Fred Kroner didn't run in any of this weekend's races, but he talked to what seemed like nearly everyone who did.
CHAMPAIGN — Finishers came across holding hands. Others were in groups.
Elizabeth Schroeder was by herself Saturday as she reached the 50-yard line at Memorial Stadium, completing her 26.2-mile run at the fifth Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon.
Schroeder, a 42-year-old Bradley resident, wasn’t alone. On her back was a picture of 8-year-old Martin William Richard, who died from the second explosion that rocked the Boston Marathon 12 days earlier.
“He told his mom, ‘I’ll run one someday,’ ” Schroeder said. “I ran for Martin. This is a marathon he’ll never run.”
In an ironic twist of fate, the race clock at Memorial Stadium showed that 4 hours, 9 minutes, 44 seconds had elapsed when Schroeder completed the course Saturday. The first explosion at Boston came at 4:09:43 on the race clock.
“I had no clue I’d finished at the same time,” Schroeder said. “That’s amazing.”
Schroeder was competing in the Champaign-Urbana race for the third time. She ran the 10-kilometer race in 2011 and the relay a year ago.
She felt safe throughout this year’s race.
“We saw some dogs and more cops on the route (than previous years),” she said. “I appreciated them being there.”
Though she didn’t know the Martin family, Schroeder’s mind was on what they have endured.
“I have a son,” she said. “I can’t imagine losing a son.”
Her 10-year-old, Mitchell, offered a piece of prerace advice.
“He told me not to trip and fall,” Elizabeth Schroeder said.
Because runners begin at different times — their chip is activated when they cross the starting line — Schroeder’s official time was 4:00:58.
Next to the picture that adorned her back, Schroeder had written her own first name in marker horizontally on both arms.
“It helps when total strangers yell out your name,” she said. “Toward the end, the last 3 miles, people were yelling out, ‘Elizabeth.’ ”
More than ever, she is determined to reach another goal. If she can reduce her time to 3:45, she will qualify to run in the Boston Marathon.
“That’s my dream,” Schroeder said. “I’m working my way back.”
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Saturday was the seventh anniversary of the day Christina and Dave Johnston first met.
“It was at a road race near Dayton (Ohio),” Christina Johnston said. “We each won a 5K. He noticed me.”
Lots of folks were noticing Christina Johnston on Saturday. The 33-year-old Xenia, Ohio, resident was the women’s winner of the half-marathon, covering the 13.1-mile course in 1:18:41.
For all competitors in the half-marathon, she placed 14th. However, she didn’t win bragging rights for the family.
Husband Dave, 39, ran 1:13:05 and placed sixth overall. Both Johnstons are special education teachers, in different school districts.
They had to wait until school was out Friday to leave and traveled to Champaign on Christina’s birthday. They didn’t get to stick around and have a birthday dinner.
They were expected back home Saturday in time for a son’s 6 p.m. soccer match.
There was one reason they were first-time Illinois Marathon participants.
“The website was convincing,” Christina Johnston said.
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Champaign’s Rachel Zubricky is the first athlete to earn a threepeat in the history of the Illinois Marathon.
For the third consecutive year, Zubricky was the women’s 10-kilometer winner. Each year, her time has improved. Each year, she set the meet record.
Making her performance more special is that she works for the main corporate sponsor, Christie Clinic.
“From our physical therapy department, four of us ran,” Zubricky said.
There were 2,344 runners in the 10K competition. Zubricky, 28, was sixth overall.
The more she achieves locally, the harder it is to maintain her position.
“I was a little nervous this year,” Zubricky said. “Last year, no one knew. This year, people knew.”
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Also finishing in a familiar spot in the women’s 10K was Chicago’s Amanda Steckler.
“Second again,” Steckler said. “Second year in a row.”
Her time of 41:35 was her personal best and enabled her to secure a top-10 finish among all competitors, male or female.
People who knew the former Amanda Prillaman, a Champaign Central graduate, would be surprised at her success.
“I did no sports in high school,” said Steckler, 28. “I was a cheerleader.”
She gave birth to a daughter five years ago and said, “My mom and I started doing it together. Then I started competing in the half for fun.”
Even as the runner-up, she had a smile Saturday.
“This was awesome,” she said. “I bettered my time by a minute. It was fun.”
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There was no shortage of media members who took a day off from work to compete in the Illinois Marathon.
Aaron Bennett, the sports anchor for WCIA, ran the 10K. A year ago, he was on assignment at Memorial Stadium.
“I never really ran until last year’s marathon,” said Bennett, 29. “Seeing all the people come across, I saw they were ‘average Joes’ and thought, ‘I can do it.’ I started my training from scratch.”
He finished in 52:50, which placed him 225th among the 2,344 runners in the 10K.
“With a mile left, I saw Jean Driscoll (Boston Marathon legend) cheering me on and thought, “I can run faster,’ ” Bennett said.
Savoy’s Brian Moline, who works for WDWS, couldn’t get in enough running this weekend. He ran the 5-kilometer race Friday — doing so, he said, “a little faster than I should have” — and finished the half-marathon a day later for the fourth year in a row.
“I paid for it (Friday’s pace) today,” said Moline, 36.
The experience was rewarding.
“There are so many people involved, inevitably, you run past people you know,” Moline said. “Being a part of this huge mass of people doing something good for yourself is good. I enjoyed it.”
Moline’s personal-best time was 1:54:00, placing him 1,389th out of 6,193 competitors.
Aaron Patterson, a sports writer for the Danville Commercial-News, ran the half-marathon in 1:50:01.
“I’ve been running for six years, but this is the first opportunity I’ve had to enter,” said Patterson, 32.
He registered online the day of the original deadline, April 15, then went to a morning workout at the Danville YMCA.
“When I got home, I heard what happened at Boston,” Patterson said. “That drove me a little more, and I think that’s true of the running community.”
Patterson placed 1,024th in the field of 6,193. He is looking forward to running a full marathon.
“I’ll see how my training goes,” he said. “I’m not sure when, but I will definitely do one.”
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Chase Rogowski was the subject of numerous picture requests after she completed the full marathon. Most of the people with cameras took a picture of her from the backside first, then followed up with her beaming smile.
Runners who trailed Rogowski on Saturday had a special request in front of their eyes.
On her left leg, she wrote in marker, ‘Chase’ and on her right leg, ‘Me.’
It was something she did in high school, but it was a spontaneous race-day decision to revive the practice.
“I did it last minute this morning,” said Rogowski, 22, an athletic trainer at the University of Illinois who works with swimmers and divers. “I didn’t realize so many runners would see it. You think you’re in a zone.
“A lot of people were saying they were trying to chase me. Then they caught up, and I had to chase them.”
Rogowski more than held her own, finishing in 3:21:22 to place 134th among all marathoners and 10th among women.
Originally from Sterling Heights, Mich., Rogowski is working on her master’s degree in kinesiology at the UI.
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Freddie Walker crossed the finish line wearing an Illinois football shirt.
For the past year and a half, the Michigan native has been an assistant strength and conditioning coach for the Illini.
He ran the half-marathon, a race he wouldn’t have dreamed of doing in high school or even as a football player at Bowling Green University.
“I thought a mile was too far, even in college,” said Walker, who goes by Freddie because “my father is Fred.”
Walker took up running because he wanted to remain competitive after his football playing career was over.
“I needed something to pick up and decided I might as well do this,” he said.
His goal Saturday was to run faster than he did a year ago (1:48:04) when he made his debut in the half-marathon.
The 25-year-old Walker was timed in 1:45:08, placing 649th among 6,193 runners.
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Mahomet’s Jason Franklin enjoys running with his family, but sometimes his family doesn’t run with him.
Franklin and 14-year-old daughter Jessica were among the 2,348 participants in the 10-kilometer race.
Jessica ran the course in 46:29, finishing about four minutes faster than Dad.
“My long-term goal is simply to stay in shape so I can enjoy running with my kids,” Jason Franklin said.
His Saturday time (50:52) was a personal best.
As for Jessica, she is competing beyond her years. She secured top-10 finishes in the women’s 5K on Friday (eighth) as well as the 10K on Saturday (ninth), the latter a race in which she was the only person younger than 23 among the top 10 in the female division.
The Franklin name has been a prominent one in recent marathons. Jessica set the record for 11- to 12-year-olds in the 5K, and younger sister Alexa, now 11, is targeting that mark for 2014 after finishing first in her age division at Friday’s 5K.
In all, four members of Jason Franklin’s family ran Saturday while his brother Matt, from LeRoy, had five family members competing.
“We both home-school,” Jason Franklin said, “so running is part of their P.E. program.”
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Annie Luhrsen and Jaclyn Wolfe were high school teammates at Wheaton Warrenville South. They wound up playing volleyball together at the University of Illinois, finishing their collegiate careers last season.
On Saturday, they ran their first half-marathon together. Wolfe was timed in 1:49:47, and Luhrsen completed the course in 1:52:41.
“We had always talked about running the race and had volunteered at it in past years,” said Luhrsen, 22. “After we finished volleyball in December we decided it was a good time to do it in order to stay fit and have something to work toward.
“It was physically harder than a volleyball match, but mentally they are way too different to compare.”
Both of the former Illini had targeted two hours as a goal. Though she reached it, Luhrsen said, “it was definitely harder than I thought it was going to be, but I’m glad it was. It was a challenge. I was very happy with my time.”
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The place and the time weren’t as important as the finish.
It was all good for Loda’s Amy Eshleman. Sixteen years after suffering a heart attack, Eshleman had built enough endurance to run a half-marathon.
She finished in 3:05:20.
“Five years ago I ran a full marathon in St. Louis,” Eshleman said. “Last summer I was walking, then roller blading. I’m glad I got to participate.”
Rather than train for another marathon, Eshleman, 44, has another idea.
“I’m thinking about the 10K,” she said, “working my way down.”
She was joined by four other friends who came out to support and encourage her.
Among them was Stacey Perkinson Posey, the former CPCI volleyball coach who now coaches at Belleville East.
“I love this atmosphere,” Posey said. “There’s never a spot on the course you don’t hear someone. I call it ‘Illini Love.’ ”
She heard more than cheers. The wife of former Buckley Dutch Master baseball player T.J. Posey, she picked up on sounds that were music to her ears.
“I heard some cowbells,” said Posey, 39. “That makes me run faster.”
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Dana Hendry’s emotions ran the gamut as she finished the full marathon in a personal-best 3:33:05, two minutes below what she needed to secure an invitation to the 2014 Boston Marathon.
Her excitement was transformed into tears in a matter of moments.
“I dedicate this to a friend, Brad Eastman, who two weeks ago had surgery for brain cancer,” Hendry said. “He is such a good runner and is going through so much.
“He ran the Disney Marathon (in 3:16) in January with a brain tumor. He is recovering well. He will get my medal tomorrow.”
Hendry also ran the Disney Marathon but became discouraged when she failed to meet the 3:35 standard needed to qualify for Boston.
“I was so pessimistic,” said Hendry, a 2003 UI graduate who now lives in St. Louis. “I’ve just been running casually (instead of training). I thought I’d do my best.”
She wound up running eight minutes faster than she’s done previously for 26.2 miles.
She’ll have no hesitation in stepping to the starting line at Boston.
“Runners don’t scare,” the 31-year-old said. “You can’t scare us away.”
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Debby Borg, Carol Comella and Cindy Doyle were childhood friends from the North Side of Chicago who attended the same elementary school.
They revived child-like characters Saturday for the Illinois Marathon.
Comella, who lives in Cherry Valley, near Rockford, ran the 10K dressed as Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat. Twin sisters Cindy and Debby — who each live in Champaign — were Thing 1 and Thing 2, respectively.
Doyle, who made the costumes, had the Thing 1 designation because she is the older twin by 15 minutes.
“We are running for the Humane Society,” said Doyle, who said the trio had raised in excess of $650.
The women received recognition along the route.
“People said we were the best costume,” Borg said.
Besides volunteering at the Humane Society — and helping prepare for the facility’s May 24-25 garage sale — Borg and Doyle had been race volunteers in previous years.
They competed in the 10K so they’d be done in time to greet Doyle’s husband, James, who ran the full marathon five years after he suffered a heart attack. His time was 4:39:54.
The twins finished their race in identical times, 1:59:44, just a fraction behind Comella (1:59:43).
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Ryan Giuliano now has all of the top positions covered for the half-marathon. He had a second-place showing in 2009 and a third-place finish in 2010.
On Saturday, the UI grad who lives in Oakwood Hills beat each of the other 6,192 runners in the 13.1-mile race. His winning time was 1:09:22.
“I came out to compete and tried to stay on my pace (5:20 per mile),” Giuliano said.
Giuliano’s wife, Jacqui, was the runner-up in the women’s division. Her time was 1:18:53, which placed her 16th among all half-marathon competitors.
“This is a special race for us,” Jacqui Giuliano said. “We met here (at the UI).”
Their performance came during a time when training sessions for the 2008 UI graduates are devoted to an upcoming triathlon.
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When they ran the 10K, Shannon Duley of San Diego had to be on the right of her friend, Shuli Leiken of Raleigh, N.C.
That way, whomever they were running toward could read their shirts as one. Duley was “ILL” and Leiken was “INI.” They each had the opposite letters imprinted on the backs of their T-shirts.
“We have a lot of (Illini) spirit,” Duley said. “A lot of people were yelling ‘ILL’ and that made it worth it.”
Duley was a runner in high school at Farmington, but Leiken focused on volleyball and basketball while at Fieldcrest.
She was a first-time Illinois Marathon competitor.
“We went to parts of the city I never went to while going to school here,” she said.
Leiken appreciated the reaction of townsfolk.
“A lot of people were saying, ‘Hey, nice shirts.’ ”
They plan on keeping the shirts stored in a safe place and may plan another reunion on campus.
“Maybe we’ll do the half (marathon) next time,” Leiken said.
They finished the way they started, side by side. Each woman was timed in 1:10:37.
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By the middle of the full marathon, Crestwood’s Arturs Bareikis was thinking, “Show me the money.”
“I did not feel good,” Bareikis said. “I thought about dropping out 105 times.”
Halfway through the race, his pace was equal to a 5:25 mile split. For the last 13 miles, he averaged closer to a 5:50 split.
“I had a lot of stomach cramps,” said Bareikis, who was running his fourth marathon. “After the half, I thought, ‘I’ll run for the check.’ ”
It was a good decision.
The Illinois Marathon makes three payouts for the full marathon. The winner receives $2,500, the runner-up $1,000 and the third-place finisher $500.
Bareikis, 26, pocketed the $1,000 prize even though he was almost six minutes behind winner Nick Hird. Bareikis’ time was 2:29:42.
“I thought about the Boston stuff,” Bareikis said. “I said I had to make it to the finish. I told myself I’m going to learn about character.”
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Area coaches were among the Saturday competitors.
Urbana’s Tom Gelsthorpe — a volunteer cross-country coach at Rantoul — was the 30th placer in the full marathon, breaking his personal record by nine minutes with a time (2:58:38) that qualified the 31-year-old for another trip to the Boston Marathon.
“I thought today would go well,” Gelsthorpe said. “All my training runs have gone well, and I had a PR five weeks ago in a half-marathon at Alton.”
He competed at Boston a year ago and has no qualms about returning in 2014.
“I want to get back and be a part of it,” Gelsthorpe said, “and let them know you can’t shut runners down.”
Rantoul’s head cross-country coach, Greg Van Hoorn from Mahomet, finished the marathon in 3:34:59. He placed 256th.
Unity girls’ basketball coach Kelly Gallick was 37th in the 10K, finishing in 45:00.
“A perfect day for running,” said Gallick, who ran the half-marathon the previous four years.
One of her former Unity athletes, Lauren Grubb, made her distance-running debut. Her 10K time was 54:50.
She’ll be back.
“This definitely won’t be my last (race),” said Grubb, who played basketball the past two years at Parkland College. “I was excited to run.”
She started training for the 10K after the Cobras’ season ended and made a quick discovery.
“Basketball shape is not the same kind of shape,” said Grubb, who hopes to continue her basketball career at a four-year university.
Thus far, the physical education major has visited Bethel College, Elmhurst and Iowa Wesleyan.
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Ted Delaney grew up in Dubuque, Iowa.
That explains a lot.
“I grew up a Hawkeye fan,” he said.
He participated in the 10K adorned in a University of Iowa windbreaker. The Heyworth resident received a good reception.
“Only positive comments,” Delaney said.
He believes the good feelings would extend in both directions.
“I wouldn’t expect Illini fans to be reluctant to show up in Iowa City with an Illini T-shirt on,” said Delaney, 50.
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For an opener, Petersburg’s Kayla Brown was pleased.
“This was my first marathon,” she said. “I didn’t know what to expect.”
What she got was a third-place finish in the women’s division thanks to her 2:53:27 clocking.
Brown, 25, was hoping that her previous results would have carryover value.
“I’ve done the half-marathon twice and finished in the top three,” said the former Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville runner. “I thought this was attainable.”
Early in the race, she was a bit concerned.
“It was tough because I started out a little fast,” Brown said.
She had the Boston community in her heart.
“I wore Boston Marathon-colored shoe laces (blue and yellow),” Brown said. “I wanted to run for those people. Some of them didn’t even get to finish the race.”
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Chicago’s Walter Martinez had a group of followers.
“I started with about 20 or 25,” Martinez said.
That dwindled to about two or three, he said, “who stuck with me till the end.”
Since 2010, Martinez has gone to marathons as a pace runner. He is given a time in advance and is expected to pace himself to achieve it so that those who follow can meet their goals.
He was asked to run 26.2 miles in 3:45:00 on Saturday.
Martinez, 43, finished in 3:44:25.
“I have a good time with it,” he said, “but it’s easy to have conversations with people and lose track of what you’re doing.”
His job is important in helping others avoid the mistakes he made in the past.
“I know what it’s like to go out too fast in the first mile or two and not have enough gas at the end,” Martinez said.
Saturday’s marathon was his 19th overall and sixth as a pace runner.
Once he gets into the race, he’s fine.
“The first mile or two is nerve-racking,” Martinez said.
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Ann Walt of Medina, Ohio, didn’t train for the half-marathon like many of the other competitors.
“I ran 4 miles every other day,” the special education teacher said.
Her motivation for running the Illinois Marathon was to join her sister, Champaign’s Therese Cooper, and her brother-in-law, Dwayne, in a race.
“We had a blast,” Walt said. “It was awesome.”
Dwayne Cooper finished in 2:29:11, Therese Cooper in 2:57:34 and Walt in 2:58:12.
Dwayne Cooper said it was a good time, regardless of what the clock at the finish line revealed.
“This is so well organized,” he said. “It draws people from the community together, and today was perfect weather.”
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For the fourth year in a row, Abe Lincoln was on hand Saturday for the half-marathon.
This year, Champaign’s Jeff Kohmstedt, 40, had an addition to his costume.
“I was carrying a Boston Red Sox flag because of the devastating tragedy,” Kohmstedt said. “That made me want to run more. There’s no way I was not going to run.”
Kohmstedt placed 215th overall in his 23rd half-marathon, finishing in 1:35:28.
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For the second year in a row, West Chicago’s Francesco Arato was the winner of the master division (40 and over) for the half-marathon. His time was 1:16:29, and he placed 11th overall.
“Three years back I got back into running after being out 20 years,” Arato said. “I had to lose weight and get in shape.”
He dropped 52 pounds and now has competed in seven half or full marathons. To be first in his age division, he said, “is real satisfying.”
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There was a reason behind John Dewey’s actions.
Moments after he finished the full marathon in 4:21:00, the 22-year-old Flossmoor resident dropped to the Memorial Stadium turf and did a series of pushups.
It wasn’t that he had extra energy.
“That got me to lay flat so I could stretch my quads,” said Dewey, a personal trainer whose goal is to do an Ironman competition.
Fact is, he still did have energy.
“I feel amazing,” Dewey said. “I could do pullups.”
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Mahomet’s Erica Buzicky was carrying around more weight during Friday’s 5K than she was during Saturday’s half-marathon.
She ran with a medicine ball for the 5K because “they offered it up as a challenge,” Buzicky said.
Fortunately on Saturday she was able to drop the ball.
“Today I just carried myself,” she said.
She finished the half-marathon in 1:46:37.
A Type II diabetic, Buzicky has participated in the Illinois Marathon each of its five years in existence.
“I control (the diabetes) by diet,” she said, “but it’s harder as you get older.”