The 2012 Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon kicks off tonight with thousands of people running the 5K. Last year at this time, I was jumping out of my skin waiting for 6:45 p.m. to roll aorund so I could actually put my feet to pavement and put to test the training I'd undergone. The moment lived up to what I'd expected and here I am waiting for it to happen again.
Running is a relatively new venture for me after years and years of avoiding it due to my back-pocket excuse of "bad knees." But last year, my competitive nature overtook me. Most everyone I knew was signed up to run in one of the many races that happens over the course of the Illinois Marathon and suddenly I thought, if everyone else can do it, so can I. The constant goading of my brother-in-law is what finally did me in.
So I quietly started training for a 5K, running for the first time since high school. The first time I made it to 2 miles, I wanted to cry from excitement and collapse from exhaustion. It was an accomplishment I never expected to reach.
Several weeks later it was race day and I was 90 miles away in Peoria, giddy to come back home and line up for the race. On my drive to town, my close friend who preceded me on exploring running gave me all sorts of tips for my first race. But I wasn't nearly prepared for what I was about to experience.
Turns out that Champaign is the ideal place to run. That night, as I took my first steps down First St., I was greeted by hundreds of spectators lining the street who were avidly encouraging all the runners and walkers. I was overwhelmed with gratitude. One woman and her sign continue to stick in my brain. She stood silentlly on the corner, holding her posterboard above her head that read, "I don't know you, but I am proud of you. You can do it." Reading that as I was pushing myself to new limits brought tears to my eyes. And that's when I knew I was going to keep running.
After I finished my first race, I began seeking out others. I never intended to make this a hobby, but it just happened. I don't run for speed, I'm actually a pretty slow runner, but I always finish.
This year, I decided to push myself yet again and I'm graduating to the 10K. With the encouragement and help from a very close friend, I've been able to work harder than I ever thought possible. I can't think of a better event to work this hard for than the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon.
The organizers of the marathon have done a tremendous job in getting the community to support the event. All over town, you see people gearing up to greet the expected 20,000 participants with open arms. Every day, I see men, women and kids jogging down the sidewalks as they prepare to push themselves and it makes me proud of this community. This event has pushed us all to work harder for ourselves and its made me realize my potential.
If you're not already running in one of the many races, come down and support the runners and walkers at this tremendous event. Your presence can make the difference to a runner who may want to give up. It made a difference to me and it makes a difference to this community.
Congratulations to all participants of the race and to the organizers! You're making Champaign County an even better place to be!