Johnson County will once again be part of the annual River to River Relay racecourse as an estimated 257 teams, consisting of eight runners each, pass through the area Saturday to compete in the 80-mile trek that stretches from the Mississippi River to its finish in Golconda near the Ohio River.
“I think it’s completely appropriate that we recognize our running brothers and sisters,” River to River Relay Race Director Brad Dillard said.
Dillard said he and law enforcement agencies have already spoken about the safety concerns in light of the “tragic events” in Boston and additional precautions will be taken.
“We always have tremendous support from local law enforcements, both the Sheriff’s Department and the Illinois State Police and I have been in touch … and we will take some additional precautions,” Dillard said. “We are looking at some additional measures to make sure we have a safe and successful event on Saturday.”
The popularity of Southern Illinois’ River to River Relay provides for nationwide attraction as its registration quickly fills within days of opening each year.
Runners from nearly every state in the Union are represented and Dillard said he would be surprised if there were no runners hailing from the Boston area this year.
Dillard said the weather outlook for the weekend should provide for “good” running weather that may be “a bit warm.” Thunderstorms are in the forecast for Thursday evening and that may cause some trouble at the starting line.
“We’ll have to keep an eye on that because across 80 miles of terrain, especially in the start and prestart areas in the Pine Hills off of Route 3, those are on forest service roads that are completely surrounded by trees and at any given moment those trees are already leaning and they’ve been broken from previous storms,” Dillard said of keeping the course clear for Saturday.
Johnson County Sheriff Elry Faulkner said his department is prepared to ensure a safe trip across the county. The sheriff has extra help scheduled to assist the runners in crossing safely.
“Our biggest concerns are at the course’s intersections with highways 37, 45 and 147,” Faulkner said.
Runners will enter Johnson County near Goreville Road to Goreville. They will trek across Tunnel Hill Road, cross U.S. Highway 45 at New Simpson Hill School and continue across Gilead Church Road.
At Illinois Rt. 147, they will travel on the highway past Simpson to near the county line before exiting the highway.
The sheriff said his staff will again be patrolling the length of the course in Johnson County, stopping motorist that threaten the safety of the runners.
Illinois State Police will also be actively assisting with traffic control from start to finish.