Marathon is music to their ears

Apr. 26—CHAMPAIGN — When Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon runners pass underneath the viaduct at Logan and Water Street on Saturday, they'll do so with the dulcet tones of the Mahomet Music Club.

The group will have about 17 musicians on hand to send runners through to the 14th mile, with some 15 guitarists accompanied by drums, a keyboard and a violin.

"It's one of the few events that we can bring our entire group out to because we've got enough room to just spread out in the locations they've got," Heath Hafner said. "The group always looks forward to doing this one each year."

Mahomet Music Club has played during the marathon before. The group was on hand for races before the COVID-19 pandemic and has continued to perform in recent years without the full race.

Now, they'll be the first musical group that runners will hear when they eclipse the 13th mile for the first time since 2019.

"As far as types of music, we play anything from classic rock to country western," Hafner said. "Some modern stuff, you know. The group is a little on the older side, we play a little older stuff and sneak in a few new ones every once in a while."

That's far from the only position on the course that will have the backing of a full musical arrangement. Nearly 30 entertainers will be present along the courses between the 5K today and the 10K, half marathon and marathon Saturday.

Many will offer music, like the PBS Band performing at Prospect and Graham in Savoy. Some will simply provide encouragement for the runners as they pass by along the way.

"As many as five people, as many as 21 people in some of (the cheer sections)," entertainment coordinator Pat Mills said. "They'll all be wearing volunteer team shirts to kind of identify themselves and making a (ruckus) you know, signs and cheering and all that."

Runners are divided on whether to listen to music while racing or not. Many opt not to wear headphones, something that Illinois Marathon organizers discourage to ensure runners can hear their surroundings and course officials.

But as Mills sees it, even those who prefer to lock in and focus on the race can appreciate the support of a local band. He's run three marathons in Champaign County and organized the race's entertainment since 2009.

"You can certainly enjoy a marathon without music, but it certainly adds a nice lively touch to it and certainly does energize you," Mills said.

Mills — who has a preference for spinning Grateful Dead tunes at his DJ post on the 25th mile — doesn't seek out any genres in particular when organizing the acts.

"I kind of go after everything we can," Mills said. "Anything that looks like it'd be eye candy or just good music and fun music."

The PBS Band can play a wide array of covers spanning the likes of Lady A, Marc Cohn and Crosby, Stills and Nash.

They'll do so just in front of the Savoy Rec Center as runners make the turn to head back to Memorial Stadium.

"My goal is at the 22-mile mark or whatever it is to help people finish faster than they would have," Jack Brighton said.

Street closures and heavy race traffic will make Saturday an early morning for each of the acts along the course.

Mahomet's musicians will be up bright and early to arrive at their post at 7 a.m., even though they aren't likely to see runners for another two hours or so.

The early wake-up call is well worth it for the musicians and runners alike. Especially if it isn't a chilly morning.

"What's good weather for the runners is not always the best weather for us," Hafner said. "But at least it hasn't rained during any of them. We just enjoy this event a lot."