Corvette club ready to do its part for marathon: 'We just enjoy seeing the runners'

Apr. 20—CHAMPAIGN — Occasionally, a runner will pass by the Corvette Club of Illinois during the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon and take a quick break.

Not just because the club's members have been handing out water along the course since the race's inception in 2009. It's also hard for car enthusiasts to pass by so many Corvettes and not stop to admire them or take a photo.

"It's just nice that they appreciate us being out there and they'll come by and say thank you," club member Patti Gruber said. "They appreciate us being there, as well as we enjoy being with them to support them."

The club will again be out in full force on April 27 at Champaign Church of Christ at the corner of John Street and Westlawn Avenue, just after the 17th mile.

They'll have water cups, Nuun Endurance packets, energy gels, music and friendly faces to encourage athletes who find themselves needing a mid-race energy boost.

"We're sort of the old people, but we're also the most experienced because of being there every year," club President Doug Hanner said.

It's easy to see why the club has been present on the course for the last 15 years. The group — which has displays at Sullivan-Parkhill and works with Special Olympics — is as involved with the community as it is passionate about its cars.

"We started out as a competitive club, racing, rallies, shows," member Bob Ogle said. "And now we're kind of a social club. We got older and we've kind of got away from that."

Ogle, one of the club's charter members, isn't sure how many Corvettes he's owned since the group was formed in 1970. He knows he's not quite to 25 cars yet.

They tend to come and go as the club's members navigate trades and sales. A yellow 1966 Corvette — from the car's famed Sting Ray era — is his most prized of the bunch.

"I keep saying I'll never buy another one, and every now and then, I'll drag one home," Ogle said.

That camaraderie keeps Gruber coming back as well. She's on her eighth Corvette, a striking "rapid blue" 2022 model. Ditto for Dee Gonzalez.

"We do something once a month somewhere," Gonzalez said. "And of course right in the middle of it is eating. Dinner dashes, or dinner and a movie. That's when we get together and start going to town."

The club has continued to innovate since the marathon's inception. They'll use drill motors to stir drink mixes, a water manifold to fill containers faster and leaf blowers to blow used cups away and prevent slips.

"All that stuff, we came up with it and all the other ones have adopted it," Hanner said. "We've come up with some pretty innovative stuff that makes it easier on us so we don't have to pick up all those cups."

Staying involved with the Illinois Marathon is an easy way for the group to show off its array of cars to runners from around the world — even if they might care more about the refreshments they have to offer in the moment.

"We just enjoy seeing the runners, just the dedication they put into it," Gruber said. "Some of them are smiling and some of them look like they're ready to fall over."