Awesome. Amazing. Fabulous. Those are some of the words to describe my Akron Marathon Relay experience. I was fortunate enough to run the relay with a few of my Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon ambassador friends (Andrew, Melissa, and Jill) and Dan, who has kinda become an unofficial ambassador for CLE due to the fact I drag him around to lots of events. I’ve never run a relay before, like most of my team, so I was a little nervous about signing up and, frankly, worried about whether or not it would be fun. The race exceeded my expectations and then some.
Dan and I worked Friday but were thankful that they race expo was open late. Not being an Akron regular, I was impressed by how clean the city was when walking around and the organization of the expo. We got our bibs, made the rounds through the booths, and picked up our shirts. I was happy when I saw Joan and Ralph from the CLE marathon and made sure I stopped to chat and snap a pic. Seriously, they are both great people, and it’s always a pleasure running into them at races. And a special thank you to Joan and Mary for coordinating CLE marathon shirts for our relay team!
Dan and I planned to meet up with Andrew for dinner, but the recent rounds of sickness at our house coupled with Andrew’s desire not to share our germs (can’t blame the guy) kept us in. After a not-so-quick dinner at Bob Evans, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for race day.
We woke up bright and early Saturday morning, and I was relieved that Dan wasn’t feeling as crappy as he was the night before. I did my usual pre-race ritual, which included perfectly securing my side braid and Sparkly Soul headband and applying makeup. Yes, I always wear makeup for races, so laugh at me or call me a prissy runner or whatever. At least my race pics usually look decent :-) When we left the hotel, I was so happy that the weather was cooperating. No rain and mild temps. It was going to be a good race.
The ride to downtown was a quick one, and even though we didn’t make it early enough to miss all of the road closures, we had no trouble getting into downtown and finding a parking spot. Free parking?! Yep, free parking in one of the surface lots. That was greatly appreciated. Thanks, Akron!
We walked the start as I texted our relay team and some of the other fabulous CLE ambassadors to try and meet up. We haven’t seen each other in a while, so the Akron Marathon was a little mini-reunion. Slowly, our group assembled. Unfortunately, not all of us were able to meet up, but seeing Melissa and Jill (two of my relay partners), Melissa B. (who ran the half), Stephani (who ran the half), and Jamie (who completely CRUSHED the full) made me a happy girl and lifted my spirits and excitement levels. I was a little worried about not seeing Andrew, as he was the first leg of the relay, but he seemed to have it under control, even though he had a bit of a bathroom snafu and was worried he was going to miss the start.
It’s rare that I get to see the start of a race, as I am usually standing in the corrals hoping was a great race and praying I don’t need to make one last bathroom trip. It’s was a great experience and exceptionally motivating! After the start line hoopla died down, Dan, Jill, and I talked for a bit and walked to my start for leg 3, which was right down the road. Bonus for me because I am directionally challenged! At my start, we saw Randy from Active Runner and chatted a bit. He mentioned that leg 3 was the hilliest one of the course and asked who was running that one. “That’s me!” I knew Akron was a hilly course but didn’t know that my leg was considered the hilliest by a super awesome and speedy runner. This was going to be fun. Jill and Dan left to take their respective places at their starts, and I settled in. After a few bathroom stops, I knew it was going to be about time for me to run. I was worried I wouldn’t hear my relay bib number called, and I was right. I didn’t hear it, but I saw Melissa speed in from leg 2 and look around for me. I shouted out to her, ran into the street, grabbed the slap bracelet, and bolted. I was so happy to see Andrew on the side yelling for me, and he gave me a little pep I needed after feeling like a failure for not being completely ready to take the bracelet from Melissa.
The first mile came and went, and my watch beeped at 7:44. Crap, that’s a little too fast, but I was feeling great. Then came the climb on Market Street (I think that was the name; I told you, I’m directionally challenged). The hill, though not steep, seemed to go on forever, and I was tired by the time I got to flat ground. Once my watch beeped, I was pleased to see that it was right around 8:20s so not too shabby. Miles 3 and 4 weren’t bad at all with a great pace, and I enjoyed the crowd support and high-fiving the little kids on the course. It’s amazing how a high-five from a kid can pump you up! Around mile 4 was a little less awesome. There was a steep hill that led up to Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens, and by the time I made it up to the top and turned into the drive, my legs were depleted. That shit was hard! I tried to gain my strength back and push on, as I knew there wasn’t much distance left in my leg of the relay. Although I was feeling tired, I made sure I smiled for the camera!
I gained back my leg strength fairly quickly and felt great for the remainder of my leg. Coming into the home stretch, I saw Jill waiting for me, ready to take off, and I smiled! I passed the bracelet, patted her on the back, and stepped off the road. My leg of the relay was done, and I was happy to know that I ran it as best as I possibly could. It was, by far, the most challenging course I’ve run (obviously, I’m a flat race kinda girl). I know it wasn’t the official time, but my watch said 5.6 miles at an 8:00 pace. I’ll take it!
I hopped on the shuttle to go meet up with my team at the finish but decided at the last minute to get off at the leg 5 start to see Dan. He told me not to stop, but I don’t always follow directions. It was nice to see him, tell him about my leg, and wish him good luck. Then I grabbed the shuttle and finally made it back to the stadium for the finish.
When I was arrived, I was happy to see Andrew and Melissa (who dominated legs 1 and 2 of the relay), Stephani, and Melissa B. Then we were joined by Jill and Mary, who works for the CLE marathon and helped get us looking fab in our CLE gear after the race. We had a prime spot near the entrance to the stadium because we wanted to cheer on Jamie as she finished her full and Dan as he brought home our relay. Let me give a little plug for how inspiring Jamie is. Over the past few years, she made a decision to get healthy and lost more than half her weight the old-fashioned way with diet and exercise. She started running, and now, no one can stop her. Girl’s fast, and her determination and work ethic are impeccable. I dare you to find someone who works harder because you would be hard-pressed. We saw her come into the stadium, and our group erupted in cheers. Jamie – we are all so proud of you, and congrats on your awesome PR.
The goal for our relay team was to run a sub-4 hour marathon, and as the clock got closer to 4:00:00, we saw Dan enter the stadium. He looked like he was on a mission and sprinted to the finish as we cheered him on. We did it! Our relay team hit our goal! Official time was 3:57:59.
After the race, Dan grabbed our medals, and we celebrated! I’m never one to turn down free pizza, chocolate milk, and beer after a race, and it was nice to visit with friends and bask in the awesomeness of the race.
All in all, Akron Marathon was a great experience, and I was so thankful to be part of the amazing #shareCLE team. The race was beautifully run, and I can’t even fathom the coordination that goes into a marathon and half marathon let alone a marathon relay! Akron, you were a well-oiled machine, and I look forward to more races. Team #shareCLE – you rock at life!!!!! Thank you, Andrew, for being our leader and putting together the team. This wouldn’t have happened without you. Thank you, Melissa, for being so positive and upbeat and for not freaking out on me when I wasn’t in the road ready to grab the bracelet. Your positivity makes me smile. Thank you, Jill, for kicking butt on your leg of the race and being our self-proclaimed “slow runner.” You are as much a runner as any of us and have even more heart. Thank you, Dan, for anchoring our team and bringing home a sub-4. With being the last leg, it all fell on you, and as always, you didn’t disappoint (P.S. I love you). Lastly, thank you, Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, for supporting us and letting us represent your organization. I hope we made you proud.