Disclaimer: I received free entry to the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon race as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!!
What to say about my experience at the Illinois Marathon? It started out not so good but that was all on me. I left my house about two hours later than I had intended which made me get stuck into some nasty traffic more than once on the way. What should have been a three and a half hour trip turned into a four hour and forty-five minute trip and left me dangerously close to missing the designated packet pickup time. Thankfully, I got to the on-campus center where the expo was being held to pick up my bib and grab a pic or two. But, as you can see, the expo was really wrapping up and I missed all of the fun and informative stuff. Bummed about that but call it another lesson in traveling to a race, something I am still a relative rookie at doing so far.
I enjoyed what was left of the expo and did have the chance to talk to a few of the race representatives for some other local races in Champaign. It was brief and not as memorable as I would have liked, but, some is better than none. After the expo, I then headed to my hotel to check in and find a place to eat. This was not the best way to start my marathon night experience. By the time I found a place to eat that didn’t have too long of a wait, it was 8:45pm. I had dinner, got back to the hotel and wasn’t falling asleep until close to midnight. Why was I up so late you may ask? Because of being behind all day, I wasn’t even race prepped at all. So I got everything ready to attempt to make the morning run a little smooth.
But, of course, I then proceeded to sleep like crap. Tossed and turned and woke up once around 3am. Nothing like going into your second ever marathon on a restless night of sleep. Eventually my alarm went off and I was up and getting dressed for the race. Thank goodness for the abundance of parking at the start line area. The line of cars to get in moved smoothly and swiftly. Where for one moment I thought I was going to be late, then there was no worry at all and I had plenty of spare time to check my bag, stretch out some and get into my corral.
I was in corral F and it took about 20 minutes for us to move up and get into the front of the line. Oddly enough, somehow I ended up at the actual front of our corral; something that never happens. And then we were off! I had a great start. And that was after overcoming the weird feeling of something missing from the start. But that was just me. My only previous marathon experience was the Chicago Marathon and that was crazy noisy and boisterous crowds for miles. I remembered not turning on my music until mile 16. Here, it was amazing how the cheering and yelling at the start line just slowly disappeared about 300 yards down the road. Not completely quiet but definitely a difference. That being said, there was plenty of crowd support with families cheering on the side and students from the University of Illinois as well. There were DJ’s, rock bands, country bands and even a violinist at the split mark for the half and full marathon points. Plenty of aid stations with water and Gatorade. A couple of gel stations were sprinkled in as well with two orange stations. The volunteers were great! So supportive and helpful; they were the cheering section I needed at the end. I loved when running through the residential neighborhoods and there are folks offering up beer to drink; always cracks me up. And I’ll tell you what, I was ready to have one but I was making incredible time on my run and didn’t want to risk botching it up.
As the race went on and mile 6 became mile 13, I was still doing really well. Too well as it would turn out, but that didn’t rear its head until later. I was still averaging 8:33/mile at the 16 mile point which is really good for me. It wasn’t until mile 22 that things slowed down and my right hip started aching a little bit. By the end of the race, my hip was not happy but I muscled up enough energy and power through to the finish line and set a PR for myself. By almost 28 minutes!!! And I was able to break 4 hours too, which was my main goal.
I was more than happy with my performance with this race and how manageable the course was for me to navigate and dominate (at least for my level). The post race spread of food was awesome as well. Choices of chips, pizza, pasta with rolls and chocolate milk along with water were all available. And then the Riggs Beer Company beer for runners. I went with their IPL and it was awesome!
All in all, I had a great time with this race. The Illinois Marathon knows how to do it and do it well. They blended the full, the half and the 10K runners into one course at the same time (for the most part) and it was flawless in its operation. Would I run this race again? Hell yes. The full again? Perhaps. The half would be a fun challenge as well I think. You owe it to yourself to give this race a shot and earn yourself a sweet medal and maybe even a PR!
Did you run this year’s race? Have you run it in the past? I would love to hear your thoughts or respond to any comments or questions you may have about it!