Monday, September 29, 2014

Akron Marathon Relay Recap 2014

As a runner, you gain a special connection with the pavement that lies beneath you, and thus a special connection with the city in which that pavement lies.

I have a special connection to the City of Akron and its pavement that happens to be painted with a bright blue line all year long in honor of the Akron Marathon.

On September 27, 2014, that iconic blue line has been conquered, along with my great friends from Team Bootleggers. We were a co-ed team consisting of Matt (leg 1, 3.9 miles), Jim (leg 2, 4.8 miles), Beth (leg 3, 7.5 miles), Jen (leg 4, 4.5 miles), and myself (leg 5, 5.5 miles). We finished in 31st place out of 848 co-ed teams with a final time of 3:27:58!

This is the second year in which I ran in the Akron Marathon, and I have an entirely new perspective than I did one year ago. In 2013, I had just moved to the area to embark on a new journey: a brand new job in a brand new place. Running in the race last year felt like an initiation of sorts: a meet & greet icebreaker with the city where I now would be spending a great deal of my time.

Since then, I have grown very close with the greater Akron area, and the community has been nothing but warm and welcoming. In just one year I have become extremely acclimated to the town, I’ve met a ton of new people, and the once unfamiliar streets I ran on are now the backdrops to my day-to-day life.

I took pride in being a part of my team as the only person who is a local to Akron. The rest of my team was from one of my “other homes” – Columbus – and they drove up the night before (Friday). After having a carb-loaded pasta dinner with my former team (Running For Donuts), I met up with Team Bootleggers to hand out our matching shirts – special made dri-fit OHventures shirts!!

It was then time to rest up for the big day (trying to get adequate sleep is always the most stressful part of a race like this). I awoke at 4:45 AM and arrived in downtown Akron at 6:00 AM to meet my team (all clad in their OHventures shirts) at the start line. It was still dark out – and pretty chilly!

Jim and Beth headed to their respective starting lines while Jen and I accompanied Matt as he lined up in the appropriate starting corral. The sun was rising as the National Anthem was sung. Dawn was breaking and it was time for Matt to kick off the race as our starting leg!!

Jen and I then took our respective shuttles to our respective starting lines, mine being located at Firestone High School. It was only 7:30AM at this point, meaning that I had about 2 hours and 15 minutes before I was estimated to start running. I utilized this time to relax, stretch, mingle, and energize – all things you must do if you are a runner in any type of race!

When it finally came time for me to go (thanks to some updates via text message), the temperature had risen to about 75 degrees – perfection! I grabbed the slap bracelet from Jen, started my new Garmin watch, and turned on the jams on my iPod.

The 5.5 course took me east on Garman Road to the famed Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens – a notable landmark in the city, south on Portage Path past Portage Country Club, and south further on Market Street through Highland Square (this is where the most cheers came from)! The homestretch took place as I turned right onto Main Street, passing the Akron Civic and Lock 3 until I reached the finish line in the middle of the baseball field at Canal Park.

This was a very inspiring, challenging and rewarding race for me.

Inspiring because I felt such a sense of support and appreciation from strangers cheering as I ran by. There were children on the sidewalks with outstretched hands waiting for a high five from me. Even out of 20,000 runners, I managed to see friends along the course and at the finish line – Kyle, Mayor Drew, Matt & Andrew, Katie & The Donuts…the list goes on.

Challenging because I had severely sprained my ankle in early August while at a game in my adult soccer league. I had to nurse my foot with a great deal of ice, rest and medication the past 1.5 months, which set me back quite a bit, but also humbled me to appreciate when all my parts are in working order. Thankfully, I was well enough to run again. But there were a few hills on the leg of the course that pushed me to my limits, and there were times I didn’t think I could keep going. But I did.

Rewarding because I was able to actually cross the finish line with a stadium of people cheering! Being the anchor of the team is something everyone should experience. I was able to get all 5 of our medals after finishing, and hand them out to my teammates. We were sweaty and tired, but we had enough adrenaline to celebrate with our beverages of choice (beer, water, and chocolate milk)!

The Akron Marathon has proved to be, for the second year in a row, one of my finest moments in running. That’s because it’s one of those races where I have a special connection to the pavement. I challenge you go out and find your own special connections to the pavement that means to most to you.

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