SOUTHERN ILLINOIS— Today, Governor Rod Blagojevich became the first governor to ever run in the River to River Relay, a one of a kind, 80-mile relay race that stretches across Southern Illinois, from the Mississippi to the Ohio River. Governor Blagojevich ran the anchor leg for his team—“The Blue Suede Running Shoes,” which finished in Golconda near the Pope County courthouse.
“I would like to congratulate all the teams that ran today, this is an incredible race, and Illinois is proud to be its home,” said Governor Blagojevich. “A special thanks goes to all the volunteers who did a great job of putting this race together, in what has become a fantastic showcase of Southern Illinois’ beauty and hospitality.”
Teams of eight runners competed on an 80-mile course. Each runner completed three sections that range in length from 2.5 to 4 miles. Gov. Blagojevich took the eighth position for his team, running the longest total distance (10.95 miles), and covering the 8th, 16th and anchor leg of the relay. The race starts at Pine Hills, on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River Valley. The course follows country roads through the Shawnee National Forest to its finish at the Ohio River in Golconda.
Governor Blagojevich’s team,” The Blue Suede Running Shoes,” consisted of the Governor; Lon Monk, the Governor’s Chief of Staff; Mike Matulis of the Springfield Journal Register, his brother Mark Matulis; Meta Minton of the Southern Illinoisan; Kimberly Drake of Carbondale; Bruce Liimatainen and Joe Curci, CEO and CFO of A. Finkl & Sons, a steel manufacturing company in Chicago. Governor Blagojevich’s father worked for A. Finkl & Sons for many years.
This is the 18th annual running of the River to River Relay. This year, 240 teams of runners from across the country will participate. Other teams include the Dixie Flyers from St. Petersburg, Florida; the Reno Failures from Indianapolis; and the Packerland Express from Green Bay, Wisconsin. Last year the “Men in Front” team finished the relay first in 7:35:59.
The River to River Relay serves as a major source of tourism and economic support for one of the most scenic regions of Illinois. Race participants rely heavily on local vendors for services, goods and lodging. Direct local revenue from last year’s race was estimated to be nearly $500,000.
Governor Blagojevich has been an avid runner for over 25 years. The Governor has run three marathons, the 1984 Chicago Marathon, the 1989 Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C. and the 1997 Chicago Marathon.