Illinois Half Marathon: Why it has a special place in my heart {plus the Cleveland Marathon weekend giveaway winner}

Today is going to be half marathon day on Eri-thon. Why? Because first I’m going to tell you about the Illinois Half Marathon and then I’m going to tell you who won the giveaway to the Cleveland Marathon/Half Marathon/10K weekend event! So, if you’re only here to see if you won then you can skip to the bottom. But if you want to read about one of my favorite half marathons and how I did on Saturday then you can just keep reading from here.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The Illinois Marathon and its associated events have a very special place in my heart. The race is in my hometown. It goes past my parents’ home and past the first place I ever worked after I graduated college. I know alillinois_half_marathon_2014_1l the landmarks and every turn of the course. And the race director was one of the women who led my beginning women’s running group back when I trained for and ran my very first 5K in 2007.  So, yeah, a special place in my heart. It’s why I’ve done at least SOMETHING all but one year since the race started. I ran my first half marathon at the inaugural event in 2009. In 2010 I ran the Wisconsin Half Marathon instead which didn’t capture my heart like Illinois. So in 2011 I was back for the half in Champaign-Urbana. For 2012 I worked as a volunteer, in 2013 I ran the full marathon, and then this year it was a return to the half distance.

I’ve also done what they call the I-Challenge the past three times I’ve run as well. What’s that? That’s when you do the 5K race on Friday night and the one of the races (marathon, half marathon or full marathon) on Saturday morning. It’s a fun little twist on the weekend and every year they make it better and better. illinois_5K

I love that the towns come out for the race. I love that the businesses put up signs. I love that the race director is a runner who proactively seeks feedback to make adjustments every year. I love the course (even though I swear they found every “hill” in town).  I just love everything about it.

And this year I love it even more because I ran my fastest half marathon time ever on Saturday. My goal was to run around an 8:45 minute per mile pace and finish in 1:55 or just under. I started with the 8:47 pacer (who, admittedly, went out a bit too fast) and stuck with him until about mile 8. It was warmer than I think people expected earlier than thillinois_half_marathon_2014_3ey expected but I have a feeling my half marathon in Puerto Rico a month ago helped me acclimate. Although the sun and the heat were getting to me by mile 11 or so, because I know the course so well I knew exactly what I had to do. Other than a slightly unexpected out-and-back with a hairpin turn at mile 12.5 everything went just as I planned. I crossed the finish line in 1:55:17, right on pace.

I was also lucky enough to be there with friends. The post-race atmosphere is already a giant party so having company with which to celebrate made it even better.

Which means that this year’s race gets a little extra star next to its place in my heart.


Now, for those of you who want the same experience in Cleveland, let’s see who wins!




Congratulations, Jennifer!! Please send me an email to so I can get you hooked up with your race entry.

Filed under: Running

Tags: half marathon, races, running, travel

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