Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Pro Football Hall of Fame (Half) Marathon Recap

Photos by OHventures

The power and strength of NFL legends of years past was shining down on over 3,000 runners Sunday, April 27, 2014 at the inaugural Pro Football Hall of Fame Marathon & Half Marathon. Taking place in downtown Canton, the Pro Football Hall of Fame & Museum served as the setting for the start of the big race, while the nearby Fawcett Stadium held the finish line! Energy pumped into the streets of Stark County bright and early as runners from 37 states and 5 countries prepared themselves for the 7:00 AM starting time.

I was one of the runners huddled in Corral B, rubbing my hands together and jumping up and down to try and keep warm in the 40-degree weather. My nerves had me wound up, as this was only my second-ever half marathon I had ever participated in, the first being the Cap City Half Marathon in Columbus in May, 2012. During that fateful race two years ago, I injured my knee a great deal, causing a 5-month recovery and a lot of apprehension when it came to running long-distance again. Two years ago, I never thought I would be lining up to run another half marathon. But here I stood, ready to face the challenge head on!

Thankfully, my 100 day training program prepared me to the point that I was rather confident that my knee (and everything else) would hold up just fine. But it would take finishing this half marathon once and for all to truly convince myself that I was strong again.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame (Half) Marathon was a perfect way to reinvigorate me when it came to long-distance running. There were multiple runners alongside me who had on jerseys of their favorite NFL football team. Some even had helmets and shoulderpads as they ran, and one guy even carried a football the whole way! Seeing folks dressed as their pigskin heroes was inspiring, and kinda funny too. It also provided great imagery to the rest of us runners. We all consider the pavement to be our playing field - the halfway mark is like running past the 50 yard line and crossing the finish line is like scoring a touchdown. We are athletes and today was game day!

I threw on my headphones to blare some tunes in my ears and kept pace right behind the "1:52" sign help up by one of the official pacers. The first couple of miles were easy as pie! The sun was rising in the sky and things were starting to warm up. The course took us from the museum to Tuscawaras Street, briefly on 3rd Street, and then North on Market Avenue for a couple more miles. There was a pretty hefty hill on Market, but the downhill portion made up for all the sweat on the way up. We then headed west on 23rd Street and south on Cleveland Avenue. 

Motivational signs - both funny and serious in nature - were sprinkled along the "sidelines" and truly helped push me through each mile. Some of the best signs I saw read: "Go Hard! (That's What She Said)," "Run Fast, I Farted!," "Getting Up Early To Make This Sign Wasn't Easy Either," and my favorite that simply said "Motivational Sign." And, for the first time ever, I friend made a sign specifically to cheer for ME, and it really made me so grateful. The sign said "I Wanna Be Like Mike" and was made by my good friend Emily. Having her support, as well as other friends (and strangers alike) along the way is so appreciated!

At Mile 7, the route took us west on 4th Street to Monument Park, where we weaved in and out until Mile 11. Mile 11 was by far my biggest struggle. I was losing steam (hitting a wall, as they say), I had to pee (I stopped at the port-a-potty), I had to walk up a steep hill, and lost power to my iPod that was churning out jams to keep me running fast. All of these things hindered my time during that mile, but I didn't give up. The McKinley Monument was a highlight of this mile, and it recharged me and helped put a pep in my step again! Also, there was a random bearded stranger who was so overly enthusiastic that you couldn't help but be motivated!

The last two miles seemed like they took forever, and of course had significant uphill portions! But soon, I turned the corner and found the ground beneath me change from the asphalt roadway to the astroturf of the football field in Fawcett Stadium! Running on that field with the crowd cheering away was an amazing feeling.

I finished the race in 1:56:27 - which is literally a 30 minute improvement from my ill-fated half-marathon in Columbus in 2012!! I was so relieved and overjoyed! We received awesome medals, shaped like footballs of course, and a really cool Hall of Fame Marathon fleece blanket, which came in handy once the wind picked up (SIDE NOTE: the blanket is probably the coolest swag I have ever received at a race). After seeing my friends Emily, Ryan, and Simas at the finish line, I was in great spirits! 

Whereas last time I finished a half marathon I said I would never do one again...this time, you can quote me as saying "I'm hooked!" Don't let setbacks in life keep you from pursuing your dreams and doing the things you love! 'Til next time!

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