Only half crazy is a common tag line for apparel promoting the 13.1 mile road race. On Saturday February 9, 2019 there were 284 runners who pushed the needle of the crazy meter a bit past half. The air temperature was 19 with a 12 mile per hour wind from the northeast at the start of the Fly with the Eagles Half Marathon. The River to River Runners hosted the 13th running of the race which served as the 2019 RRCA Illinois Half Marathon Championship.
Weather is normally the main wild card for this annual run in the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge located between Carbondale and Marion, IL. This year, however, the government shut down could have altered the event significantly. Fortunately, the fed’s open window provided enough time to secure permits and run the race. Registration went smoothly in a building close by and there was plenty of parking near the start/finish chute.
The location provides for a great course of mostly paved, virtually closed road racing with a couple miles of running on gravel through the woods. Flat surfaces at the beginning of the course give way to rolling hills throughout the middle portion of the race before flattening out for the last three miles. The course was very easy to follow with appropriate markings and ample stations for water and Gatorade.
Overall winner Adam Unverfehrt from Centralia, IL covered the course in 1:19:34, a 6:04 pace. Sabrina Hall was the first female finisher at 1:30:22. In the Masters division, Doug Ambler from Cape Girardeau, MO finished at 1:30:21 and Carol Winter from Uniontown, MO crossed the line at 1:36:51.
Grand Masters winners were Tony Stoner of West Frankfort, IL finishing at 1:35:48 and Laura Eriks from Carterville, IL at 1:47:44. Senior Grand Masters finishers Randy Johnston from Paducah, KY (1:37:48) and Pamela Campbell from Hoffman, IL (1:52:08) turned in the fastest times for runners over 60 years of age.
Post-race food included soup and hot drinks to help runners combat the frigid outdoor temperatures. Fruit, sweets and salty snacks provided a variety of nourishment to replenish depleted bodies. The hooded sweatshirt given to all runners came in handy for those needing a dry layer for warmth after the run. River to River Runners do an excellent job of organizing, administering and directing the winter run. The race was professionally timed by Southern Illinois Racing with results available immediately.
Runners looking for a half-marathon distance race in February should put the Fly with the Eagles race on their calendar. It is a well-organized race over a safe, but challenging course through a federal wildlife refuge. There is strong competition and good support but no guarantee of pleasant weather.