Outrunning Chief Illiniwek

Photo courtesy of Action Sports International

I’ve been meaning to write a brief post about a 5K event that my wife, Kylene, and I ran in April. The race was part of the 2011 Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon held in Champaign/Urbana. The course started on the southwest side of the University of Illinois and proceeded north to “campus town” on Green Street. It eventually made its way back south to the school’s Memorial Stadium.  The race ended inside the stadium.  The picture on the left is of me sprinting the last 100 yards to the finish. My time was 28:27, and Kylene completed the course in 27:46. We both did better than we expected. Some of my students came out to cheer me on. One student even made a sign that read “Go Professor Gilbert!” He received extra credit. You can read about his observations of the race on his blog.  He writes about seeing a runner dressed up as the former University of Illinois mascot Chief Illiniwek. I also saw this individual before the beginning of the race. A lot of people wanted to take their photograph with him. He was decked out in feathers and a war bonnet.  He liked the attention, but he wasn’t much of a runner. I never saw him again after the first 30 yards.

CU on the Trails 5K Fun Run/Walk

CU on the Trails 2011 (I highlighted the wrong path I took in blue)

This morning my wife and I ran a 5K as part of the annual Champaign Park District’s CU on the Trails event. The idea behind the race is for people in the community to become familiar with the parks in Champaign and the running/walking trails that are associated with each one.

This was our third year participating in the race. The running conditions were not ideal, but they weren’t terrible either (40 degrees with rain).

Two years ago I ran in this event while pushing a double running stroller. I don’t recall my exact time, but I remember that it took me a while to run 3.1 miles. Today, only 15 or so runners showed up for the 5K. Everyone blamed the rain and wind for the low turnout.

Before the race, I thought I would do something different and try to  keep up with the lead runners.  For nearly two miles I was in third place, right behind the first and second runner. But then I ran out of steam and quickly realized that I needed to slow down.

At about this time, I approached a race volunteer and asked “how much longer?” He replied, “About two more miles, you’re almost halfway.” I had a hard time believing that I was “almost halfway,” but I kept going at my new (slower) pace.

When I crossed the finish line (a tree branch), nobody was there taking people’s times, and so I called out to the race organizers “Time?!” and one lady said, “9:37.” I smiled, but was too tired to laugh.

As I drank water and munched on a granola bar, my wife told me that some of us (she and I included) took the wrong “trail,” which put an additional 3/4 mile on the run. I think that information made us feel somewhat better about our times.

Our next 5K will be for the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon in two weeks. However, I guarantee I won’t be able to keep up with the lead group in that event!

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert