Justin Gillette wins Fox Valley Marathon
By Mike Knapp For Sun-Times Media September 16, 2012 5:02PM
Justin Gillette crosses the finish line with a time of 2:31.34 Sunday to win the Fox Valley Marathon. Mary Beth Nolan~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 14, 2012 10:09PM
When Justin Gillette toed the starting line at the Advocate Dreyer Fox Valley Marathon Sunday in St. Charles, he was taking on the 26.2-mile distance for the 106th time.
Running marathons never gets old, and neither, it seems, does winning. When the 29-year-old resident of Goshen, Ind., crossed the finish line in a course-record two hours, 31 minutes, 34 seconds later, it was his 52nd marathon win overall and 14th victory in 2012.
Gillette, who won a marathon in Sioux Falls, S.D., last weekend and will be running another in Rochester, N.Y., on Sunday, took the lead from the start and cruised to an easy win over runner-up Gregory Maves (2:41:51) of Indianapolis and Geneva resident Steve Nusser (2:49.36).
“I wanted to establish a pretty good pace and see how my body would adjust,” Gillette said. “When I started I got into a rhythm pretty well and I never felt fatigued at all. If I had needed to go faster I could have.”
He was a little surprised by his time as running had taken a back seat this past week to farming, as he spent four days helping his father-in-law harvest corn. He took two full days off from running and estimated he ran about 20 miles all week, compared to the 90-120 miles he usually puts down in training.
“I altered my training a little bit,” he said. “I didn’t envision running 2:31, I was shooting more for 2:33 or 2:34 but I felt better than I thought. I was on a tractor for 12 hours a day and that wears you out, it’s not what fast runners are supposed to do.”
Gillette grew up in Missouri and attended Goshen College, where he was a four-time NAIA All-American. Running is a big part of his family as his wife, Melissa, has 14 marathon wins to her credit, while his brother Jake, who ran a marathon in Erie, Penn. Sunday, has won seven.
Gillette ran his first marathon at age 16 and has been racking up wins since 2001. He loves running and racing, and when he does have days where the motivation wanes a bit, he looks at the trophies and news clippings that adorn the walls of his home and heads back out on the road.
“Every race is different, so you go into every one with a different set of goals,” he said. “My goal (Sunday) was the course record and to try to win, and another weekend I might have a different set of goals. If you don’t have something you are aspiring to or trying to achieve, you are just messing around.”
Vanessa Meneses, 27, who recently moved from Peoria to Champaign to begin medical school at the University of Illinois, was the women’s winner in 3:03:46. Hailey Krzyston of Burr Ridge was second in 3:15:11, while Samantha Vander Heyd of Glendale Heights placed third in 3:15:44.
In the half-marathon, 39-year-old Michael Bahr of Chicago overcame a brief trip off course in the final mile to win in 1:17:22, besting Mark Keckler (1:21:17) of Rockford and Brian Ahern (1:23:17) of Geneva.
Shannon Bixler, daughter of Craig Bixler, one of the race’s co-directors, followed up her marathon win of a year ago with by winning the women’s half in 1:25:06. Megan Baganz (1:28:20) from Naperville and Marisa Tompkins (1:30:17) of Downers Grove were second and third, respectively.
Overall nearly 2,900 runners participated in the marathon, half-marathon and Final Fall 20 run, a supported 20-mile run aimed at runners who will be running in another fall marathon, including the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 7.