Confessions of an Akron Road Runner Legacy Runner
I love marathons, but most particularly, I love this marathon. I've run 6 road marathons and 3 50K ultra's and 5 of those road marathons have been the Akron Road Runner. It's a top notch race, the blue line winding like a spine through through 26.2 miles of Akron memories, as I'm a long time Akron girl. The only reason I haven't run all six of the marathons is because in the year of the race's inception in 2003, I was still on the couch, contemplating fitness, but still lacking the motivation to do anything about it. You're allowed to miss one year and still be considered a legacy runner, so now I have to run it every year to maintain my status. I recall each Road Runner vividly, who I ran with, the circumstances of my training, so each year is different, although the fact remains that this is very challenging course.
My plan this year was to get Bob and Brett through the marathon. Bob has done a 50K, but we all know running 26.2 miles of asphalt is a different animal. Bob is a fast guy on courses less than a half marathon, and so is Brett, but they each have their issues past the half marathon point. I was going to be the red headed wind up running beacon, set to run an even steady pace, and get them to the end.
I woke up on marathon morning to a startling vision: I had a horrific dream. I had a dream a large python was in my living room. He was eating a smaller snake--picture in your mind this python with his head held high, choking down a writhing smaller snake. Once the python choked him down, the python rolled over and went to sleep. He looked like a dog begging to have his fat full disgusting belly rubbed. I woke up in a cold sweat. I hate snakes. I have snake dreams a lot. I think they represent my fears, my running fears. Or maybe I had this dream because I've been known to say frequently, "I'm living like a snake, I tell you," in regards to my lackluster financial life, living on my own now. Other threories have been extended that it must be sexual, the snake being phallic and all, but I quickly refute that. I like sex and I hate snakes. Maybe it's all that heady spiritual based reading I'm doing lately? Anyway...I think the disgusting snake scene was a manifestation of my fears, which I would promply squelch. I was well trained for this race and I meant to have a good time and be there for my friends.
Cool air came through my open bedroom window. There was no pitter patter of rain which had threatened all week. In fact, this was starting out to be a rather warm race day. I knew the forecasted high for the day was only going to be 70 or so. I could see a swirl of clouds and clearness, like the vanilla chocolate marbled cake we had at the SARC pasta party last night. We had a wonderful pasta dinner for our members. We had a motivational speaker talk about his quest to run a marathon every weekend for a full year while he held down a regular job as a lawyer. He was a paragon of race recovery. I dreamed of being able to run a road race without all the pain afterward. I wondered how I was going fare after this one and negociate the stairs in my townhouse apartment. This was my week to have the kids, but my husband agreed to watch them for most of the morning and afternoon. I wondered how I was going to do all my grocery shopping the next day. After my first few marathons, my legs were completely fried; I walked down stairs backwards, my muscles were so inflamed my husband said heat was radiating off my legs like I had a fever, my legs jerked all night long. Recovery was agony and I dreaded it, like it was the requisite hangover agony which followed on the heels of ribald drunkenness. My legs didn't hurt at all after the Buckeye 50K but those were the more forgiving trails; the roads will still eat me alive...but I wouldn't think about that right now.
This marathon is growing by leaps and bounds; I think the paper said they were expecting 10,000 people between the relays, half marathon, and marathon. The full marathon had near 1300 runners. The first year I ran it, there were only 800 full marathoners, 200 of them women. I got dressed and made my way easily to the downtown exit, but as soon as I exited on Broadway, it was as though I was caught in the flow of rush hour traffic, but these were all runners!! I got a little flustered, had to drive around the University of Akron, to be able to get to High St. and in the Polsky lot where I wanted to park. Good thing I allowed pleny of time...I was a good 15 minutes late meeting Bob. Roger was standing in front of St. Bernard's church waiting for Debi, but she was late too. We found Brett at the starting tent. Bob was going to meet his daughters there too, but they must have gotten caught up in traffic. The bathroom situation was great. The women and men had separate porto-pottys so this meant we didn't have to wait in line long. This is the first year I remember not having to wear gloves at the start, it was cool but tolerable.
We still couldn't find Debi, but we knew she was out here somewhere in this wonderful swath of running humanity. Crowds usually wig me out, but being packed like sardines with a bunch of runners in the starting corral is a wonderful thing. At this point, pleasant smells of soap, deodorant, and the occasional waft of Ben Gay floated under my nose. We knew it be different at the finish tent. We saw Mike K. and Ultra Kim at the 4:30 pace group. Mike lifted up my running skirt...he said he just wanted to check if I really had shorts under that. I did if you're wondering. Mike and Kim planned on running the race real easy...they'll finish when they finish.
So we were off!! It's such a cool thing running over the Y Bridge and watching the elite lead runners coming back on the other side while we are just crossing over. At the 3-4 mile mark we saw a disconcerting sight; a runner was off the side on the ground with a defibrillator strapped to his chest. I hope he's O.K. We were going to follow the artificially redheaded Jim's 4:30 pace group. Jim paces the 4:30 group every year. He spray paints his hair red, so that a few miles into the race, red dye is dripping down the back of his neck. We lost him for awhile, he appeared to be running ahead of pace, but we caught him again just short of the 10K point. We saw the club president, vice-president, and our pregnant volunteer coordinator for the club keeping pace with us. It was also at that point that I saw one of past running partners. We trained together for my second marathon. She's 3 years younger than me, but we were very well matched as running partners, but something was not right in our running relationship; we got too competitive with one another, I guess, so we each drifted to other partners, but every time I see her, my blood boils with competition and I get the notion to beat her, and believe me she wants to beat me too. I really like this women, she's a real neat gal, but she gets me all fired up. Guys do this stuff all the time with one another. It's healthy stuff, really. Keeps you pushing.
The 10K water stop appeared to be overwhelmed--short on volunteers, the volunteers present couldn't pour water fast enough. At the 8 mile water stop, there was no water or Powerade at all. Hmmmm...Did the Akron Road Runner Marathon grow too fast and now they can't cope? It was fine after that. The water truck must have not been able to get to that station for some reason, but all water and G.U. stops were well manned and supplied after that.
I really like running through the University section. I was feeling wonderful. I had absolutely no issues at the 10 mile point--my White Knight Pegasus's with near 400 miles on them were carrying me as though I really had wings on my feet. Brett was looking good. Bob was looking good too. His beautiful girls were there to greet him at this point, no doubt giving him a boost. Our pacer, Jim, was telling some pretty good off-color jokes, so we all appreciated that. The Tow Path section was tight with runners. Mentally, running this section is tough for me because I've run it a million times, it's flat, so I decided to really focus on hanging with pacer Jim. Bob was starting to hang back a bit with Brett. Then, next thing I know, I look over my shoulder to see where they are and it's Bob...no Brett. Bob said he stopped to use the bathroom. We figured he'd catch up. My right hip flexor was starting to ache a little, but there was absolutely nothing else. I was feeling very strong. I concentrated on maintaining good form. My arms tend to tense up and rise, so I concentrated on keeping them low and loose.
I kept up with Pacer Jim till mile 17. He had exhausted all his good naughty jokes and was resorting to innocent chemistry jokes--must have been a chemistry major in school. No one laughed. The pace group was silent. I said, "Jim...if you want to
keep these runners going through Sand Run, go back to the off-color stuff." At this point I looked over my shoulder and couldn't see Bob anymore. My greatest hope was that Bob and I could stay with the 4:30 pace group the entire time and then at the 26mile mark I could break away and try to set my own PR with a 4:29, but I'm afraid Bob was feeling the curse of Sand Run, where runners turn into actors from "Night of the Living Dead," walking with heads hung low, tired as death. I broke off from the pace group and waited for Bob to catch up. He was soaking wet. He's a large ox of a man, sweats like crazy, and this was his first road marathon. Sand Run doesn't spare many. His legs were feeling OK except for a little toe that felt it was ready to fall off from a nasty blister, but he was sopped of energy. I knew he'd come around eventually, but we did lots of walking on the tail end of Sand Run and then on Revere Rd, too. I think it was on Revere Rd. when my former running partner passed us while we were walking and tossed a comment over her shoulder as she passed, "you O.K.?" Her tone bugged me for some reason and got the redhead in me boiling. She was probably genuinely concerned, but it bugged me anyway. It was then that I realized that Bob might do well with something regimented to get him through this tough patch. He's an orderly kind of guy. So, I told him we're going to do a walk one minute, run five minutes, Galloway method to keep us going.
Bob was looking much better after we came though Stan Hywett. I caught back up to my nemesis. I saw her husband holding a platter of wine glasses on the side of the road. He recognized me. I was always flaming jealous of the relationship she had with her husband. They didn't have a whole lot of money, they had 4 kids, but they really loved one another, did nice things for one another even though they've been married forever. They look like newlyweds. Yeah, OK, I wanted what she had, but for right now, I was going to beat her in this race. Once we got to the final downhill stretch on Market St., Bob was looking much better. He was going to finish just fine. I knew he was feeling bad for me staying back with him, but I like to be a person that does what she says she's going to do and I told him I'd make sure he gets to the finish. So, this was my chance to peel off. I felt like I was running a nine minute pace those last few miles. I passed her. I didn't say a word, I just ran like the wind down Market St. to the home stretch. It was starting to get warm. I could feel my face pulsing with heat. I came through the finish with a chip time of 4:43. I didn't do as well as I did last year, but the difference is how I feel. I felt wonderful. Last year, I needed help up the stairs and spent most of the race in porto potties. I had no intestinal issues this year. I think avoiding dairy products two days prior to the race did wonders. I wasn't even that sore. I could walk normally. This was a first.
Bob came through the finish line just 6 minutes after me. He finished his first marathon...a little rough around the edges, but he did great. We had our picture taken for the run photos and set off to the food tent. They were already out of fruit, so I had a ham and cheese sandwich from Sheetz which I slowly got down. It's important for me to eat right away or I'll get sick. Bob couldn't think about food. He assessed the damage to his toe. It looked really nasty. Next priority was to cash in one of the beer tickets and go talk to people. Bob and I hung out for awhile with Don and Roger whom both had excellent races. We waited on word of Debi. When Bob and I ran by her house at mile 20, decorated with a row of very sweet signs for all of us, her husband Jerry told us she was just coming into Sand Run. OMG. She's amazing--running a marathon on an eight mile long run, her foot barely out of a boot!!
Debi did it. Debi can do anything, I think. She crossed the finish line in 5:13, I think. She was so grateful to finish. I've never met someone so modest about her running, but we all know that she's probably the strongest among us. I know I couldn't do what she did. We saw Mike and Kim. Sounds like they had a hoot out on that course. No one that I talked to had any word on Brett, but I later found out he didn't finish. Brett is clearly a talented short to middle distance runner. That's his talent, but if I were him, I'd keep on trying...try to figure out what is going on with his body at the half marathon point. Perseverance in all things.
Today, I woke up feeling fabulous--a little stiff, is all, but wonderful. I feel like I've gotten away with something. This has always been my goal: to run all day and not pay so horrifically for it the next day. There is a definite learning curve to this marathon thing. I had a fabulous time. I love the Akron Road Runner Marathon. I'll be back next year...