Bob Asmussen | On your marks, countdown to Illinois Marathon in full gear

Bob Asmussen | On your marks, countdown to Illinois Marathon in full gear

I've lived in Champaign-Urbana for almost 29 years. Though I didn't grow up here (sorry, blame my parents), it's home.

So I have learned the kinds of things that excite the locals. Like adding a fast-food restaurant not previously available. Or Ebertfest. Or the return of the iconic Jarling's Custard Cup (thanks, Bruce Weber, Ron Turner and former Illinois athletes).

But I have to admit, I did not expect the Illinois Marathon to reach its current status.

Back on April 11, 2009, the first race was held with more than 1,600 entrants in the main event. That's 26 miles, 385 yards of pain and joy rolled into one.

With the help of local organizers and the typical C-U buy-in, the event remains strong. Sure, there are years when the numbers fluctuate a bit and registration is a little slow this year. Not a concern.

Why has it worked? Start with our topographically challenged area. No mountains like Colorado. No canyons like Arizona. No huge bodies of water like almost everywhere. Flat isn't pretty. But it's heaven for runners and bikers.

But it's more than just geography. It's the friendliness of the community and the willingness to help out for a worthy cause.

We pitch in. With smiles on our faces. We tell the out-of-towners about our favorite local restaurants and help them with directions.

You would think it's the nature of college towns, but I have been to a bunch and they are not all like C-U.

The 10th running of the Illinois Marathon is next weekend. I'm not going to advise you to avoid the area. I'll go a different direction. Head over to the course and cheer the runners on. Pass out some water and some pats on the back.

Embrace the race. That's what we do. The race is going to keep adding birthdays for as long as people run for fun.

So, forever.

Bob Asmussen can be reached at 217-351-5233 or by email at asmussen@news-gazette.com.

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