Marathon planning calmer than '13; more volunteers needed
More volunteers. As in most years, that's what is needed for a safe running of Champaign-Urbana's only marathon.
But planners say there's less stress than last year, when the recent memory of the Boston Marathon and its explosions shook up marathons everywhere.
The sixth annual Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon is April 26, following two days of related activity. Registration closes April 15; some of the races are already at 80 percent capacity.
Safety and marathon leaders met Thursday to discuss the challenges of keeping secure a race week that attracts more than 20,000 entrants.
Lt. Jon Swenson of the Champaign police said planners are "pretty ready, but nervous about the shortage of volunteers" to keep watch on intersections.
"We hope the community comes through. We're still in desperate need of volunteers; it's not the first year we had this problem," he said.
Scott Friedlein, a retired police sergeant who is emergency services coordinator for the marathon and related races, agreed that the volunteer shortage was challenging planners.
He said other concerns were filling potholes before the races and building asphalt ramps for wheelchairs.
But he said the planning is calmer than last year, when the Illinois Marathon followed closely upon the Boston Marathon held on April 15, where bombs exploded and killed three people.
"We are in a higher sense of awareness and scrutiny since the Boston Marathon, but it's not as bad as last year, when we had to do a lot of emergency planning on the spur of the moment," Friedlein said.
Swenson said police remain vigilant about the possibility of explosives.
"We didn't use to require people to check their bags before going into Memorial Stadium. There is an extra level of conscientiousness, to have the stadium swept by the bomb squad," Swenson said.
Explosive Ordnance Disposal experts will be on standby.
"We're not waiting 45 minutes for them to show up," Swenson said.
This year, Friedlein said, "we still have a balancing act, to make sure we're responsible and completely safe, but we're not going overboard."
Friedlein said exact security numbers won't be released, but area agencies expect about 75 to 80 sworn officers, including from Champaign, Urbana, the University of Illinois, Champaign County sheriff's office and Mahomet.
Since the event starts at dawn and goes into the afternoon, more than one shift will likely be detailed.
Thursday's session went well, Friedlein said.
"For any thing that came up, there were solutions," he said.
"Every time, the community has managed to come through," Swenson said.
New this year, co-director Jan Seeley said, are "golden tickets" placed in several hundred race goody bags across all events.
She said prize donors include 92.5 The Chief, AthletiCo Physical Therapy, Body n' Sole, Busey, Central Illinois Bank, C-U Marathon, Columbia Street Roastery, Eastland Suites Hotel & Conference Center, Einstein Bros. Bagels, Flex-n-Gate, Great Harvest Bread Company, Hickory River Smokehouse, Hilton Garden Inn Hotel & Conference Center, Holiday Inn Hotel & Conference Center, Human Kinetics, Hyatt Place, Marathon & Beyond, Mix 94.5, Noodles & Company, Papa John's, Presence Covenant Medical Center, race co-directors Seeley & Mike Lindemann, Residence Inn, Reynolds Towing, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, UpClose Marketing & Printing and WIXY 100.3