With one of us being a die-hard Lincoln fan, and both of us being die-hard running fans, it only made sense that this race get added to our bucket list the moment we heard about it. Luck was with us this year and spring break coincided with the weekend of this race, making it possible for us to run. Having completed the race hours ago, we can say with certainty that you should add it to your bucket list, too. This is an event all runners should be part of once, but will likely have you wanting to return year after year.
The race expo was held in one of the ballrooms at the Hilton Springfield from 4 pm to 8 pm on the Friday night before the race. Runners first lined up at tables by last name where each of us picked up an envelope containing our race bib and safety pins, and a bag filled with coupons and advertisements for other races. Of greatest value were the free passes to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, which cost us $22 in entry fees the day before the race! From there we were directed to the t-shirt table where runners could pick up their men's or women's size short-sleeve technical shirts. The white shirts featured an old-timey looking map of the race course printed on the front. They fit well enough that they can and will be worn regularly.
We spent the most time at the Springfield Road Runners Club table where shirts from previous year's races were on sale for $2. We were psyched to obtain one from the previous year's 50th anniversary race, whose design was featured in a Runner's World slideshow about awesome race shirts. New shirts were also available for $15.
After looping around the perimeter of the ballroom where booths mostly representing other local races had set up shop, we stopped at the one other vendor to make our best purchase of the week: two Bondi Bands. These keep the ears warm on race day without being so constricting as to leave lines in the forehead.
Any runner that couldn't make it to Friday's packet pickup had the option of visiting the Hilton from 6:30 am to 7:15 am on race morning to do so.
The race's host hotel was the Hilton Springfield, which was convenient for a number of reasons. First, it was the site of packet pickup, so anyone staying at the hotel needn't set foot outside to get from sleeping quarters to their race swag. Second, the hotel was less than two blocks from the race start, so it is possible to roll out of bed moments before the race and still arrive on time. Finally, anyone hanging out in Springfield to do some sight-seeing will find the Hilton is located within walking distance of just about everything there is to see and do: the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, the Old State Capitol, and the Lincoln Home National Historic Site.
The weekend of the Lincoln Presidential Half Marathon also coincided with a major Illinois youth group convention. The Hilton was also host to these individuals, and there were tons of them. If future races coincide with this event, ask for a room closer to the ground floor. At times it was difficult to get onto an elevator, and we were too high up to be able to take the stairs.
Just across the street was a Doubletree Hotel, which would be almost equally as convenient as the Hilton.
Everyone we talked to in Springfield suggested Saputo's, a local Italian restaurant. We chose it for carb-loading the night before the race. Prices were more reasonable than fine-dining, but more expensive than dinner at the Subway down the street or some of the local pubs. If you are going to eat at Saputo's call ahead for reservations.
We also enjoyed eating at Obed & Isaacs, known for the historic site it occupies and the delicious beers it brews. If you are up for a challenge, try the locally known "horseshoe", an open-faced sandwich topped with choice of meat, cheese sauce, and French fries. (This meal may be best post-race!)
For foodie lovers, consider a stop at Driftwood Cocktail & Eatery where we got a Charleston quality farm-to-table meal. The restaurant serves small plates of super delicious food in a creative way.
We ran this race for the Lincoln penny finisher medal, so were pleasantly surprised to find the course was more scenic than Springfield first led us to believe.
After a moving speech by Abe Lincoln where he quoted Steve Prefontaine (we never in a million years thought we'd hear Abe quote Steve), the race began to musket fire by Civil War reenactors. The first half of the race ran immediately past the only home Abe Lincoln ever owned. From there we spent some time in the Washington Park area which showcased some majestic homes and tree-lined streets. The second half of the race was slightly more challenging, though not unreasonable. We kept hearing about some "monster hills" that had us quivering in our running shoes, however this was just the talk of Midwesterners who may, like us, be unused to hills. Anyone who has properly trained for the race will conquer the hills with a little extra effort, and be rewarded at one of them with a view of Lincoln's final resting place at Oak Ridge Cemetery. We loved that one of the hills was littered with signs encouraging runners to keep going, recognizing the challenge that those of us who live in The Land of No Hills may face.
Also rewarding were the number of fans out to support runners on a chilly April morning. It had been a while since we'd seen so many spectators at a race, especially ones holding signs like "Go random stranger!" and "Touch here for power." Intersections were well manned with volunteers. Aid stations, also manned with many generous volunteers were located approximately every two miles. Each aid station was stocked with water and Gatorade, with the one at mile 7 also providing energy gels to fuel runners through the last half of the race. Police officers were directing traffic throughout the course, ensuring all runners had a clear path to their destination, the finish line.
The course finished a block away from the race start just in front of the Old State Capitol where runners were draped with the greatest finisher medal of all time, a giant Lincoln wheat penny.
The post-race party was held on the lawn of the Old State Capitol where a lively bluegrass band entertained runners who were eating bagels, drinking chocolate milk, and even enjoying free beer from Rolling Meadows Brewery (who were most appropriately serving Abe's Ale and Lincoln's Lager). An awards ceremony was held at 10:30 where top finishers were awarded with framed posters of the same design on our shirts. We immediately regretted not buying one of the posters at the previous day's expo, because matted and framed they'd be a tasteful addition to any home and a brilliant reminder of a great race experience.
This race is a must-do for every half marathoner, especially those that are Lincoln fans. Abe and Mary Todd impersonators were on hand at both the start and finish of the race and gladly posed for photos with runners (we took advantage of this both pre and post race). In addition to showcasing the most historic parts of Springfield, the course had just enough hills to keep it interesting, without being overly taxing. With about 2,000 runners, the race was neither too crowded nor too lonely. Finally, this race rewards you with a finisher medal that you'll want to prominently display somewhere where you can gaze upon it daily (or hourly if you are a huge Lincoln fan).
- Do some hill or speed training to challenge yourself. This will ensure that the hills of Springfield feel manageable rather than impossible.
- Take some time to visit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, especially since your race registration entitles you to a free ticket. The museum contains some interesting Lincoln artifacts and different perspectives on his life and presidency.
- If you are a Lincoln fan, visit Abe's Old Hat, a store that has unconventional antiques, many Lincoln related. It's like a museum, except you can buy most of the items in the store.