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Illinois Marathon overcomes hurdles in return to Champaign-Urbana

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Thousands of registered runners tied their shoes tight and got moving in Champaign County on Saturday, despite concerns of a potential cancellation.

The Christie Clinic Illinois Race Weekend’s opening 5K race was canceled on Friday amid protests on campus. They found out Saturday’s races were on around 10 p.m. that night following an agreement between the university and the protesters. With police available able to run security for the event, runners, spectators, and organizers were all able to breath in a big sigh of relief.

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Nearly 10,000 people, all determined — and some may say crazy —  came to Champaign to run.  Some competed in a marathon, half marathon, 10K or 5K.

“There’s a lot of people here, so I think it’s a big testament to the race organizers and the city of Champaign for putting this together,” said Nathan Yoon, a senior at the University of Illinois who ran the 10K.

Jaime Marcos was the talk of the town. The 25-year old finished first in the marathon.

“It just feels great to be a part of this culture and this race and Champaign,” Marcos said. “And, you know, I’m moving here in June and it’s going to be like home for me. It is home at this point, so it feels good.”

Saturday saw perseverance in more ways than Marcos’.

“Up until just this morning, we were working around the clock to secure additional personnel, additional public safety personnel in order to make this happen,” Spokesperson Kris Koester said. “So far, so good. It’s been a great day so far, and we’re super excited to watch these runners cross the finish line again.”

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Koester said organizers were up all night solidifying security details.

“We just looked for some additional public safety resources as far as police. So we were able to get some assistance from the Illinois State Police as well as all the partner police departments that have been working with us over the past several months. Of course, Champaign, Urbana, Champaign County, and some of our friends from Danville, Bloomington and other places.”

Lindy Drollinger is from Champaign and ran the 10K.

“I am so very excited,” she said, “and even more thankful for all of our amazing police officers that worked so hard through all the stress of yesterday to make sure that not only were things handled appropriately last night, but that we’re going to be able to have a safe run today. I’m very excited.”

It was an amazing race that almost wasn’t.

“I got to give the race director, Jan, a hug right before because I know this crew’s been up all night trying to pull this race off,” said Trish Black of Champaign, who won the Women’s 10K. “It was just amazing how they came through and made it happen. So, hat’s off to them.”

This year’s race marked a couple of special milestones. It was the first time the event ran through the Village of Savoy. It also was the first time since 2019 — before the pandemic — that the full marathon was included in the race.

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