Radio (and coffee) as an important race tool


I HATE getting up really early. So much so that 30 years ago, when I last took myself seriously as a runner, I often vowed that there would come a day when I would not have to get up at the crack of dawn to train. My favorite races were always those that started at noon.  Give me sleep and give me a good breakfast!  Then I could run all day AND take on the world’s problems.


But in my life now as an afternoon runner, I still have to get up early for race broadcasts and for the occasional participation. It is just as hard as it ever was, but I always try to find the worthiness in these early mornings, even though they never include breakfast.  Last Sunday morning at the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon was a case in point.  I had to get up at 3:30AM to be on the set at 4:30AM for the radio broadcast of the race that began at 5AM.  There is no point in asking who is listening to the radio at 5AM; apparently a lot of people are, including the station general manager, who is probably the most important listener of all!


One of the most enthralling sights in running is watching a major race unfold in the pre-dawn hours, and as I walked from my hotel in utter darkness to the start area, it was inspiring to see race volunteers working in the glare of car headlights and portable lanterns to set up traffic barriers, banners, and timing mats. It is kind of like watching a speed camera of plants growing —from ordinary fields and roadways emerges the structure of a major marathon.  Then slowly cars begin arriving, people emerge and spots of color dot the landscape as the sky lightens to grey, and then lilac.


Before I get too romantic about this vision, I have to confess that I agreed to help with this broadcast only if they had hot coffee on site, and they did, God love ‘em. But what was particularly worthy about this show was that it was an exciting ‘first’- a combined broadcast of six radio stations:  WIXY (who also did a series of Marathon Monday shows leading into the race), Mix 94.5, 92.5 The Chief, 97.9 True Oldies, WIXY Classic 99.1 and eXtra 92.1.  We had an expert on sports, on weather, on traffic, on news and a great MC. The 5AM-8AM broadcast was ostensibly for the general public, taking them live into the starts of all the races.


But once there, and feeling intense humidity in the atmosphere, I saw it as a major service to the 14,300 runners who were waking up, eating, dressing and driving to perhaps the most important race they’d ever run.  If they were tuned in to us, we could give them very helpful information.  With six stations on the job, we had a chance to reach a lot of them, especially those driving in.


The night before, Champaign-Urbana had narrowly avoided a Tornado. Predicted rain and windstorms worried competitors and bedeviled race organizers. In the face of this, the morning air at 5AM seemed excellent for running.  But it was 88% humidity with strong prevailing winds from the southwest.  Standing in it at 62 degrees dawn you felt you needed long sleeves or a light jacket.  Running into it was going to be another matter.


Again and again we gave listeners the weather and told them what that could mean as runners.  Basically I kept saying Wear As Little As Possible and take plenty of electrolyte replacement drinks.  If the sun comes out, be prepared to slow down or walk.


The sun came out and it was beastly sticky.  At the finish line, seeing the number of  half marathoners still in sleeved shirts, capri pants, and even tights (! Can you imagine?)   I surmised not all of them had their radios on that morning, but enough did to take heed and say thank you.  Seven people were taken to the hospital with heat related problems, but all were fine.  Out of a field of 14,300, that is remarkable and I think we made a contribution to that safety. Then the humidity dropped a bit and it got cloudy, and this favored the marathoners, all who seemed to finish in good health and spirits.


Indeed, the spirit of the whole race, and the execution of it was fabulous.  Finishing in the great Memorial Stadium, on the hallowed ground of the legendary Red Grange, was awesome.  Shaking hands with the finishers was a sweaty but heart-warming experience.  And afterward, sitting in the stands and having a free pizza lunch sure beat out the routine of finish line bananas. It was a most satisfactory ‘breakfast.’


Don’t miss this race next year, and be sure to  tune in!



  1. Jane Greenfield on July 23, 2010 at 11:10 am

    Hello Kathrine

    I was thinking about you the other day and decided to look you up on the web. I am really pleased that you have started a blog as I can now keep up to date with all you are doing. Congratulations on your marathon!! I was really impressed. I have not done a marathon since 2007, but am thinking of doing the 2011 London. It will be really hard for me as I have put on a lot of weight since being ill in 2007 and my running distances are a lot shorter, but I am determined to give it a go. I’ll write a longer email to you once my summer break starts. Take care. Love Jane xx

    • kathrineswitzer on July 26, 2010 at 8:21 pm

      Jane, it is so great to hear from you! I was thinking about you today on the run and hoping you were feeling better. Please do write when you have time and I’ll fill you in on a lot in my life too! My best, Kathrine

  2. Jane Greenfield on August 11, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    Hi Kathrine

    Great to hear from you too! I thought I would try to write to you this week, but have mislaid your email address, unfortunately we have changed computers and your email address has not been copied across. If you are happy for me to write via your blog let me know. Alternatively if you could send me an email address I will use that. I really look forward to catching up with you again. Love to Roger. Love Jane

  3. Jane Greenfield on August 30, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    Hello Kathrine
    I hope you are well? Just to let you know Phil and I have booked to go back to Scotland on a Running the Highlands trip. This time we are seeing Charlie Spedding talk. We are also taking two members of our running club. It should be fun. I am also thinking that with September coming that I need to get out my running kit again and start cranking up the miles. I have been a bit lazy over the summer, but go back to work on Wednesday. (I am now a teaching assistant in a local school so get the long holidays to enjoy myself!).I will keep in touch. Love

  4. Carl Cox on December 7, 2010 at 3:04 am

    Greetings Kathrine!

    My name is Carl Cox; we met when I took a photo of you with my wife @ the last Pfalz Point Trail Run.

    She told me all she wanted for Christmas was your book (which I purchased).

    I was hoping I might be able to get it autographed for her. I have a friend who lives in Gardiner NY who would be willing to meet you if you would be so kind as to sign it… I can also FedEx it (prepaid both ways) if you were more comfortable with that option.

    I look forward to your response.

    Thank you!
    Carl Cox