I have had many memorable experiences: 2010 when my wife did about a half marathon to get to different places to see me while I ran the marathon, 2016 running 12 miles of the marathon with my brother and 2017 running the entire marathon with my brother, Patrick. But, probably the most memorable was running in the rain and under severe weather threat in 2015.”

Tom Perri, 56, Maple Grove, Minn.:

Perri has been a pacer every year for the Illinois Marathon. He’s run more than 100,000 miles in his life, and more than 2,000 races, including three marathons in each of the 50 states.

His most memorable experiences at Illinois: “Running my 400th marathon last year here. Pacing 11-year-old Oliver, the youngest male I have paced at a marathon, is my second favorite.”


Blog PhotoMatt Schwenk, 46, Decatur:

Schwenk is a UI graduate, and he enjoys running past places that hold good memories for him.

“It takes a lot of work and a bit of good fortune to be able to maintain a streak like this for a marathon, so I am grateful to have been able to keep going this long. I enjoy the crowds and am always looking for people that I know or have known in the past. I have run many other marathons, and organization for this race is first class. I have noticed many changes, large and small, over the years that typically make the event more interesting and better as a whole.”


Drake White, 56, Macomb:

White is an adventure racer who entered his first marathon to try to improve his running for those races.

“I have several favorite parts of the course. Shortly after the start, when we are heading north and where First Street slopes down, I can see the mass of humanity running out in front of me. For some reason, that is exhilarating. The first time that I experienced it, I was surprised at how thrilling it was.”


Blog PhotoDavid Wolf, 47, Champaign:

The first Illinois Marathon was also Wolf’s first marathon. His goal is to run a Boston Marathon qualifying time.

“The Illinois Marathon has motivated me to maintain a healthy lifestyle these past 10-plus years. In 2008, I was 90 pounds heavier and I smoked a pack of cigarettes a day. Signing up for the inaugural Illinois Marathon kept me focused on my goal to improve my health during the most difficult early days of changing my bad habits. In subsequent years, the marathon has always motivated me to get back in shape no matter how much damage was done to my waistline by Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations.”


Caitlyn Truong has also run every Illinois Marathon and will be running the 10th anniversary race.

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: Top to bottom: Billy Adelman, Rachel Gibson (30 weeks pregnant in 2014), Brendan Harley, Earle Heffley, Sven Johnson, Adam Kreuzman, Matt Schwenk, David Wolf

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