Thursday, October 14, 2010

Akron Marathon

The Mario Recap, Marathon #22:
Totally awesome race. Highly, highly recommend.

The Full Recap, Marathon #22:

For perhaps the first time out of 22 marathons I was lucky enough to have a bed that was a close walking distance to the start line. So I planned to leave the hotel 30 minutes before the start and head straight to the starting line. When I got to the hotel elevator another runner joined me. "This is awesome!" he exclaimed, "I'm never so close to the start line!" Preaching to the choir, buddy.

When I arrived in Akron the day before, it had been muggy and hot. By some miracle the high temperature dropped 30 degrees overnight. I was super happy about this. It was still pretty warm for this San Franciscan, but workable weather for a for-fun marathon.

My body had been in a definite running funk the whole week leading up to Akron. Three milers had been grueling and an attempted 3 mile tempo pick-up turned into a one mile pick-up. To top it off, in the 4 weeks prior to the race my longest run had been 13.1 miles. I was really worried about how I would do in Akron. The good news is, I didn't truly care about how I did. Relentless forward motion.

Akron has concurrent half marathon and relay events. I've aired my opinions before about this type of thing before. So I was really looking forward to dropping at least the halvers at mile 11. There was a funny guy cheering at mile 10 who was yelling, "Half marathoners, you're almost there! Full marathoners, not so much!" That made me smile. At least some people get it. (That same guy was out cheering at mile 24 yelling, "You're almost there! You're almost there!" That was funny, too)

I had heard that the race had rolling hills but the course profile didn't look too intimidating after something like Big Sur. I knew there was a nasty uphill trend during the latter miles of the race, though.

Akron has a blue line painted on the roads which mark the course (I was seriously disappointed that a rather large section of the course did not have the painted lines). So I snapped this photo of these runners:

The blue line was neat because after the race I'd be walking around the city and see the line and realize I was on the course.

The blue line

One thing that pleasantly surprised me about Akron was the diversity of the course. It starts off in downtown Akron, runs through some suburbs, returns to the city and through the university. Then it spits you out onto the Towpath trail. I hadn't realized that part of the course was unpaved until a day or two before the race. I had flashbacks to the loose gravel trails of Santa Rosa and was really dreading this section of the race. However, the surface of the trail was very smooth. It was almost like a compacted powder. And the scenery was so nice! Tree-lined on both sides, birds chirping, insects buzzing, and you could even hear water from a river/creek thing. It was beautiful and my favorite part of the course.

I only got this one sad, blurry, photo of the trail area. But it went on for 4 wonderful miles. There was even a raised boardwalk section that overlooked a golf course.

After the trail we were treated to another beautiful change of scenery. This part reminded me a little of the early miles of Big Sur. Sadly, part of the reason it reminded me of Big Sur were the hills which started. Nothing too terrible, but they kept coming. The sun, as you can see, had been out for quite some while at this point. But luckily all the tree coverage on the trail and in this area kept things relatively pleasant.

So pretty

There was a cyclist who was out cheering for runners who kept yelling, "Sand Run in the middle of a marathon?! That's crazy!" which made me seriously suspicious about whether we were out running the hilliest stretch of road in the area.

Why yes, I walked this hill at mile 22. Sue me.

I then got sort of lazy with the picture taking. We ran through a portion of the Stan Hywet Gardens. There were apple trees lining the driveway up to the house and I thought about how Mario would have loved to munch on the fallen apples.

There were tons of these fun and motivational signs along the course. This was one of my favorites. I also liked, "Doncha wish your girlfriend could run like me."

So how was I feeling? I felt pretty good until about the halfway point. Then my pace slowly started slowing up. The first 16 miles I mainly only took walking breaks while eating gels, but after that I let myself walk up more of the inclines. The hills weren't terrible individually, but they definitely wore me out.

The top of my right foot started hurting at some point which worried me. I promised myself I'd ice it after the race.

A quick note about relays -- While I love how relay exchange points are basically cheer stations (and nothing makes you feel like more of a bad ass in the middle of a marathon than running through a relay exchange station as a solo runner) I just can't get on board with running with people who are doing any distance shorter than what I am running. At one point I was running by two relay people who were talking about how they had one more mile to go and they didn't know if they were going to make it. Seriously? Could you please keep comments like that to yourself when others around have 10+ more miles to go? Also, I have realized that races put a bib on the back of relay runners that says, "Relay" to help assuage your ego as you get run over by these fresh legged runners at various points in the race.

There were more suburbs then we reentered the outskirts of the city. There was a really nice downhill stretch for a bit before a few short hills towards the finish.

I crossed the line in 4:45 which I know is a pretty slow time for me nowadays. But given how I felt coming into the race it could have been much worse. Happy finish? I'll take it.

The finish was in Canal Park which was really cool. I didn't realize until after, but they had the runners up on the jumbotron. You could also hang out in the stands and enjoy watching other people finish afterward. The race director was out shaking every finisher's hand after they came across the finish.

The finish area

I have to say that hands down the Akron Marathon was the best organized marathon I have ever run. The signage on the course, the way they set up the aid stations, and the frequency of portapotties was exceptional. And the swag. Dear lord the swag! I loved the variety of the scenery on the course and I actually prefer rolling hills to something totally flat. I am hoping to go back and run this again in 2012.

Post-race foot dunk. I think the pain was from the pressure from my shoe on the top of my foot. My foot was fine walking around after the race, but once I put my shoes back on, they would hurt again.

On to the awesome swag. First, race entry came with a year's subscription to "Running Times" which is not nearly as how-do-I-lose-five-pounds-and-get-great-abs-running-two-times-a-week as "Runner's World." Highly recommend.

The medal was of very good quality. Second only to my Austin medal. Dense, heavy, high quality medal. Me likey

And the thing that really got me excited about signing up for this race, was that everyone got a running jacket. And not just some thin, lame windbreaker. A real Brooks running jacket.

Me double likey.

Roadrunner detail from shoulder

At the finish we were also given fleecy ear-warmer headbands which I guess if you live in Ohio is quite useful in the winter. If I remember correctly, race entry was only $85. In a day when many races with sub par swag (and sub par races) cost $125 I think this is totally amazing.

Garmin's trace of our day.


audgepodge said...

Great job! Glad that OH represented well :)

Talk about awesome swag - that jacket is super cute!

I like how you seem to judge a medal's awesomeness by how big and heavy it is :D I'm more into how pretty it is, lol (diff colors, diff finishes, any bells and whistles, etc.)

the dawn said...

wow...that IS an amazing jacket! what a great race. how did you hear about it? what made you want to go all the way out to ohio for a marathon?

Tara said...

I am SOLD! Great job out there on #22! The race looks so pretty and with all that sweet swag...def on my to-do list :)

Marlene said...

Sounds like an A+ race!! I love that painted line idea. And hello swag!!! Congrats on #22!

bookitjvb said...

CONGRATS! this could be my ohio race someday! I agree with you about the relay runners. Who came up with that idea anyway? A marathon is a marathon.

Layla said...

Wow, I love the jacket! Such a great idea, instead of ANOTHER t-shirt that may or may not fit. And the blue line is really cool, too.
Nice job!

Alisa said...

Seriously a jacket!?!?! That is awesome.

Maybe I'll have to join you and Audrey there sometime.

I've never been to OHio.

Kathy said...

I'm sorely tempted since I was born in Akron and have lots of family there, but srsly, what would I do with that jacket here in the Caribbean? make it sound inviting. :)

bunnygirl said...

With such great swag, now I'm tempted to run it. Good job!

Rabbits' Guy said...

Thanks for the report .. I agree - leave the marathon route to the marathoners. I guess it is OK to start the 1/2 with it oo, especially if the 1/2rs turn off somewhere.

Midwest fall .. often very nice - football weather!

d. moll, said...

I can only echo about the awesome jacket. Personally I am impressed by all these races you run......

The Bunns said...

We are with D.Moll on this too. ... and she waits hand and foot on Mario! Wonder if WE could get such a slave???

Nicole said...

great job!

i'm glad you enjoyed it. my boyfriends sister had a bad experience there and discouraged me from running it. its nice to know someone else liked it.

it looked very put together and well organized! again, way to go!

Marathon Maritza said...

Congratulations on another fab marathon finish! I was actually really intrigued by this entire report....I think I might have to put Akron on my marathon list! I do agree that the schwag is awesome and at a very reasonable price.


Page said...

Oh man, that swap makes me want to sign up!

Awesome job on another marathon well done!

naomi said...

i love that you've run all these races; you're such the expert now! and that is a really, really cool jacket!

sschwabby said...

Thank you for comments on the Akron Marathon. I am signed up for it in September and i am so glad i picked Akron to do before Chicago. Its sounds like one of the best ones in the Mid west.