The Runner's Reward

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Akron Marathon Race Recap

A friend of mine is a running coach and has done a lot of biking and weight lifting in the past. She now mostly runs. We were talking about how good running is for us mentally and psychologically when I asked her this question:

What do you think it is about running that makes it different than biking or lifting as far as therapeutic value?

Her answer is perfect.

"I think it's the beating your body takes, It strips you bare and makes you look deep within to push beyond everything you thought you were incapable of bearing or accomplishing. It's just you and your weights, no bike...just you and your legs. I've been told that I run with my heart and I believe that to be true..." - Coach Suzanne Natter

Saturday I ran with my body and heart at Akron and was stripped bare.

I was fortunate enough to leave work early Friday. It was just a short 1 1/2 hour drive to Akron. Once at the expo I got in touch with Ryan to see where he was and he came up to meet me.  The expo was easily navigable. It was a bit smaller than Pittsburgh's which worked to my advantage as I was not looking to spend much money.

We spent a few minutes in the expo, in which I mostly bought beer glasses, and then headed out to look for some food.  We ended up getting about a 2 mile walk in up to Angel Falls Coffee and back for sandwiches and kombucha. By the time we made it back downtown Don, Paul, and Lori were checking in to the hotel. Ryan and I went back to the expo and met up with them. My corral assignment was wrong. For some reason I was put in C instead of A so I had that sorted out at the pacer booth. 

Looking for some good food in downtown Akron? Urban Eats inside Musica on Market Street has great coffee and food.  We ate dinner here. I had a pear and brie wrap that was just plain amazing.  Then it was off to then hotel to prepare and try and get some sleep.

Race Day

We dragged our backsides out of bed at 3:40 AM and got some breakfast. The Hilton Garden Inn was very accommodating. They had set a breakfast out at 4 AM for race day and allowed checkout at 2PM giving runners time to come back and shower.  I had half a bagel, coffee, and OJ.

After driving the 5 minutes to the race area we parked and headed up to gear check, which was at a parkade right by the corrals. We met Brianne and her husband Marc and shortly after all headed to our corrals.

The temperature was in the low 60's with a nice breeze on some sections of the course.  Most of the course was shaded, which made for thoroughly enjoyable running weather.

The gun went off promptly at 7:00 AM and with it the Elites and seeded runners.  Ryan and I were at the back of Corral A. We crossed the starting line about 2 minutes after our speedy predecessors, albeit at a much slower pace.  Around mile 3 a small group of people were setting up a makeshift aid station stocked with cups of beer and nothing else.  We laughed. Mile 3 was a bit too early for either of us to start the victory celebration.

The first 13 miles of the course stayed close to downtown. Miles 6-8 took us through the University of Akron campus area and 8-11 south and west of downtown with mile 12 at the race starting line. Here the half marathoners split off to head to Canal Park and their reward for a race well run.  Our route would take us northwest along West Market Street and it's surrounding streets and neighborhoods.   Mile 13-14.5 was a long , gradual hill climb. I found it to be fairly easy.

I had a plan to execute.  Knowing the course would be a number of rolling hills the goal was to keep below the 9:00 average pace that would secure a sub-4 hour finish. I would slow down for hill climbs and make up time on the flats and downhills thereby keeping my heart rate from spiking over and over which would bring fatigue quicker. That fatigue would surely come in later miles and I wanted to have some time banked against that probable situation.

Ryan was on board with the plan.  I could see many times he was itching to put the speed on.  A few times early in the race I broke into strides in the 7:00 range to hopefully satiate some of his speed hunger.  I don't know that it helped, but it didn't hurt my race effort. I joked with Ryan that it was like giving a treat to a dog. "Who's a good pacer? You are! Have some speed!"

At mile 16 the course left the roads for roughly 1/4 mile and winded through the Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens property, the grounds for a historic Carriage House.  It was a welcome change of scenery albeit too short. I was feeling great. We were averaging 8:45 per mile  and another 10 miles looked like a piece of cake.  At 18.5 the course began it's return path towards the city. I saw a marathon foto photographer and threw up the "hang ten." By mile 20-21 I could feel a little fatigue creeping in, but nothing too serious.  Miles 22-24 were mostly hill climbs.  Yes..that was it. The point where the battle began.

Ryan turned to me and said only 5k left.  That was meant to sound like a good thing, but at that moment he could have said 20 more miles and it sounded about the same.   I found myself walking bits of the hill climbs here and there and by the time I hit the mile 24 1/4 and flat ground I could hardly hold pace. I was slowing us down to around a 10 pace. With each mile I recalculated our projected finish time and bolstered myself with the thought that we banked enough time for this exact situation. Ryan just kept the positivity flowing and I kept crunching numbers distracting myself from the task still ahead.  Mile 25 was all downhill! We ran a 9:00 during that mile. I didn't push, opting to let gravity pull me down at whatever pace was comfortable. I felt like I might puke. That was a new feeling on a run for me.  Ryan said if you have to it's cool, let it out.  I wasn't quite there, but damn was I close.  The last 1.2 were hairy.  There was one very slight climb and a ever so slight rise coming up South Main Street.  I stopped frequently to walk. I was getting tunnel vision and feeling disassociated. Run, walk, run, walk.  Finally the course turned off of the road onto a sidewalk. 0.1 miles to go! I saw the Canal Park stadium out of the corner of my eye and felt the surge of excitement.  Rounding the corner into the stadium I could see the race clock was still under 4 hours. Ryan and I surged forward together crossing the line at a chip time of 3:57:43.

As I walked from the finish I could see one of the medical staff watching me intently.  I felt it was time to lay down. Right that second. So I did.  The grasstroturf felt lovely.  It was then the medicine man yelled at me that I had to keep moving. I staggered to my feet and went to claim the bling.  A nice medal and finisher's swiftwick compression socks! Bada bing bada bling! After entering the Finisher's Festival we met Paul and Lori and after mutual congratulations I propped my butt down on the ground. All I wanted to do was sleep.  I took a salt cap and we made our way to the beer and food tents. At that moment I swore off distance running. Twenty minutes later I was thinking about , and looking forward to, the next big race; The Marshall Mangler in November.

The Post Race Crew


  1. Congratulations! You had a great plan and did a great job implementing it. I love the strides to keep your friend happy! Two miles of hill climbs sp late in the race would be really tough. Fantastic job pushing through when it got so tough!

  2. Thanks Jennifer! Hey, can I crash on your couch if you move to SLC? :-D