Saturday, September 29, 2007

Akron Marathon

There I am. Downtown Akron. 6am. Hard to believe that all the training at HPL, VR track workouts, long runs, all in the heat came down to one fall day. While I made my way from my usual parking spot for races in downtown Akron I began to see more and more runners.

One guy stopped me and asked me which was the start line was. “Follow me!” I said. “So, where you from?” I asked the man. “Pittsburgh.” He replied. “Sorry to hear that.” I responded. He laughed. “Just giving you a hard time!” I then said. “Not everyone from Pittsburgh is bad,” I concluded, “some of them move to Ohio.” He liked that one, too. I was full of them today. He walked to the start area together. I gave him some advice on the course since this was my third time doing it. Third time. Wow. What the hell was I thinking! I knew how bad this race is. Still, there I was heading back again. We went our separate ways and I started looking for some folks and to give my drop bad to the FedEx people.

I got in line for the restrooms. A guy behind me told me one was open. I turned to tell him it was a female port-o-john (or jane??) and it was Bill Rodgers. Ok, so for you non-runner types reading this, although if you are reading this you are probably a runner, Bill Rodgers has won the two biggest marathons around, Boston and New York, a lot. Four times each. Including setting the course record on both. My only response was, “Your Bill Rodgers!” I am pretty sure he knew that though.

So, just after that I found Nick who was with a guy named Brett I sat next to at a pasta dinner earlier in the week. While we stretched and chat Al from the track workouts stopped by and we talked a bit more. Then Nick and I dropped off our bags and began to make our way to our starting area. We though at one point they started, but it was just start line getting set for the elites. We ran down to where we saw the pacers for 3:30 and 3:40 and jumped the corral and we were set. Whew! It wasn’t long before we heard the GONG GONG GONG of the start and we were off. I tried looking for my parents, but didn’t see them this time. I knew I would see them soon, though.

We shot out of downtown and across the bridges. It was about then that we met up with Mel, Susan, and Jamie. We all ran together and talked for a bit. Jamie and Susan ducked out at different points and we lost them. So it was Nick, Mel, and me running through the first leg. Mel took off to hand off, and Nick and I pushed on. We hit this part averaging about a 7:50 pace. We cruised on and were still feeling really good.

As we ran through Akron’s campus, we came across Kim who I recognized from the summer Buckeye Trail 50k. So the three of us pushed on and headed onto the Towpath section. So this is a nice part of the course. Only bad part, while you run it, you know what is just around the corner. We hit the halfway mark at 1:44. Still on for under a 3:30 and feeling still great.

We came to the end of the Towpath and my parents were there waiving. This was the third time I had passed them today! Too funny. But it was great to see them. Then it was time for the real race to start. For those who have not ran the course, it is pretty much all up hill for the next 3 miles. Kim took off for a bit. She ended up running with her twin sister Kellie while Nick and I headed up the hill. It wasn’t long that Kim found us. Then we met up with Aaron from the track workout and he ran with us for a bit, too, knowing this part is really tough. Next thing we know…there’s Susan and Jamie! They had played it smart and paced a bit better than Nick and I. And just like the Buckeye half, up the hill she went and GONE! Damn I hate that! She was on fire.

We made it to the top, but I was starting to feel my legs a bit. We were also just behind the 3:30 pace group, but our time had slipped a bit. We were now pushing a 3:30 pace. We went on through into the West Akron part of the race. The best part of this race is all the people partying in their front lawns cheering everyone on. I passed my parents again at about the 20 mile mark and was shocked. Usually they don’t make it this far, but this time they did. They also know this part would be a lot less smiles. I made my way down the road looking for my friends Holly and Chris’s house. There they were all out cheering for me. I was actually dead on my estimated time. They hooked me up with a big bottle of Gatorade which by now I REALLY needed because I had made the same mistake as the Buckeye half, and they had dissolved on me. Great. But the electrolytes in the Gatorade hit the spot and helped me ward off the cramps I was starting to feel.

The rest of the race went by pretty quick. By now I was alone but cruising and fighting to keep an 8 minute pace. I had faded to a 3:32 pace now, but was still pushing. I headed down the hill towards the finish. As I crested the last hill on the course I finally saw it. Downtown. The finish was just around the corner. It was such a great feeling knowing I was going to hit my goal and run a good marathon. I was a bit behind, but feeling great. Thinking back to last time I was here was two years ago. A lot had changed in my life and many things had been upside down. But I finally felt back. I did it. It was time to finish this race and get some beer!

I took it in fast and felt great. Crossed the line at 3:34:48. Good for a PR by 12 minutes and a course record for me of 23 minutes. Almost a mile/minute faster. Overall placement was 239 of 1165 finishers, 203 of 815 males, 31 of 105 in my age group.

Next up, Towpath half marathon!