Relaying it on the line at Illinois Marathon

Relaying it on the line at Illinois Marathon

CHAMPAIGN — Proving that even a woman who's seven months pregnant can share in the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon experience, the Trotting Brunettes — Kayla Gerst, twins Amy and Lisa Schleef and Maria Rojas Sachtleben — will be a force to reckon with Saturday.

Why trotting?

"We're all brunettes and some of us are new to running, so we didn't want to give it a name that suggests we are fast," says Mahomet native Gerst, who now works as an athletic trainer in Munster, Ind.

Very new to running is Lisa Schleef of Savoy, who was talked into the race by Gerst and her twin.

"This will be my first one over 5K," said the brunette handling the first leg, about 6.7 miles.

As for 7-month pregnant Sachtleben, the race is the thing, not the speed.

"Any way I finish is OK, even if I have to walk across the line," she said.

Ringleader Gerst said the foursome knew each other from college at Eastern Illinois University, or through mutual friends and working at the 4-H Memorial Camp.

"We get together as many times as we can to celebrate over nine years of friendship," she said. "We are excited to be doing the Marathon Relay I-Challenge together because we are all so supportive of each other and find this a great way to bond, even though we are all so busy with work and life."

They have ambition in common.

Gerst studied athletic training at Eastern, and is studying to be a physician assistant and is applying to Eastern Illinois University programs this spring.

Amy Schleef is a business education teacher at Armstrong Township High School, where she is also the yearbook sponsor and National Honor Society co-sponsor.

She takes running seriously, and is the sole track coach at the high school.

Her sister Lisa is a Realtor at Keller-Williams, recently earned a communication studies master's at Eastern and has interned with the Houston Astros, so she's a winner who, sadly, knows how to deal with losing.

Sachtleben grew up in Urbana, works as a CNA and will be graduating from the Parkland nursing program in May — she said nursing is her dream.

A newlywed, her primary athletic experience is as a cheerleader, not a runner.

She signed up before she knew she was pregnant, and will be running with a partner, so to speak, for the last 10K of the marathon.

"Our team name should have been The Trotting Brunettes + One," Gerst said.

Sachtleben said she does her training in her daily life as a side-effect of working in the health community.

"I'm doing a lot — a lot — of walking," she said. "Sometimes at work on those 12-hour days, I easily get up to 20,000 steps a day."

But that doesn't stop her from running, too.

"A couple of years back, I started running to de-stress," she said. "Any time I feel a stressful situation coming on, I go off and take a run. It's great feeling."

Lisa Schleef said that, even though the team has some newbies, it also has an edge.

"We started training by January," she said. "I think the best advice for marathoners is to start training as early as possible."

It also helps that her fiance is a serious runner, she said.

10-foot-tall tribute really takes the cake

With this year's Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon paying tribute to the UI's 150th birthday, organizers thought cake would be appropriate.

A really big cake — so big, it took an 8-by-10 trailer just to bring it to campus.

"You won't be able to miss it," said cake coordinator and marathon mainstay Marsha Osterbur, "no matter how tired you are."

The 10-foot-tall, three-tiered cake, which will be on display near Memorial Stadium's Great West Hall starting at 3 p.m. Friday, isn't edible. But those participating in this weekend's races will be treated to 70 sheet cakes provided by one of the marathon's sponsors, Meijer.

RUN WITH THE PACK

There are three days of events with the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon. Besides all the races — marathon, half-marathon, 10K, 5K and youth race — there are parties, bagels, beer and speakers. Marathon champion Dick Beardsley, the 2017 Guest Legend, will appear at expo events, give a talk at 2 p.m. Friday in the Activities and Recreations Center Auditorium at 201 E. Peabody Drive, C.; give another talk at 6 p.m. Friday, also at the ARC; and co-host the Illini Radio Group pre-race radio show at 5 a.m. Saturday.

Thursday

All of the day's events are from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Activities and Recreation Center, 201 E. Peabody Drive, C.

— Health & Fitness Expo, Gym 1
— Youth Run registration, Gym 2
— Chip/number/official race guide pickup, Gym 2
— Shirt/goody bag pickup, Gym 1

Friday

Most events are at Activities and Recreation Center, 201 E. Peabody Drive, C.

— Health & Fitness Expo,10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Gym 1
— Youth Run registration, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Gym 2
— Chip/number/official race guide pickup,10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Gym 2
— Shirt/goody bag pickup, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Gym 1
— Speaker Series, 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., auditorium
— Biaggi's Pasta Feed, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., Gym 3
— 4th Mile music and food, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., Kirby Avenue between First and Fourth streets
— 5K national anthem and happy birthday, 7:20 p.m., Oak Street south of St. Mary's Road
— 5K Run/Walk, 7:30 p.m. wave start, Oak Street south of St. Mary's Road

Saturday

— Coffee/Bagel Bite Bar, 5:30 a.m. to 8 a.m., First Street, north of the start line
— Starting line, 6:30 a.m., First Street and St. Mary's Road.
— National anthem/happy birthday, 6:50 a.m., First Street and St. Mary's Road.
— Wheelchair half-marathon, 7:01 a.m., First Street and St. Mary's Road.
— Marathon, marathon relay, half-marathon, 7:03 a.m. wave start, First Street and St. Mary's Road.
— 10K Run/Walk, about 7:35 a.m., First Street and St. Mary's Road.
— Post-race food, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Great West Hall, Memorial Stadium
— Meijer 27th-Mile Celebrate Victory Bash, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Kirby Avenue between First and Fourth streets
— Muscle Milk Protein Bars, 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Meijer 27th-Mile Celebrate Victory Bash, outside Memorial Stadium on Kirby Avenue
— Athletico Physical Therapy Post-race Stretching Zone, 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., outside Memorial Stadium, southeast of the finish line
— Youth Run/post-race food, 3 p.m., Memorial Stadium Great West Hall
— City Center post-race party 8 p.m., City Center at Fat City, 505 S. Chestnut St., C

Much more information is at illinoismarathon.com.

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