Clinic business

Christie Clinic Illinois Race Weekend Is More Than Just Running: Opinion: Smile Politely

After more than 1,090 days since the last race weekend at Christie Clinic Illinois, the return of race weekend was cause for celebration for many. Race weekend is more than street closures and runners breaking personal bests, it’s also the crowds of volunteers and cheering supporters who line the streets to direct routes, hand out water and electrolytes, clap loudly to provide a critical morale boost and create a festive atmosphere. Race weekend is also about local businesses supporting the event by attending the Expo, offering discounts to race participants or offering a refreshing beer at the Mile 14th Mile Celebrate Victory Bash.

As incredible as the 2022 race weekend was, something critical was missing from the triumphant return – the showpiece event, marathon. It was not an easy decision for race director Jan Seely, who attributed the cancellation mainly to a shortage of available public safety officers and the continued impacts of the pandemic. It was also not a popular decision with many of the 1,430 people who had signed up to run the marathon.

In response to the announcement of the cancellation of the marathon On the Christie Clinic Illinois Race Weekend Facebook page, many commenters expressed frustration and confusion as to why the marathon could not take place by simply asking competitors to run the course twice. of the half marathon. Despite offering refunds or the option to convert to the half marathon, the disappointment was understandable, as the flatness of this course makes it a popular choice for those trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

As a result of the cancellation, fewer people from out of town chose to make the trip to Champaign-Urbana, which means decreased profits for area hotels and restaurants. The magnitude of the economic impact of breed reduction is not reported. However, according to a recent News-Gazette article, the estimated annual economic impact of the race weekend is $7 million.

For those hoping that the cancellation of this marathon is just a dot on the radar, it seems likely there won’t be a marathon next year either. In the 2022 Official Race Guide, there is an announcement for the 2023 marathon weekend: the races listed are the half marathon, marathon relay, 10k, 5k, youth race, mile and six options I -Challenge. Registration will open in June.

A graphic map of the course of the Christie Clinic Illinois Race Weekend Half Marathon.  Photo from Christie Clinic Illinois Race Weekend website. Photo from Christie Clinic Illinois Race Weekend website.

Obviously, this is a major disappointment and will likely continue to limit attendance at the event. This year, some marathon runners may have chosen to keep their registration and only run the half marathon. Serious runners are less likely to plan to travel far for a half marathon in the future. This will have a significant economic impact on our community.

We understand that the Ongoing personnel shortages in the Champaign and Urbana Police Departments make it impossible to obtain the public safety personnel needed to stage such a large event. We reached out to Jan Seely, Race Weekend Director for Christie Clinic Illinois, for feedback on the plan for next year’s event. She says:

We’ll start meeting with city officials around 2023 as soon as we complete the gargantuan post-race tasks we have ahead of us. We would love to return to our original half marathon route for 2023, with a view to also discussing the possibility of doing a double loop of this route so that we can also offer the full marathon in 2023, with very strict cut-off times. , so we don’t close Urbana for hours and hours. We have shown this year that a smaller racing footprint is secure and that we can overcome shortages of available local law enforcement personnel by sourcing from other agencies.

We also asked her what it would take to bring back the distance marathon and she said:

Our community should continue its recovery from the pandemic and the impact it has had on law enforcement and first responder staffing. For us to have an event longer than just the half marathon, we would need the support and blessing of the city leaders. They would need to be confident that we could run the event and not put cities at risk for the time the event takes due to the resources needed to secure the event.

In the face of the epidemic of gun violence and the housing crisis, we realize that running a marathon seems like a small feat, but this event is a cultural and economic highlight in our community. For many local runners, it kicks off the spring and summer racing season, and for casual runners and volunteers, it brings a festive atmosphere to our town. We hope that one day we will restore it to its former glory.

The editorial board is made up of Jessica Hammie, Julie McClure, Patrick Singer and Mara Thacker.

Image from the top of the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon Facebook page.