NOTES: Community rallies for return of full marathon

Apr. 28—CHAMPAIGN — Devin Allbaugh arrived in Champaign from Bettendorf, Iowa, with a goal in mind.

That goal was achieved Saturday — by nearly four seconds — as he captured the men's half-marathon title with a time of 1:08:49.

"It was tough conditions," Allbaugh said. "It's really windy, it's really humid, so kind of not conducive to running. I just wanted to go out there and just kind of run by feel, and I felt pretty decent for the most part."

Allbaugh overcame having to run most of the race by himself; Arturs Bareikis finished second at 1:12:10, while Ethan Forsell came in third at 1:12:28.

"The crowd support was amazing," Allbaugh said. "Those crowds really helped push me along."

Up next for Allbaugh: The Chicago Marathon on Oct. 13, in addition to some races in the Quad Cities to stay in shape.

"I've always enjoyed it," Allbaugh said. "I enjoy you know kind of the pain and the elation of finishing something and it's kind of as simple as that I think."

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Jane Bareikis knows her way to the front of the pack.

The Kenyan captured her second-consecutive victory in the women's half-marathon with a blazing mark of 1:17:29, besting second-place finisher Lynn Ahlers by nearly four minutes.

"The wind was really good at some point," Bareikis said. "It was doable. It was much better than cold weather, like winter."

The most surprising part of Bareikis' title-defending victory? It wasn't necessarily supposed to happen.

"I just came from Kenya," Bareikis said. "We were supposed to come back next week ... the main idea is to win."

Hamstring discomfort nearly sidelined Bareikis during the race as well.

"At some point I was thinking maybe I should stop, around Mile 2," Bareikis said. "And then I was like, 'Just keep going; maybe it'll get better.' It got worse ... I looked behind and I had a big gap, so I was like, 'I'll just go.'"

The energy among the crowd was palpable, even though Bareikis wasn't running the highly-anticipated full marathon.

"It's a good event," Bareikis said.

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Ahlers hadn't been back on the UI campus in two decades before participating in the half-marathon.

Her 5K time en route to a 1:21:22 finish was faster than her pace when she ran for the Illini.

"It means so much because 20 years was my last race as an Illini, as a kid," said. "Now I'm close to 40 and inspired by my friends and women around the world that are getting up in their 40s. It's really fun to get out and work hard."

Ahlers now lives in Iowa City.

"My mind has gotten stronger and my heart has given me more grace," Ahlers said.

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Despite battling a shoulder injury entering Saturday's race, Susannah Scaroni became the first winner of the morning when she captured the wheelchair half-marathon in 50:08, nearly 10 minutes faster than second- and third-place finishers Hoda Elshorbagy and Noah Eckelberg.

"I'm trying to keep it healing," Scaroni said. "So I had to hold back a few times, but honestly, I was really happy with how I felt today. Very hopeful."

The win was an encouraging sign for Scaroni, who captured a 5,000-meter T54 gold medal at the 2020 Paralympics and also competed for the United States at the 2012 and 2016 games.

"We had really good wind conditions," Scaroni said. "A lot of tailwind sections that were long and then a lot ahead were blocked. So I got to keep my pace up. Crowds were really fun. I was so lucky to have the lead vehicles because even though I train here, it was really nice knowing where the corners would be."

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Saturday's 10K was headlined by a pair of familiar faces.

Mahomet native Brian Bundren triumphed before plenty of familiar faces as he captured the overall gold medal with a time of 35:23.

"There's so much excitement living in this community," Bundren said. "It's just a big event for this community and for the university, so to be a part of that is really special."

Champaign's Trish Black won the women's race at 40:39, a time that was also good for 12th on the overall leaderboard.

"Hats off to the race director and the events team for pulling this thing off," Black said.

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Jordan and Laurie McNulty's gray-and-blue Detroit Lions jerseys stood out among the crowd as runners gathered for the start of their races Saturday morning.

The Aidan Hutchinson and Jared Goff jerseys — which would have fit perfectly at the ongoing NFL draft in Detroit — were in support of Tim McNulty, who wore a blue Lions T-shirt as he competed in his 20th marathon.

"He said he was going to wear this, so we just wore our jerseys," Jordan said. "Gotta match."

Tim crossed the line in 4:06:15, a bit off from the time he would have preferred. He didn't blame the weather, having seen far worse in other races he's competed in over the years.

"I've run a lot hotter," Tim said. "And the course is flat and I didn't think it was all that windy either, so I didn't I didn't have any issues with that. I think I overtrained is what my issue was."

Jordan also sported a Detroit Red Wings cap. Tim is from the Detroit area and the family regularly makes trips to the Motor City from their current home in Petersburg, Ill.

Tim and Jordan had Lions season tickets for the first time last season to coincide with the team's first NFC championship game appearance since 1991.

"This guy (Jordan) grew up a huge fan," Tim said. "We meet my brothers for just about every home game."

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Sam LeRoy's involvement with the Illinois Marathon goes back to the race's inception in 2009.

He was a year behind race director Jan Seeley's son at Uni High when the race began. It lacked the volunteer network it currently has, so those who knew Seeley stepped up to fill in the gaps.

"We had different groups at Uni High that would volunteer," said his mother, Janet LeRoy. "Like the girls' basketball team would take Mile 8 and the boys' basketball team would take Mile 4."

The LeRoys are still coming back 15 years later.

They and their fellow volunteers happily manned a concession stand on the west end of Memorial Stadium to hand out pizza, bagels, chips and cookies for runners to nosh on after their races.

"I've done everything from cleaning up the signs after, just all kinds of things," Janet LeRoy said.

Runners were equally happy to refuel after a muggy race, with water, chocolate milk and Nuun also available on the field and in the concourse.

"We definitely appreciate that," marathon relay runner Bob Edwards said. "It helps."

Fellow volunteer Disa Johnson has kept coming back to support Seeley and the surrounding community.

"This is such a big deal with so many people," Johnson said. "It's just fun to be able to be the happy face and congratulate the runners at the end of the day. All the community has to really pull together to pull this whole thing off and it's just such a cool event."

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The stretch of Kirby Avenue just outside Memorial Stadium had just about everything that runners and their families could want following the races.

Eight food trucks lined the street near a kids' zone with inflatables and face painting. Four athletic tables were available for racers to stretch out with, courtesy Christie Clinic.

And Riggs Beer Co. was on hand to supply competitors with free beer as they took in tunes from Peoria-based Top 4D Entertainment.

"It's been a really big response, bigger than I thought it was going to be," said Mark Brown, director of sports, events and film for tourism agency Experience Champaign-Urbana. "We've had many thousands of people streaming out of the stadium ... I had thought that more of them would just kind of leave, but most of them are staying and having a great time."

The 27th Mile celebration took place just a few hundred feet from where runners began their races a few hours prior.

"We were over by the starting line this morning just to kind of see the community spirit, everybody coming together," Brown said. "That was really cool to see many thousands of runners starting all at the same time."

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As the races went on, it was increasingly common to see runners cross the finish line at Memorial Stadium and head toward the nearest garbage can.

Some runners gave out into the arms of waiting runners or race officials. An occasional participant needed assistance into the race's medical tent thanks to unseasonably warm and humid temperatures.

That's where the race's team group of more than 50 medical staffers came into play.

"It's a collaboration between Christie Clinic, Carle, OSF and the local fire departments, ambulance services, hospitals," Carle EMS director Michael Smith said. "Really kind of a full community effort to get out here and support the marathon."

Heat and humidity were the main concern for the medical team as Saturday's action unfolded.

"We appreciate that runners take their training and preparation coming into a race like this," Smith said. "But when we have an unseasonably warm and humid day, a few of the runners do get into trouble, and that's why we have a lot of presence at the race, so we can help those folks out."

While race weekend is the largest local event in terms of the volume of athletes competing, Memorial Stadium also hosts the other events that require a medical approach of similar scale: Illini football games.

"There, the large majority of people are spectators," Smith said. "Where we do see a similar number of medical folks to treat is usually in the first two games of the year where it is very hot and sometimes humid ... we can have some very busy football games medically."

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UI sophomore Emma Bergmann hadn't run a marathon before Saturday.

Not that many observers would know that after looking at her time, a 3:24:33 effort that placed her 10th among all female runners and qualified her for the 2025 Boston Marathon.

Her maiden effort was just a bit off her initial goal of completing the race within 3:20.

"I'm very proud of myself," Bergmann said. "I'm trying not to think about my (first) goal and instead, just be proud of what I did get. Because it's awesome. It was just so hot out there, and there's not much you can do about that. But I'm ready for next time, sub-3:20 for sure."

Bergmann isn't entirely new to running. She began with the sport as a middle-schooler in Cincinnati, her hometown. But her first marathon came together after just shy of five months of training.

"I was on a 20-week plan," Bergmann said. "So there are some plantar fasciitis along the way, some knee problems, of course, but 20 weeks of me knowing that I wanted to do the" race.

Following their own races, her teammates from the UI's club cross-country team were on hand to support her as she crossed the finish line.

"It's so motivating to have people every single day," teammate Suhani Peramanu said. "It's a great way to meet new people, too."

Peramanu turned in the fastest half-marathon time among females aged 15-19 at 1:35:38, also good for 15th among all female participants.

Her sentiment was echoed by her teammates.

"It motivates me to run faster because all of these guys are faster than me," Reiss Christensen said. "So when it comes to practice, I have to run a little faster to keep up with everybody."

The group had additional motivation to get across the finish line with courses winding in part through campus.

"It's really fun to finish on the field," Christensen said.

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Jason Romps was feeling under the weather ahead of the half-marathon.

With a little help from his friends — Justin Wang, Graham Turk and Navin Rantanathan — the UI senior was able to gut out a 2:33:57 effort with what little energy he had.

"It's been a brutal day, but I had to keep going," Romps said. "I'm on too many painkillers right now, so I'm going right to bed after this."

Humid conditions didn't help his cause.

"It was a hard day, but I'm glad I'm done now," he said.

It helped that his pals were stationed at the finish line to energize his final 50 yards inside Memorial Stadium.

Their enthusiastic calls even earned a shoutout from the stadium's public-address announcer.

Jason "texted us at like 2 a.m., he was like, 'I don't know if I can do it,'" Rantanathan said. "But he did it and he finished."

Romps' friends also raced Saturday. Ranganathan ran the 10K in 1:09:42, while Turk and Wang ran the half-marathon in 1:27:01 and 1:43:16, respectively.

"Everyone was just cheering everybody on, just trying to get everybody to run faster," Turk said. "It was a great environment."

Like the club cross-country team, they found inspiration in racing through campus.

"It was cool to run through the actual neighborhoods of Champaign and see people on their porches cheering, the cowbells," Ranganathan said. "It was really fun."