It was 4am on a Saturday morning. I was up and getting ready for my race with four other like-minded people I had never met. We had some communication via a group chat, but I only knew the name of the person that would be handing me the bracelet to continue on with our race. I didn’t know a face, didn’t know what they would be wearing or what their estimated pace would be to know when to be at my starting point. There were a lot of unknown variables and I was okay with it! I just wanted to run.
This says a few things about me. First, I’m putting myself into situations where I am forced to meet new people. A far cry from my middle school and high school days where I would hide in the music room to eat so that I didn’t have to socialize with people for fear of what they thought about me. Second, I was running for fun and didn’t fear being the last person. My only attempt in Track was in elementary school and I ran the mile distance but I was almost always second to last. My motivation was to stay ahead of the last person because they had a queasy stomach and would often throw up towards the end. I never wanted to be puked on so I had to keep moving forward. I wonder where those track pictures are???
The morning of the race, I prepped for a long run. I was running the third leg of the relay which was 5.4 miles and had some nasty hills. But, I wanted to get extra miles in since I had only completed one 20 miler in my training for Columbus. My friend and I parked, found the bathrooms and gear check and then determined the safest place for me to run. The final portion of the marathon would be the perfect place to get in some extra miles. I ran back and forth, back and forth, back and forth for 6.7 miles. Then the race was starting. I had never experienced Akron’s Marathon before, so I went to the end of the starting corrals and watched the runners take off. Then I set off to complete a few more circles around the block to get another 2.3 miles, putting my pre-race running at 9 miles.
Now, to sit and wait. Since I had put in extra miles, I was starting to get really chilled. About an hour into the race I received a text from the first runner that their leg was complete and the second person was off and running. I estimated the second runner would be about an hour. I didn’t want to run the block anymore because runners were starting to come in and hand off to their teammates. Remember, I had no idea who I was looking for to begin with so I definitely didn’t want to risk missing my handoff. The announcer was calling off relay bibs left and right. It was confusing, but I eventually heard 220 and so I set up in the relay lane. After running 9 miles and now freezing where my toes were tingling, I was not prepared to “race” this relay leg. My teammate found me and I was off.
I started and knew I needed to get moving to warm my body back up. My start was at mile 12, so the half marathon finishers were getting ready to break off and go into the finish line. Within half a mile I hit my stride and was feeling good. My toes were still numb, but they were coming around. I finished the first mile at an 8:42 pace and started the climb for the second mile. I was determined to make it up the first big hill, after all I have been attempting Harmon Hill of death. I made it up Market and hit mile two at 8:56 pace. Heading up another long hill, I was feeling fatigued. I walked a portion, and as soon as I could, I started running again. Mile three finished much slower at a 9:42 pace. Now the fun started. There were people out eating breakfast on their lawns, champagne and macaroons, gummy bears, and just a lot more crowd interaction. We had some downhill in this mile and I finished mile 4 with an 8:40 pace. One more big climb and then I was done with hills, mile 5 was a 9:22 pace. The last .4 of a mile I was able to push myself down a straight away. I knew I was nearing the end of my relay leg and would be handing off to another complete stranger. I knew what this person was wearing at least! I finished my leg with an average pace of 9:02/mi. which I will gladly take when I consider the hills. My overall mileage for the day was 14.4 miles.
I had a great time and during the finishers festival I was finally able to meet my fellow teammates! Well, three out of four. It was a great experience and definitely something I would do again. I just want to do a different leg of the race LOL!