Justin Gillette says his secret to winning marathons is tuning out the pain.
Figuring out just how to do that is something runners have to learn themselves, said the 29-year-old track and field coach at Goshen College in Goshen, Ind., who won Sunday's Fox Valley Marathon in St. Charles.
"It's gonna hurt, but you have to (get to) where your mind can tune out the pain," said the 134-pound runner.
Gillette broke the Fox Valley Marathon record, finishing in 2 hours, 31 minutes and 34 seconds. Not his personal best of 2 hours and 25 minutes, but good enough to qualify for the 2013 Boston Marathon in April.
"I've broken the course record in 12 different races," said Gillette, who has run 17 marathons this year and aims to finish 28 marathons barring any injuries. "I was excited to come here. I broke the race record. That was my goal."
Gillette, who has won 52 marathons and run the Boston Marathon three times, said he likes the Fox Valley Marathon because it is a small event offering spectators ample viewing opportunities along the scenic racecourse.
Nearly 3,000 runners participated in the day's races, which included a full 26.2-mile marathon, a half marathon, a 20-mile run and a kids' race, making it a family-friendly community event. A majority of the racecourse runs on paths along the Fox River and passes through St. Charles, Geneva, Batavia, Aurora and North Aurora.
Forty-year-old stay-at-home mom Karin Sheehy of Elgin, who ran the 20-mile race Sunday, said this was her last long run before heading to the Chicago Marathon in three weeks.
Sheehy said she started running marathons five years ago with friends due to peer pressure. She ran the Boston Marathon the last two years and has run the Fox Valley 20-mile run twice. "I'm hooked on marathons," said Sheehy, whose two children, Audrey, 8, and Troy, 7, joined her as she crossed the finish line Sunday. "It's a beautiful course. It's not too crowded, well organized, beautiful crowd, along the river, and it's close to home."
Jeff Tsai, 31, of Geneva said with his wife, Melissa, 36 weeks pregnant with twins, he wasn't sure whether he would be able to participate in Sunday's half marathon.
"It was a coin toss if we'd even make it to the start," said Tsai, pushing a double stroller with his two children, Chase, 4, and Ami, 2.
Melissa surprised him by showing up at the finish line looking ready to pop any minute, with kids in tow.
"I'm very pleased. I beat my record. Did it in under two hours," said Tsai, adding that he is considering running the full marathon next year.
The event, now in its third year, draws participants from throughout the region, and several states, as well as more than 1,000 spectators, organizers said.
Vanessa Meneses, 27, of Peoria, won the women's marathon in 3 hours, 3 minutes and 46 seconds.
It was only her second marathon after the Illinois Marathon, and her first time running in the Fox Valley races after hearing other runners praise the course for being straight, flat and shady, she said.
"I've only been like seriously training for this one seven weeks," said Meneses, a medical student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Meneses said her 52-year-old mother, Mariela, decided to follow her lead and participate in the 20-mile race Sunday. Meneses said she will be running in the Boston Marathon next year and would like to do it in under three hours.