Marathon #11: check.
Akron’s the hometown race for me (well, that and Chicago). After running it and bonking in 2008, I knew quite well, going into the 2009 race, that I should respect, if not fear, this race. Knowing that, and the fact that I’m still running the MCM in late October, I really didn’t have a hard-and-fast goal for Akron. Initially, I was shooting for a solid 3:50, intending to run it with a pace group, but when the pacer never showed up at the starting line, the plan went to the wayside. Instead, I wanted to do a flat 2hour first half and around something similar for the second half. And that I did.
The cool thing about running the hometown race is that my family lives there, and that my parents grew up in Akron, so they know the city like the back of their hand. This meant that I got to see my parents twice on the course — once in Firestone Park and again outside Stan Hywet Hall — and any marathoner (or runner, for the matter) can attest to how cool it is to see friends and family out on the course. My sis, bro-in-law, and new 10-week-old nephew were also right out on the course, but unfortunately, I missed them. Everybody got funny pictures of me running, so that was kinda cool as well.
All told, I ended up running the first half in about a 1:59 and the second in 2 and some change, finishing in a very comfortable, relaxed 4:17:59. It’s definitely not the fastest (or slowest) marathon I’ve run, but honestly, I felt great. I had some bad memories I needed to bury from last year’s race with this year’s run, like when I bonked and started run/walking through Sand Run or the west side of Akron, and this year, I felt like I was a social butterfly, chatting up all the other runners I came upon. Some were having excellent races; some weren’t. Some were from out-of-town, and some had grown up their entire lives in NE Ohio. The Akron race gave me an additional dimension to my race experience that I hadn’t really had before: really soaking up the experience with other runners.
With the only exceptions being when I was ingesting gels or drinking water or Gatorade, I ran the entire race course, and two of the last three miles were among the fastest of the second half of the course (and one was pretty close to one of my fastest mile splits that day). Running the Akron race this year was an exercise in running for the sheer joy of running. Though I kept my splits the entire time, I often considered shedding my watch and just having a ball with the race. It was that sort of rockin’ mental day.
Additionally, the day brought with it a constant misting rain, which I never really felt but only noticed because the ground was wet from about miles 19-on, but by the time I finished the race, I was soaking wet from sweat and rain. As always, the Akron fans were great; the volunteers kicked ass, as usual; and of course, the RD shook all our hands at the race finish. All these folks withstood the rain to cheer on a bunch of runners who came to overtake their streets and neighborhoods for a few hours on a random Saturday in September. That just kicks ass; there aren’t two ways about it!
For as tough as the Akron course is–and in my experience, the course is tougher than Boston–it really is a second-to-none event. Moreover, Akron 2009 was the first race I’ve finished where I honestly felt as though I could have kept running. This makes me entertain thoughts of pursuing an ultra in 2010… but I’m still not completely sold that I could do it. Thank you, Chris McDougall, for putting another thought into my head.
Next up: workin aid station #4 at Fullerton/Cannon at Sunday’s Bank of America Chicago marathon. Good luck to the swarms of my runner buddies who will be running on Sunday! I love you all!
Soon approaching: the MCM, baby!!!!