The Akron Marathon was my very first marathon. I barely trained for it as I signed up just four weeks out. I’d been a runner since grade school, but I’d never covered anything close to 26.2 miles. In fact, here’s a little confession: prior to the race, my longest training run – heck, my longest run, period! – was only10 miles. And I only did it once, just three weeks before the race. I signed up after I met a marathoner who was nothing short of inspirational. There was something about the way he talked about it – like the experience was magic or something.
A rookie to the core, I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I lined up at the start line. Right before the bell went off, I remember hearing someone say that the total elevation change for the course was something like seven — or maybe it was several — miles. I hadn’t even thought to look at the elevation chart. I was as green as it gets when it came to distance running. But looking back, that probably helped me. I had no clue what I was getting into, so there was no fear of failing or even pressure to finish.
I just went out and ran.
Five hours, 35 minutes and some seconds later, I crossed the finish line.
The marathon was supposed to be a bucket list item. Something I’d do once, check off the list, and move on. Instead, I signed up for another one…two weeks later.
I was completely hooked.
This began my decade-long (and counting!) commitment to the marathon and Akron.
Fast forward 10 years, 13 marathons, two ultras, and countless shorter distance races later, and Akron is still my favorite. And not just for sentimental reasons.
Despite it’s increasing popularity and the addition of a half marathon and relay, it still feels like a small race. It’s still extremely well organized and the vibe is unlike other races I’ve run. The entire community of Akron gets involved in the event – whether they’re running, volunteering, or cheering.
Runners in the Akron Marathon are guided by a blue line that runs the entire 26.2 miles of the course – through the city, the University of Akron, Sand Run Park, and several neighborhoods. The people in these neighborhoods treat the race like a block party – dolling out food (marshmallows, anyone?), drinks (including beer!), and tons of encouragement to any runner in need. These amazingly welcoming people are part of the reason I love this race. While I’m not their neighbor, I usually feel like one as I run by their homes. On more than one occasion, I’ve seen people let runners into their houses to (I assume) use the rest room. What kind of person does that? An Akronite that’s who.
During this year’s race, I actually found myself looking for houses for sale along the blue line. My husband and I are planning to move back to Ohio (my home state), and it would be all too appropriate if we ended up living on the line. I had a rough patch from miles 21 to 24, but the thought of being these people’s neighbor somehow made it more bearable.
Speaking of miles, you probably started reading this because you want to hear about this year’s actual race, right? I know my friend J.J. and Oiselle teammates are nodding their heads right now, so I’ll get to it.
Going into this year’s marathon, I was nervous about how the miles would unfold. Despite being a 10-year veteran, the pre-race nerves and taper – or as I like to call it, hell — still get to me. In the days leading up to the race, I think know I drove my husband crazy with my self-doubting, hypochondria, and short-temper. (Sorry, honey!) All this usually fades away after the start, but not so much this year. Something felt strange, and I just couldn’t shake it. I wanted this year/race to be special, but I wasn’t sure I had that in me…
I ran the first 13.1 in a time that used to be my half PR not too many years ago, but my lack of long runs (being an entrepreneur = less time to run) made me doubt my ability to keep that pace. I kept on going, though, consoling myself with the idea that I’d done this race before on far less training.
At mile 20, I told myself I only had a 10K left. Then the previously mentioned rough patch (or “wall,” if you prefer) hit me…hard. My legs felt like lead and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get them to go. Fortunately, as he so kindly often does, my husband was riding his bike along side of me during this part of the course, so I had some distraction from the self-doubting marathon monsters inside my head. With a few miles left, he pointed out that I had a chance to set my course record if I “go now.” I wasn’t sure I — specifically my legs — was capable of much more, and the “runner’s high” that comes with the realization that I’m going to finish a marathon hadn’t kicked in yet. But I’d have to wait an entire year to have another shot at a CR, so I asked myself, “Do you want this or not?”
I did. So I went for it.
At mile 25 the euphoria (finally!) kicked in.
I’m not sure how I did it, but according to Garmin, I ran the final 1.2 miles at 8:59 pace — smiling all the way. (Note: Ridiculously photogenic runner guy, you’ve got nothing on me!)
I crossed the line in 4:25:17 – three minutes and 54 seconds faster than my previous CR and my second fastest marathon time.
It was a time and effort befitting of my 10th anniversary with Akron and marathoning. And one I hope to beat next year.
A special thanks to the Witten (formerly Payne) pitcrew for all of your love, support, and encouragement (and getting up at the crack of dawn!) over the past 10 years. I wouldn’t have made it one mile without you.