Illini Family Pitches In for Illinois Marathon
April 26, 2012
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - For the fourth-straight year, thousands of runners and walkers will get together to participate in either the 5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon relay and marathon at the 2012 Illinois Marathon. Like many others in Champaign-Urbana and the surrounding communities, a number of Division of Intercollegiate Athletics staff members will join the throngs of runners, walkers and volunteers on race day.
The DIA staff will show their athleticism this weekend by participating in various races. The participants vary from student assistants to the director of athletics, Mike Thomas. Thomas will be participating in the marathon relay with his daughter, Meredith, DIA student assistant Maggie Fitzgerald, and her father, Pat.
"I have run everything from 5Ks to marathons," Thomas said. "I run almost every day as part of my regular exercise regimen and running with several thousand people in race of this magnitude is a lot of fun. It's also important to be part of and support community events, especially one as prominent and important to the community as the Illinois Marathon. I've really been looking forward to the experience."
Not only is Thomas participating in the event, he also will serve as the official starter for the wheelchair half marathon, the half marathon and marathon. He will have to display some quick moves and wade through the sea of people as he heads to his starting corral after giving the official "Ready, set, go" starting command because Thomas is running the leadoff leg of the marathon relay.
Getting involved in a community event like the marathon is a great way of bringing people together. Julie Pioletti, the office manager for the Illini men's basketball team, is walking the 5K in memory of a family friend.
"Someone came up with the idea of getting a group of people together to walk in the 5K in the friend's memory," Pioletti said. "His family, including his wife and two young children, several friends and co-workers all participated last year and we will be doing the same thing again this year."
Pioletti and her husband will also be volunteering for the marathon the following day.
"My husband and I like to help out with community events when we can, so volunteering for the marathon was a simple decision," she said. "We know several people involved in organizing the event, several people participating and this year, we will volunteer with a group of cancer survivors at a water station. It's a good way to help others, spend time with new people and it's fun to watch."
Sue Novitsky, head coach of the Illini swimming and diving team, is one of a handful of DIA staffers who are running two races this weekend. She will participate in the 5K on Friday and the 10K on Saturday, which is being called the Mini i-Challenge this year.
"Running in two races this weekend provides me with that extra motivation to stay active and work toward some personal goals," Novitsky said. "I hope to provide an example for my team that it's important to be healthy and active even when they are finished swimming. Plus, I think they like to see me suffer some too.
"The DIA staff and coaches continuously encourage our athletes to be actively involved in volunteering and to give back to the community, so it is an awesome opportunity for us to step up and show our support as well. The excitement and cheering that crowds provide all along the route and the chance to finish on the field at Memorial Stadium makes it a great experience no matter which race you are running."
Sara Rhodes, who graduated from the University of Illinois in 2003 and has worked in DIA for eight years, also is running the 5k/10k Mini i-Challenge this year and has participated in the event from the start. Rhodes first volunteered on race day and it inspired her to start running again. Rhodes has since become very involved in community running and even joined a running team called Team AllEars, which raises money for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.
"Because of my involvement in the Illinois Marathon, I have become active in the running community as a whole," Rhodes said. "It is amazing to see the crowds come out to support the runners; it means so much to us, especially at the end of a long race. The running community is strong here in Champaign-Urbana and I love bragging about the well-run weekend. It couldn't happen without the community involvement!"
Last year, head women's soccer coach Janet Rayfield ran the half marathon after participating in the marathon and half marathon the previous two years. Assistant coach Leisha Alcia also has run the half marathon, as have a number of team members. This year, assistant coach Jeff Freeman will run the full marathon.
"It makes our community healthier," Freeman said. "This community rallies around Illinois athletics all the time, but it also really rallies around the Illinois Marathon. The number of people you see out running in the weeks prior to the Illinois Marathon is great to see. I believe our community is a much healthier and friendlier place to be because of the race and its benefits.
Freddie Walker, who recently joined the DIA as an assistant strength and conditioning coach for football, will run the half marathon on April 28.
"It's awesome the amount of DIA staff members who are involved in the run," Walker said. "When you have people working in the same department who have that personal drive to challenge themselves with something like this, it usually means they aren't afraid of a challenge. And more times than not, you will accomplish great things as a department with people like that on board."
Many others are getting involved such as Tim Salem, the special teams coordinator and running backs coach for the Illini football team. If his recruiting schedule allows, he is hoping to run the half marathon because he "wants to run with the Illini Nation."
But they aren't the only DIA staff members running, walking or volunteering on race day. David Iffland from IT services, Motoko Ugajin from sports medicine, C.J. Jordan from Assembly Hall and Katie McKinney from the Varsity Room are running, and sports nutritionist Susan Kundrat will run the 5K and also participate as a guest speaker at Friday's expo. Carrie Snyder, Shanna Diller and Erin Knudsen from marketing and promotions are running, while Bobbi Busboom, Maria Kenner and Chris Peacock from I Fund are running with I Fund colleague Carrie Ummel volunteering. Women's basketball associate head coach Mike Divilbiss also will be handing out medals at the finish line. Jeff Guin and Jan Glosser from academic services and Kolby Jackson from football also are running, among others.
This year, the the 5K will start at 6:45 p.m. on Friday, April 27. The full marathon, half marathon, and marathon relay will start at 7 a.m. on Saturday, April 28, with the 10K going off at 7:35 a.m.