Disclaimer: I received a free entry to The Illinois Half Marathon 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!
Catch up onPart 1 of my Illinois Marathon race weekend and expo recap. For this post, I’ll recap the half marathon and summarize my overall experience in Champaign-Urbana.
And hey, I ran my 10th half marathon!
The college was celebrating its 150th birthday, and race day was a PARTY. When the Race Directors said that the city gets behind this race, they really meant it. And with the spectators having so much fun, I was feeding off that energy.
Location: Champaign-Urbana, Illinois!
Registration and Cost: As my disclosure states above, I received a free entry to the Half I-Challenge series. If you register for the race early, you can run the half marathon for as cheap as $60. There are several incremental increases as the race approaches; expo registration (pending availability) went as high as $90. The Half I-Challenge for the half marathon and 5K starts at $85 and goes up to $140.
Pre-Race: The communication from Illinois Marathon RDs was EXCELLENT leading up to race weekend. They utilized Facebook and Twitter and interacted with participants, and sent out several emails regarding race info, packet pickup, and after parties.
Swag: Each race had its own drawstring race bag and t-shirt. The half marathon shirt is great — a bright neon yellow short-sleeved tee with a more breathable tech material. I also love that it’s v-neck. The drawstring bag for the half has a mesh back and extra zippered pocket in the front. I have SOOOOOO many drawstring race bags now; I wish that there was only one for the Challenge runners.
Weather: While I knew it was going to be chilly, race day was downright COLD — at the start it was feels like temp of 35. I was a little cranky about it, but also glad that I had an extra long sleeve. It was also pretty windy, so that added to my pre-race chill.
Course: The course for the half marathon was basically flat — and it was fast. A lot of it was run through neighborhoods and some through paved trails in a park, but none of it was boring.
Start Line: Definitely not as crowded as the day before (thankfully). Not the same start location as the 5K, but still on campus near the Stadium and only a .5 mile walk from my hotel. There were wave starts and a countdown for each start.
Aid Stations: There is an oranges station sponsored by Meijer around mile 6, which was a nice surprise (I love oranges during races!). There were a few hydration stations with water and some with Gatorade (I missed the first Gatorade stop because I didn’t realize until I was already at the water tables). I got a strawberry-banana GU (my favorite!) at mile 6.5-ish, too. I was able to store my GU for later on when I had some awful stomach grumbling from hunger (I carried some Figgies & Jammies with me, but didn’t feel like “eating” during the race).
Finish Line: Muscle Milk (chocolate and vanilla) and bottled water on the field. I walked all the way up the stadium seats until I realized that I forgot to pick up my Challenge medals back in center field. After walking back UP the stairs, I saw the signs…
ERMAGAHD GLUTEN-FREE PASTA AVAILABLE IN THE CONCESSION STANDS!!!
I was more than a little excited (thanks, Biaggi’s!).
Fans and Experience: Crowd support was probably the most engaging and fun of any race in which I participated. There were signs everywhere (my favorite: “We’re blocked in our driveway, run faster!”) and spectators lined the streets and neighborhoods — high-fiving and cheering and handing out samples of beer and makeshift water stops and tissues to runners. I find some of the larger races to be overwhelming with people, but this was the perfect amount of energy; I was really feeding off it. It reminded me a bit of the neighborhood support when I did the Akron relay.
I particularly loved the genuine “Welcome to Champaign” (was that the mayor?) greeting as we ran through the downtown area and the “Finnish Line” (hilarious!). There were Cheer Zones and live music (I loved the multi-instrument band with the accordion and brass — I wish I caught the name of their group) and even Elvis! The entertainment was awesome throughout the course. Around 8-9 miles in, some friendly neighbors were passing out cups and cans of beer — not for me, obviously but if there was something gluten-free, I may have taken something; I was sincerely loving the energy.
Even better, the RUNNERS seemed to all be having equal fun.
After Party: The 27th Mile celebration was just outside Memorial Stadium, similar to the party the night before — free beer for participants and free cake and live music. After walking back to my hotel room, it was breakfast, a hot shower and a long nap; and then a friend drove in to hang out over night. I needed to fuel, so it was (gluten-free!) burgers and buffalo chicken dip at Scotty’s Brewhouse first, and then we drank wine and ate stinky cheese and caught up in the hotel room afterward. The weekend overall was a total blast.
The Great: THIS RACE WAS AWESOME. SO FUN. ALL CAPS.
The Good: I negative split the 2nd half of my race — WHOOP!
The Bad: Blah, weather. Tolerable, but I thought winter was over!
The Ugly: As runners are approaching the stadium for the finish line, the course kinda narrows; well, I came up to a band of walkers spanned across the distance. It was irritating, and I got a little run rage-y — I may have yelled at them to move left (sorry).
TL;DR: My weekend in Illinois was incredible. A 5K PR and my 2nd fastest half marathon time — and probably the best overall race energy and experience. They put on a great event there in Champaign-Urbana, and if you’re looking for some fun (or a PR), I would definitely add this race to your calendar.
10k split: 1:04:45 [10:26 pace]
10 mile: 1:43:21 [10:21 pace]
12.4 mile: 2:07:13 [10:16 pace]
Finish: [10:09 pace]