That was the plan this spring when I lost my mind.
If you’re new here, I decided to walk sections of two marathons and use them as my 20 & 22 mile training runs leading up to the Columbus Marathon.
Most people I told the story to thought I was nuts for one of two reasons. First, were the hardcore marathon runners who wouldn’t be able to pin a bib to their shirt without racing all out. The second were people who heard three marathons in 5 weeks and ignored my logic.
But for me, I knew I could use both Erie and Akron as preparation for Columbus, and nothing more. Erie went well two weeks ago, and this weekend was the Akron Marathon.
The runs in between weren’t much to write about. The week after Erie I only ran once with a cold. I could have run, but chose not to so I wouldn’t make things worse. This week, I ran three times just to keep the legs going.
I spent Friday night at a friends house north of Akron, so the plan for 2 cheap marathons was in full swing. Fortunately they were heading out at 5:30 am for the WVU game, so they were able to drop me off downtown for the start and Christy could sleep in.
I didn’t know much about Akron, so looking at the course map didn’t do me much good. I had heard from twitter friends that the course was hillier than Columbus, but I couldn’t tell how much from just the maps. Reading this recap had me wondering though.
I arrived at about 5:45, so I had plenty of time to follow my rule of immediately getting in line for bathrooms at big races. I basically sat around listening to loud pop music before getting at the very back of the first of two corrals. Since the plan was to walk the first 4 miles, I wanted to put myself in a position to walk without getting in anyones way. This allowed me to get ahead of the second coral before jumping on the sidewalk.
My plan wasn’t perfect, as a bridge with no sidewalk sat at about a half mile in. I did jog about 1/3 of a mile before getting out of the way and walking to mile 4.
Halfway through my walk there was a scary sight as a man was down at mile two and on a stretcher with medics working on his condition. I couldn’t tell what happened, but was hopeful it wasn’t serious.
Not much happened for the first hour, but before I knew it my race began.
The first 8 miles or so aren’t terribly exciting. Mostly downtown stretches with little to see. On the section leading back to the start line, we ran through the University of Akron which had great crowd support. I passed this guy here, and can’t begin to imagine what it takes to move with that strapped to his back, let alone run!
Although I was fearing the hills, the course turned out to be my favorite of my 4 marathons. At the halfway point, the course turns onto the Towpath trail and takes you for 3+ miles on crushed limestone through the woods. It’s shaded and cool through the path, and a nice change from the typical concrete jungle of most races. Also on the trail, I passed a woman who wrote her age (53) on her left leg, and her total marathons (also 53) on her right. I asked her what was her favorite, and she immediately said NYC.
Once we left the trail, the road turned straight up. Roughly two straight miles of climbing, that ended up a steep wall of a climb. I caught the 4:45 pace group at the wall, and new if I kept going, I’d beat my Pittsburgh time of 4:41. Again, this was a training run, but I felt great, and was excited about the possibility.
Christy and Aubrey were just past mile 20, and that kept me going through the hilly sections. Thanks to text messaging, I knew right were they were, and stopped off for a quick hug.
With less than 6 miles to go, I bore down, and wanted to finish strong.
The sun was out, and although it wasn’t hot, it was beginning to warm up. The last 3 miles were a blur, but the finish was my favorite yet. You make a hard right turn into their baseball stadium, before entering through left field and finishing near first base. The stands were packed with people and it wasn’t something I expected.
After walking the first four, I managed to finish in 4:35:15 which is about 6 minutes faster than my May Pittsburgh time. If Columbus has weather like today, I’m optimistic I’ll go sub 4:15.
Akron was my fourth marathon, and it’s my new favorite. The weather was fantastic, The course was much more interesting than I expected with the mix of downtown, trail, parks, and suburbs with a finish not to be missed. Could you imagine if Pittsburgh finished at PNC Park?
The volunteers were all amazing, the staff very well organized, and the giveaways the best I’ve seen. You don’t get just another shirt. All participants receive a high quality Brooks running jacket, and finishers get a hat and a handshake from the race director.
If you’re looking for a fall marathon, sign up now for Akron!