Marathon pacer poised for milestone in C-U

Marathon pacer poised for milestone in C-U

CHAMPAIGN — One of the great luxuries of running in the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon, or most marathons for that matter, is having a group of pace runners whom you can run with to reach your time goal.

Runners who are expecting to cross the finish line in 4 hours, 30 minutes for the full marathon and 2:15 for the half are in for a special treat on Saturday as they'll be paced by a man primed to make some history.

This weekend's Illinois Marathon will be the 400th for pacer Tom Perri, a volunteer working for, a group started 15 years ago by Jim Crist that helps out at about 40 races throughout the country.

"My first marathon was the Twin Cities (Minnesota) Marathon in 1993, and God, I never thought I would get to 400," Perri said.

The 55-year-old Perri, who lives in Maple Grove, Minn., northwest of Minneapolis, has run 160 different marathons and is believed to be the only person to have logged 100,000 lifetime miles and to have finished two marathons in each of the 50 states.

"I have three states left to finish in all 50 three times, and I have one more state (Montana) left for a sub-4 (hour) in all 50 states," he said. "In a typical year, I'll run about 30 marathons."

Perri has taken part in every Illinois Marathon since its inception in 2009 and was along for the run when Oliver Bohac became the youngest runner to complete the full Illinois Marathon in 2014 at the age of 11. He enjoys this marathon because of the uniqueness of finishing on the football field at Memorial Stadium and for how well the towns embrace the event from the volunteers to the atmosphere around the course.

But it's also unique in that the group of pacers representing go by a name that has deep meaning to the running community in central Illinois.

Joe's Pacers became the moniker of the group in 2011 when Joe Seeley, a local running magnate and key figure in bringing the marathon to the area, was diagnosed with leukemia that year. Mr. Seeley, husband of race co-director Jan Seeley, died in 2012 at the age of 52.

"It's a great feeling giving back to someone who gave so much back to that area," Perri said.

The decision was made, Crist said, in 2011 to honor Mr. Seeley with the pace group being named for him after discussions with co-directors Mike Lindemann and Jan Seeley.

"I couldn't imagine what Jan was going through," Crist said. "Mike thought it was a great idea, and we renamed it Joe's Pacers because Joe was always one who wanted the best for other people. He was always helping people and that's our mission with"

At the dozens of other marathons that Marathon provides pacing services for, many simply go by the organization's branding, or the name of the pace group is sold to a sponsor. Only one other is named in honor of a local figure who meant so much to that community's running base.

"The marathon in Albany, Ga., our pace group is called Sara's Pacers for the founder of that marathon (Sara Underwood) who passed away," Crist said. "I got that idea after we launched Joe's Pacers." will have 19 pacers on the course Saturday for folks who run as fast as 7:27 per mile to those who will run 12:36 miles.

"Joe's spirit kind of embodied what we're about," Crist said. "We support the runners. We can pick a runner and get them through the best race of their entire life."

That rings true whether it's a runner's first race, or their 400th.

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Paul Wood wrote on April 19, 2017 at 7:04 pm

I really love  this story.