CHAMPAIGN — The inaugural “Run to Remember” takes place next Saturday through Champaign and Urbana, and family and friends of the late Drew Adams plan to be out in full force.
“Drew lived life to the fullest, and I just want to keep doing fun things that Drew liked to do,” said Prudence Adams of Champaign.
“I love the whole purpose of the run: to remember people. And on 9/11,” said the grieving mom whose son drowned in May 2020 while on a weekend getaway with friends in Wisconsin.
Drew Adams, 18, was a recent graduate of Champaign Central High School, where he played baseball and football.
Besides his mother, he left behind his dad, Harold Adams, and sisters, Ruby and Sophia.
He is just one of hundreds of people who will be honored at the 9/11 race.
“The Run to Remember is an event to honor the memories of those we miss, cherish those within our midst, and work together for a peaceful tomorrow,” said race director Jan Seeley. “When is that never a good idea?”
Every entrant, volunteer and paid helper will don a special back bib that reads: “Today I remember (fill in the blank.)”
“I’ll be filling in Joe Seeley,” Jan Seeley said of her husband who died nine years ago.
The 8K race, the first of its kind for the veteran race organizer, will take off at 7:30 a.m. from First Street on the west side of Memorial Stadium.
Participants will head north to Green, east to Race, south to Pennsylvania, then west before a jog to Peabody, north on Fourth to Kirby then end where they began.
“We have 712 entrants,” Seeley said. “Of that, 650 are going to be in person, and the rest have chosen to do it virtually.”
In-person participants are mostly local but hail from 14 states, the farthest being California, while virtual racers come from 13 states, including Hawaii.
There will be approximately 170 volunteers to support them, far fewer than the 3,000 needed for the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon.
When planning for the event began, Seeley had hoped for 3,000 racers, “but obviously we overshot.”
“We’ve never had an 8K. This is the first in-person running and walking event since the 2019 marathon. We weren’t sure what to expect. People are still being cautious, but that’s great. We haven’t put on a race for two years. It’s a more manageable event,” she said.
And she has employed precautions to mitigate spread of the COVID-19 virus and the contemptible delta variant.
“I’m inviting all participants to wear face coverings in the staging area before we start running. People can take them off when they start running,” she said, adding the unvaccinated are expected to keep theirs on.
Runners will gather in “pods” of 100 at the start line with 5 feet around them on all sides.
“It’s going to take 15 minutes to start all (seven) pods a couple minutes apart, but that is an extra layer of safety added down the stretch in response to the increase in the delta variant,” she said.
Along the route, runners can’t miss supporters of “Team Drew.” Anywhere from 50 to 80 folks are expected to be stationed in the 600 block of West Pennsylvania Avenue between mile 3 and 4, cheering on participants and remembering Drew Adams.
Prudence Adams’ employer, Busey Bank, gladly sponsored that mile for Adams’ family and friends, who will have their own special shirts for the event.
“There will be four signs that will have pictures of Drew and things he said,” Prudence Adams said, including his last Instagram post that said “For the love of the game,” in reference to Central football.
Seeley said at the end of the race, there will be a “grab and go bag” with the finisher’s medal and goodies instead of the usual post-race buffet at which to graze while recovering.
Included in the bags will be a banana, Frito-Lay snacks, an Einstein bagel, Harvest Market cookies, a gift certificate for a Papa John’s pizza and a special tribute to Drew Adams: Skittles with his name on the bags.
Drew Adams’ username on Snapchat was skittle_gang, a reference to a middle-school joke that stuck with him for years.
Likewise, his family hopes Drew Adams will stick with others for years to come.
“We just want to honor his memory,” said Prudence Adams.
“We want this event to be around more than just this year,” added Seeley. “The luck of the calendar put this inaugural running at the 20th anniversary of 9/11. That wasn’t the plan. Next year it could be in October.”