Last May, the Starved Rock Country Marathon and Half-Marathon returned in all its glory for the first time in three years, with 410 finishers crossing the finish line in downtown Ottawa and celebrating the resumption of the event beloved to runners near and far.
This year’s eighth running of the complete event will take place this weekend on Saturday, May 13, with finishers of all three races — the 26.2-mile full marathon, the 13.1-mile half-marathon and the Run Starved Rock Country 5K presented by Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating — again completing their journey just west of Veterans Memorial Bridge on the northern bank of the Illinois River.
Matt Skelly, who helped form the marathon in coordination with The Times newspaper in 2014, is serving again as race director.
The 2022 Starved Rock Country Marathon and Half-Marathon was the first time the full slate of races were held since 2019. The 2020 event was canceled entirely by efforts to control the novel coronavirus pandemic, and the 2021 running was moved back to late summer and featured only the 5K and half-marathon, not the headlining, 26.2-mile main event.
Last year, Iowa resident Ben Kipp ran from downtown Ottawa through Starved Rock State Park and back in 2 hours, 59 minutes, 41.5 seconds to claim the overall full-marathon championship. Michigander Angie Lampi finished fifth overall and first among women in 3:33:01.2. Both were first-time entrants in the Starved Rock Country Marathon and traveled to Illinois specifically for the event, which serves as a qualifier for the Boston Marathon.
By day’s end, 74 full marathon, 235 half-marathon and 101 5K runners were officially counted as crossing the finish line.
This year’s Starved Rock Country Marathon and Half-Marathon will begin at 7 a.m., with the full-marathon runners and 5K entrants starting in Ottawa’s historic downtown near The Lone Buffalo (located on Route 23 at 812 La Salle St., Ottawa). Participants in the half-marathon will begin near the overflow parking lots at Starved Rock State Park at 7:30 a.m.
All three races will share a finish line – the same one as in recent years – on the north bank of the Illinois River just west of Route 23. The first full marathon finishers are expected to come in sometime in the neighborhood of 9:30 a.m.
Arguably the main draw to the Starved Rock Country Marathon and Half Marathon is their courses’ beautiful terrain and scenery. Not far behind, however, are the people of the Illinois Valley and the atmosphere of the event, which annually has caused organizers and runners to ask locals to get in on the fun.
“We encourage people from all over to come out, come to the finish line, or if you live along the race route [come out and cheer],” Skelly said before the 2021 edition of the Starved Rock Country Marathon and Half-Marathon. “We have a lot of people who live along the race route go out in their driveway, and they cheer on the runners. Our runners truly appreciate that. We hear it time and time again.
“They like coming here, and the support the community gives us is great.”
Course maps are viewable at the Run Starved Rock Country website.