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Athletes achieve physical and emotional feats at Christie Clinic Race Weekend

University of Illinois wheelchair athlete Susannah Scaroni wins the 2023 half-marathon at the Christie Clinic Race Weekend on April 29, 2023.
Runners lineup for the start of the Men’s Half Marathon at the 2023 Christie Clinic Race Weekend on April 29, 2023. (Mae Antar/IPM News)

CHAMPAIGN – Nearly 9,000 athletes participated in events during the 2023 Christie Clinic Race Weekend.

Johnny Crain placed first in the Men’s Half Marathon with a time of 1:05:05. Phil Parrot-Migas placed first in the Men’s 10k with a time of 31:24. Crain now lives in Lansing, Michigan. But he grew up in Dunlap Village, near Peoria. He’s participated in races from far and wide but said this one feels like coming home.

“It’s a really cool way to connect,” said Crain. “I just think the access to the community at a race like this, it’s like a perfect middle ground.”

The Christie Clinic Race Weekend is still in the top 100 largest races in the United States, said Meg Treat, public relations director of Race Weekend.

Jane Bareikis placed first in the Women’s Half Marathon with a time of 1:16:13.  Kate Bushue placed first in the Women’s 10k with a time of 36:48.  Bariekis used to think runners were crazy but started because of her husband. Now she loves it and loves winning. 

“[It’s an] amazing feeling you know. In between the races you’re feeling great. At some point you want to quit,” said Bariekis. “So, when you come into the corner, you’re like: I did it.”

Kate Bushue won the Women’s 10K with a time of 36:48 during the 2023 Christie Clinic Race Weekend. (Mae Antar/IPM News)

Susannah Scaroni placed first in the Women’s Half Marathon wheelchair race with a time of 50:22. The University of Illinois athlete’s victory came days after winning her first Boston Marathon wheelchair race, crossing the line in 1:41.45. In the Men’s Half Marathon wheelchair race, Brian Siemann won with a time of 51:57.

Ashley Eisenmenger  placed first among the blind racers with her guide Rex Gradeless in the 10K race. For Eisenmenger this race was about more than winning.

“I just want folks to know that running is for everyone,” said Eisenmenger. “They can come out and run, walk, jog, sprint, whatever they want to do.”

She said this race specifically is very accommodating to people with all conditions. 

Ashley Eisenmenger ran the 10K at the 2023 Christie Clinic Race Weekend. Eisenmenger is blind. Her guide on the right is Rex Gradeless. (Mae Antar/IPM News)

Karle Flanagan is a local teacher at the University of Illinois. She came to the races with her husband, Steve, dressed in a sloth costume. This race was a refuge for her. Karle suffered from a miscarriage earlier this year and Steve was diagnosed with cancer shortly after. 

“It was so nice. It was because I was completely distracted. It was completely out of my mind,” said Karle Flanagan. “So, it was the best distraction.”

Steve is still undergoing treatment for cancer and walked the race course. The couple plans to sign up for next year’s races.

Karle Flanagan ran the 10K dressed in a sloth costume. She said the event is a nice distraction since suffering a miscarriage and her husband’s cancer diagnosis earlier this year. (Mae Antar/IPM News)

Jan Seeley, director of The Christie Clinic Race Weekend, said plans for the 2024 races are already underway.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, there hasn’t been a full marathon at the Race Weekend. According to Seeley, the 2024 race will have a marathon, and thus, more challenges.

“It’s going to be super, super big and hard and everything that we’re doing this year will be twice as much,” said Seeley. “So, it’ll be a challenge.”

Left: Johnny Crain of Lansing, MI finished the 2023 Men’s Half Marathon with a time of 1:05:05. Right: Jaime Marcos of Charleston, finished second with a time of 1:05:15. They were among the more than 9,000 athletes who participated in the Christie Clinic Race Weekend April 27-29, 2023. (Mae Antar, 2023)
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Severe storms possible Thursday evening and overnight

From the National Weather Service in Central Illinois: A line of t’storms will affect the area late Thursday afternoon into the overnight hours. Some severe storms are in the forecast, with damaging wind gusts and large hail. Stay weather aware and be ready to take shelter when storms approach.