CHAMPAIGN — The Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon will be canceled for a second year in a row due to the pandemic, but stay tuned for a possible running event in September.
Committee members were notified Wednesday morning that the marathon event set to take place April 29-May 1 is off due to the current state of the pandemic.
“Nobody will be surprised by that,” said Co-Director Jan Seeley.
Up next is exploring what kind of event may be possible for Sept. 9-11, she said.
Seeley said the University of Illinois and Division of Intercollegiate Athletics calendars are clear for a new running event for those three days. The football team is scheduled to play at Virginia on Sept. 11, creating an opening at Memorial Stadium, which has served as the finish line for past marathons.
“Obviously, we couldn’t have any kind of running event in town if there is a football game going on,” she said.
Registration for the 2021 marathon had gotten underway in June, and by the time it was paused in September, 5,600 participants had already signed up, Seeley said.
What a possible September 2021 running event would look like isn’t clear at this point, Seeley said, but organizers are excited about the opportunity to expand race offerings.
“We are not saying that the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon is going to happen Sept. 9, 10 and 11, but we have been given those dates to explore for doing some kind of event,” she said.
With COVID-19 vaccinations well underway and the potential for herd immunity in the community, Seeley said, “we would want to put on what is possible.”
The 2019 marathon event drew about 14,000 participants, Seeley said.
That was down from the former average 16,000 to 17,000 participants per marathon as the running boom has leveled off and more races have been added, “so all of the races have seen their numbers drop over the years,” Seeley said.
Illinois Marathon organizers plan to give another update for a 2021 event no later than April 1, she said.
What’s possible for a fall running event will continue to depend on the state of the pandemic and what the state permits for the 21-county Region 6, which includes Champaign, Douglas, Ford, Piatt and Vermilion counties.
The region has moved down from more restrictive Tier 3 COVID-19 mitigation restrictions to Tier 1 and could potentially move down another notch in restrictions, to Phase 4 reopening under the Restore Illinois plan, as soon as Friday.
Under Phase 4, 5K and 10K races would be permitted, but the 50-person gathering limit would apply along with required staggered start times and different locations for finish points.
The state and/or individual regions won’t be in full reopening mode until the final Phase 5.