The annual Steamboat Classic has been the premier running event in central Illinois for 36 years, an excellent opportunity to get outside, get some exercise and make new friends in the process. It is the cornerstone event of the Illinois Valley Striders, whose mission is to promote running and fitness walking as a life sport.
Every June, Olympians and world record holders flock to Peoria to compete alongside running enthusiasts of all skills and abilities. A nine-time Steamboat participant, Constantina Dita of Romania won the Women’s Marathon at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and returns again this year for her 10th Steamboat Classic.
Steamboat’s four-mile race is known as the “world’s fastest four miles” because all of the recognized four-mile world records have been set at this event, as well as more than 50 different countries’ national records. Run simultaneously with the four-mile race, the Steamboat Classic 15K is known as “Illinois’ toughest 15K.”
The Steamboat Classic is run entirely by a volunteer committee of the Illinois Valley Striders. This year, the committee is working to turn Steamboat into “Peoria’s family wellness event,” with the goal of promoting fitness for all people in the central Illinois area, particularly casual runners or walkers, student athletes and uninformed athletes.
“The Steamboat Classic is more than just a race,” explained SuZan Severson, an avid runner and participant. “I enjoy running it every year, not only to improve my time from the previous year, but because the community spirit that Peoria has to offer comes alive. Everyone—runners and spectators—cheer on as participants cross the finish line. Plus, how often can you say that you ran alongside a gold medalist from the Beijing Olympics?”
Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis has run the last three or four Classics. “Steamboat is another outstanding community event in Peoria,” he added. “You see everything from very young kids to senior citizens. And both sets pass me! Steve Shostrom, Phil Lockwood, Glen Latimer and all the others who work so hard on this all year long really deserve a lot of credit for building this event to the high-caliber race that it is.”
Building Steam, Getting Fit
The Illinois Valley Striders conduct three training programs focused on the Steamboat Classic. Building Steam introduces running fitness to adult novice runners or walkers with a goal of completing the four-mile race. Over 400 participants and 100 volunteers will enjoy this program each year.
Scouting Steam is a complimentary program that brings Scouts and their parents or guardians together while working toward personal fitness merit badges. Last year, over 200 Scouts and their parents participated.
Team Steam is geared toward experienced runners. The program helps them improve through various kinds of workouts and attracts 200 runners each year.
The Striders also launched Scholastic Steam—focused on building participation from area schools, particularly cross-country and track teams, and other scholastic athletes—and Uniform Steam, which recognizes members of the military and community services.
Steam in the Workplace
Corporate Steam, a new program co-sponsored by Employers’ Association, promotes health and fitness to employees of local businesses. Working toward the goal of completing the four-mile race in one hour, corporate teams will be boosting morale and participating in friendly office competition.
“Corporate Steam was the brainchild of the Steamboat team,” noted Mary Pille, president and CEO of Employers’ Association. “Caring about employee health and wellness is a big deal for employers these days. There is a direct correlation between leading a healthy lifestyle and improved productivity, decreased absenteeism and reduced healthcare costs. That is why Corporate Steam makes sense—as an avenue for employers to get involved. We were approached about the Corporate Steam initiative since we already provide outreach to the employer community surrounding health management initiatives. We are very pleased to be a part of the inaugural Corporate Steam program and look forward to the growth of this program in the years to come.”
The Steamboat Classic takes place on Saturday, June 20th. For registration information, visit SteamboatClassic.org. iBi