Way way back in 2007 I decided to run the Cleveland Marathon. I trained hard (maybe a little too hard) and ended up injured. I rallied and ran the half at Cleveland that year but wasn’t ready to give up on the marathon so I signed up for Akron 2008.
In September of 2008 I ran the Akron Marathon, my first marathon and I was completely hooked. After spending years running other marathons, I finally made my way back to the Akron Marathon this year for my 12th marathon.
Training for Akron was kind of a spur of the moment thing. I had been wanting to run Akron again for a while but I was really dreading the hills that I remembered from my first Akron Marathon. When I decided to run, it was mostly because I was already signed up for the RNR New Orleans Marathon and Akron fit in time wise to run and still recover in time to train for New Orleans.
I thought my training went really well for Akron but I really had no idea since I had not ran a marathon in over a year! To get a gauge on pace, I put the 3 half marathons I had ran over the summer into the McMillan Calculator. With the marathon time the calculator gave me, I took the average which was around 3:37. Two of the halves were really hilly and one was fairly flat so I thought it might actually come out somewhat accurate. To be safe, I decided to run a 3:40 to give me a little cushion, to be able to run with a pace group and to give me some time on the hills.
The morning of the race, I got up early, packed up, left the house early and 10 minutes into the drive, the LOW TIRE pressure alert came on the car. It wasn’t a complete flat tire but being so close to home we decided to play it safe and go home to grab the other car. I then decided to drive to the race because I am a crazy driver who has a problem with speeding so I thought I might be able to make up for some lost time.
The problem would not be getting to the race on time but rather getting to the race before the streets were closed and parking lots were filled. When we arrived in downtown Akron, we were greeted with tons of traffic that was barely moving. Barely moving traffic and 2 runners who both needed to use the potty created quite a bit of stress before the race. After about 15 minutes, we finally moved over to another lane and said a little prayer as we turned right down a street and hoped a parking location would be near. We lucked out and got a parking space…on the 5th floor of an elevator-less garage (This would be interesting to get up the stairs post marathon).
With less than 30 minutes before the start, we rushed off to the nearest bathrooms and Ryan attempted to calm me down. For someone who doesn’t stress out easily, I was majorly stressed out. The good thing was, I had 26.2 miles to pound out that stress. By the time I got into my corral, I had less than 15 minutes before the race but guess what?!?! The weather temps were really nice! Like 55 at the start? Maybe it was warmer, but I really don’t remember.
When the race started, I stuck with my plan to stick to the 3:40 pace group. I tried to pretty much ignore my watch and just trusted my pacer. When we neared water stations, I sped up to be able to grab what I needed and then waited for my pace group to catch up. I did the same thing on hills because I struggle with hills and I like a minute to compose myself after going up the hills.
Mile 3.9 in 32:43 an 8:24 pace. Estimated finish 3:39:54
Mile 8.7 in 1:10:50 an 8:09 pace. Estimated finish 3:33:26
As we looped through downtown a second time the Pace Leader mentioned he purposely was banking time for the “Sand Run Hills” that would come later in the race. I’m not a fan of banking time but I put my trust in my pacer and hoped for the best. Around mile 11, I found myself struggling to keep up the pace and thought too myself “you didn’t train enough and aren’t ready for an 8:23 pace.” I looked down at my watch an noticed that we were not at an 8:23 pace but an 8 min flat pace.
At that time I slowed myself down and figured I was done running with the pace group. I slowly drifted to the back of the pace group and then they started to get farther away from me. After a few minutes they seemed to realize the pace was too fast and before I knew it I was back with the pace group!
Just before we got to the towpath we hit a super steep downhill that I took very easy. Even going slow on the downhill, my IT bands were screaming! It was quite a long downhill too. Before I knew it, I was heading onto the towpath which is the one section that was fresh in my mind as I did 1 training run on it. It felt great on my legs and was really hard to hold back. Then suddenly I had the urge. The urge to go number 2…
Mile 13.1 in 1:47:48 an 8:14 pace. Estimated finish 3:35:36
I hoped that somehow I could will it away. However, number 2 was being extra persistent and I wasn’t sure how far I would make it. I started to speed up and get away from the pace group. I was hoping to get some space between so I could stop to use the bathroom and eventually catch back up to them. The pace leader mentioned that if you had to stop to use the bathroom, that it would take you 2 miles to catch back up to the group.
I had to skip the bathrooms at mile 13 because there was a line and didn’t get to use a bathroom until mile 15.3ish. I was maybe a minute ahead of the pace group but it took me about 3.5 minutes to use the restroom. As urgent as the number 2 was, it did not urgently leave my body.
When I exited the bathroom, I started running and felt very confident that I could catch the pace group. I slowly picked off runners and was passing a lot of people but could not even see the pace group. I picked probably one of the worst times to go to the bathroom as some of the gnarliest hills were approaching…also know as SAND RUN.
Mile 16.2 in 2:15:13 an 8:21 pace. Estimated finish 3:38:50
I’m not exactly sure where SAND RUN starts but I think I am accurate when I say there are A LOT of hills from mile 16-19. There is also “Heart Rate Hill” I don’t know which mile this was at either but let’s just say it lived up to it’s name.
No matter the hill, I powered through and kept pushing. I never let my pace drop below an 8:34. There may have been some praying, talking/singing to myself and convincing myself that every motivation sign was specifically dedicated to me but there was no giving up. I didn’t do a very good job at taking my gels but after mile 20 I was due for my 3rd gel and it just wasn’t going to happen. I eventually saw some Jolly Ranchers that were being handed out and decided those would be a great idea. Taking candy from strangers, smh.
Mile 20.7 in 2:53:46 an 8:24 pace. Estimated finish 3:40:05
After mile 20 I just kept picking off the next mile and holding my pace. By mile 23, I was hoping that my watch was correct and I would come in at just under 3:40! However, the pace group was no where in sight! I told myself they just decided to go too fast and were going to finish well below that. I always think of my Mom at mile 23 because years ago as I was running the Cleveland Full Marathon, I saw her at mile 23. She was jumping up and down like a crazy person going “It’s just a 5K from here, just a 5K!” She didn’t even know at that time that I was about to qualify for Boston.
I found my pace picking up the last couple miles of the race and I was so excited to continue to pass runners. Usually I have hit the wall and am struggling the last couple miles. I have never felt so strong at the end of a marathon. At mile 24 my watch went off early and the same thing happened at mile 25. I held out hope that my watch was wrong and that I would some how run exactly 26.2 miles. Just before mile 26 I looked down and saw 26.2 but no finish line and 3:38!!! However, none of that mattered; my stupid GPS watch is always off. I crossed mile 26 and still had .2 to go.
I made the final left turn into the stadium and charged to the finish line with a smile on my face. I was so proud of myself. I crossed the finish line as the 44th overall female, 11th in my age group in 3:41:49 an 8:28 pace. Ridiculously close to my goal time and that INCLUDES A BATHROOM PITSTOP!
I am already planning to run Akron again next year and have set the goal to place 18th female overall because Ryan was 18th overall male this year.
Oh and the completely awesome jacket you get for running the full marathon is ridiculously nice. I wore it for a week straight I loved it so much. I will definitely get a lot of use out of that.