“Disclaimer: I received entry into the I-Full Challenge at the Illinois Marathon to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!”
When this race opportunity became available, I was hesitant – and not for the reasons you might think. I didn’t have any marathon reservations rather I wasn’t too excited about wearing orange in Champaign, IL. However, with this recap about my time at the other “U of I” you’ll find out why this Hawkeye would return to do it again.
Now, what is the I-Full Challenge? Wait you didn’t read this post? Well in a nut shell, run the 5k the night before the marathon, then run the marathon and get an additional third medal when you complete all races. Of course, since I was in town, I had to do both.
I left on Friday afternoon for the 3:45 hour drive from Iowa City. It’s been a while since I had been on a road trip, wahoo! It really was uneventful, well until the first rest stop was closed…UGH! Traveling before a marathon is tough, all the hydrating, which leads to all the bathroom stops.
I arrived around 4:30, thanks to all the online information, including the race guide, I easily found a free parking spot. There was just a lot of traffic and people moving about.
I walked over to the rec center (ARC) for the expo. I grabbed my packet & a friends packet through a simple QR code procedure. I then moved into the traditional expo space and met up with my friend Heather (and Marge.) She was running the I-Full Challenge too, but for fun she was going to run a half marathon on Sunday – you know after the marathon.
We made a loop through the expo, and went to claim our pasta tickets. The pasta dinner was held in the same building, from 4-7pm. It was hard to schedule this dinner, and get ready for a 5k at 7:30. There was penne pasta with sauce, lasagna, tossed salad, bread, bread pudding, and chocolate chip banana bread. There was no sauceless pasta… I tried to eat some penne noodles, but instead just doubled up on the bread and took one of each of the desserts.
During dinner, we met up with another Bibrave Pro, Andrey. He too was running the I-Full challenge. Both he and Heather were going back to the hotel before the 5k, so they departed. I stayed around, and checked the expo out more, and then listened to Dick Beardsley speak. He was talking about his record setting Grandma’s Marathon. It was a quick and fun talk. – Then just like that it was time to get read for the 5k.
I quickly changed in my car, and walked over to the start. I found all the pros, Heather, Andrey and Mel. We were all cold, but ready to run!
There were a lot of people running the 5k. I was in a jam packed corral B, people had to wait outside the corral. There was a live rendition of the National Anthem, and then about every few minutes each corral crossed the starting line.
The coolest part of the 5k, was a fire engine set up with a flag within the first half mile, then there was all the college kids out enjoying a Friday night. The course was super flat. There were also no concerns being too dark.
Then came the finish on the 50 yard line of Memorial Stadium. It wasn’t my first time finishing on a football field, but the experience is always fun! There was a medal too! Spectators were allowed to watch in the stands.
I met up with the pros afterwards and we chit chatted over a post race banana. We moved out to the street where the 150th University birthday celebration was taking place. There was cake and beer, along with live music. After some celebration, it was time to focus on the marathon in the morning.
The Illinois Marathon was going to be my 22nd marathon. As Heather pointed out it was also on the 22nd of the month. Not sure it was a sign, or just another race. Either way, I continued to prepare… had my gear all ready, ate one of Heather’s super hero muffins, caught up with social media and called it a night.
4:56 am…tooooo early, but I was awake and checking the weather. I was also on the hunt for coffee. The weather said there was going to be no rain, something I had been tracking all week, however it wasn’t going to be too warm, and super windy.
I found some coffee in the lobby, and the hotel breakfast was open early for the runners, so I made some toast with jam. The idea was coffee, bathroom, run.
I went back to the room and got all my things ready, I also had to be packed up and out of the hotel as late check out was 1pm, no way I would make that.
Race day parking was super easy, we rolled into a parking spot with an hour before the 7:03 start. So, we just sat in our cars to stay warm. I also made arrangements to meet Michael, I grabbed his packet the night before. He actually won a last minute entry into the half.
As the race start neared, it was odd, I didn’t have to use the bathroom… so this was weighing on me a little. Would this affect my run? Oh well, I knew there were port-o-potties on the course, so I would use one if I needed to.
Heather and I were seeded into the same starting corral, so we walked over. On the way we saw Mel. There was a singing of the National Anthem, and then the race was on. It took a while for our corral to get through.
Ohhhhh….. well I didn’t have any huge goal for this race, I was 2 weeks out from a 50k. Training went ok, so I knew I could finish. I stopped at an open port-o-pottie around mile 8, just to pee (TMI, I don’t care.) I was still feeling good, enjoying the bands on course, the other runners, the volunteers. Then around mile 12.5 the half marathon split and it was like I was running alone. I met a person who recognized my Bibrave shirt – Hey Aunt Melinda, thanks for the cheer! Then around mile 15, it was struggle bus city.
I had fruit snacks and a Nugo bar with me for food. I was counting on the oranges and Lemon Lime Gatorade to get me through. Looking back, I think I really overlooked this. I don’t train eating gels, I like food – pb&j, nutter butters, candy. I am not sure I had enough or the right things with me.
There were some jelly beans around that mile 15 part, and then it was walking .25 mile and running .75 from there to the finish. I just kept moving, but I couldn’t pin point what my problem was. The wind was driving me nuts too. There were so many twists and turns through residential neighborhoods that I never knew if I would be running with the wind of against it. I was just in my head I guess.
I was physically fine, and the volunteers that stuck out on the course were amazing. Especially since there weren’t too many spectators. Every intersection had an energetic volunteer that didn’t ignore you because they were on their phone. There were also cyclists monitoring the course that would ride along and chat too. So, I never really felt alone out there.
The course was also super flat! I mean there were some inclines, but no climbs. I should have been having one of my best races. I just couldn’t get in the grove…. and I like Gatorade and all, but there has to be a better flavor than lemon-lime… so it was just one more thing driving me nuts.
On another note, I never had to USE the bathroom, and that never bothered me on the run.
It was finally time for me to run into the stadium once again. It was strange, there were not many people there, so the finish line was all mine. It was fun to run across the 50 yard line to have one of the photographers say “Go Hawks!” I was wearing my Hawkeye hat of course.
I received my marathon medal, got my challenge medal and challenge finishers received a fleece blanket. Then took a few photos before grabbing a bottle of water, and my Nature’s Fury drink. I found Marge in the stands and she was tracking Heather on the phone app, she was going to finish soon. We sat and talked, and before we knew it Heather was crushing her marathon PR!
Wahoo!!!! However, we were all cold, so we went into the concourse to see what the concession stands had for post race food. There were bananas, cookies, pretzels, Nature Valley Granola bars, pizza and pasta. (I never cared for heavy or greasy food immediately after running, but it was quite the spread.)
We stood around and talked for quite a while, even got to say hi to Jan, the race director. By the time we left the stadium, all the post race cake and beer were packed up. I could have used a small piece of cake… oh well.
It was time to drive back home…. I did a quick change in the parking lot and said goodbye to Heather and Marge… we will meet again at the B1G 10k in July.
The drive home was just as boring as the drive there. I did stop for some super salty McDonald’s french fries…cuz they always taste good after a long race. It was nice to be home after the race… I had the whole day Sunday to take it easy. (Or to hunt down the mythical Starbucks Unicorn drink)
Overall: As a Hawkeye running at a rival…ok hmmm, Illini football hasn’t been a threat lately, so a rival might be a stretch…. anyway, I had a great time at the other “U of I.” From the free parking and volunteers to the finish on the football field, this race does a great job. I mean there were a few questions as to why I was wearing my tigerhawk hat, but overall this race is top notch.