Preparation, setup for marathon is a race in itself

Preparation, setup for marathon is a race in itself

Each Saturday of the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon, Mike Lindemann arrives home around 8 p.m., sits down and tries to keep his eyes open long enough to catch the highlights on the 10 p.m. news.

He rarely makes it.

Lindemann, one of the race's co-directors, is tasked with setting up the course on Friday and early Saturday morning. That means he's hard at work for almost 40 hours straight from 6 a.m. on Friday until Saturday night, usually without so much as a break for a nap.

"Last year, I was lucky enough to take a half-hour break before my team met at 4 for course setup and I was able to drive through Steak 'n Shake and get a milkshake," Lindemann said with a laugh. "That was nice."

Of course, he doesn't do it alone.

About a dozen volunteers carried approximately 200,000 paper cups, hundreds of gallons worth of powdered Gatorade, and dozens of cases of GU energy gel along with hoses, coolers and other supplies at Reynolds Towing in Urbana on Tuesday.

The volunteers set out enough hydration supplies for each of the 17 stations at Saturday's race, so they could be towed out to their locations for the race later in the week. Then, more volunteers will take over the hydration stations, like the Kennekuk Road Runners from Danville, who dressed up as mummies last year, and the local Corvette club, which hires a DJ and lines up members' cars on the opposite side of the street.

"They take ownership in the hydration," Lindemann said. "What they do at their aid station is up to them as long as they take care of the runners, and they are taking care of the runners. ... The runners obviously love it when they have mummies chasing them down the street or looking at Corvettes running by and things like that."

This year's marathon weekend will feature about 15,000 runners, with online registration open through Friday's expo at the Activities and Recreation Center on campus. The race will feature approximately 70 runners classified as elite, including one of the co-champions from last year's thrilling finish, Wilson Chemweno.

The number of racers has held mostly steady for the last several years, and co-director Jan Seeley said that's because runners have more and more options.

"It looks like we're going to be settling into the 14,000-, 15,000-runner (range)," Seeley said. "When we first started, I think there were three half-marathons in the state of Illinois. Now, there are literally like 50. It's just crazy."

One of the hurdles Seeley and Lindemann have had to manage this year is the large amount of construction around Champaign-Urbana. The only adjustment they had to make to the course, though, was the 10K's run past Dr. Howard Elementary School, which is under construction.

"We've been dealing with the construction on Green, and I had a long meeting with them (Monday), and we've got things worked out," Lindemann said. "The nice thing is the city does contact them when they come in. They give them the date of the marathon, and if they're on the race route, they have to move everything out of the street."

For Lindemann and the rest of the marathon workers, the work is just beginning.

"It's a long weekend," he said, "but it's fun."

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