When my alarm went off the morning of the Akron Marathon, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit of butterflies in my stomach. I was nervous more so due to the uncertainty I felt in my fitness than for the usual hope of a fast race.
As I went through the familiar steps of my typical warm up, I began to feel more and more at home on the roads. I became excited to see where my fitness level was, rather than worry about where it wasn’t after coming back from an injury within the last couple of weeks. Finally on the start line I focused on the goal to be tough enough to race to my fitness level despite not seeing splits as fast as I would like.
This is my hometown race, so I had lots of friends and family racing. Not only was I excited about my own race, but I had high hopes for my friends and family racing, too. I was excited to get to the finish in Akron’s minor league ballpark to hear about or see them finish. But there was a lot of work to do before getting to Canal Park.
The gun finally went off, and all of my nervousness disappeared. I reminded myself that in order to run to the best of my ability, I would need to be careful not to get caught up in what is going on around me too early. The first mile is fast, so I didn’t pay much attention to the time. It was somewhere around 5:35. Shortly after the mile, I passed Joe Booth, the only wheeler the Akron Marathon has ever had, and he wished me luck and I told him to give ‘em hell out there. I can not imagine what it is like to be a push rim racer from miles 16-24 on a course as tough as this.
Miles 3-4 are loud with a lot of family and friends around and they went by quickly. I was clipping along through 10k right around 5:50-6:00 pace. But mile 7 I fell asleep a little, 6:23. I realized I needed to get back after it. I begin to pick up my knees a little and focus on good turnover. 5:58 for the next mile meant I woke up. I began listening for cheers behind me to see if I could figure out where the next lady was, but it didn’t work. I continued to push alongside a friend and local masters runner, Damon Blackford. It was nice to have a little company.
Once I was back on my old stomping grounds, the University of Akron’s campus, I started to think about giving a little more effort to the finish. 5:50 for the 10th mile meant I had started to move a little more quickly. I continued to try and press the pace, and around 10.5 my bowels were angry. I had to make a decision, slow down and risk moving from second to third or possibly fourth, pull over to the side of the road and lose a little dignity, or have a mess to deal with when I finished. I chose to leave my dignity at mile 10.5 and could see just how close I was to being passed by my good friend Heidi, a fellow elite in the race. I hurried and started focusing on racing.
This was it, a mile and a half to go. I needed to get moving or Heidi would soon be on my shoulder. My nerves that had disappeared on the start line were back! I was racing scared. So I put my nose to the grindstone, and did all I could to try and pull away. I reminded myself it was worth the pain, picked my knees up as much as I could, and pushed while my lungs burned. As I turned onto the final stretch on Main Street, the loud crowds brought excitement and I pressed hard toward the finish line. I crossed the finish line at 1:18:35 in second place. I was relieved to hold onto second and excited to hear how others had raced.
Ryan, an athlete I coach (and incidentally my husband), ran a new PR of 1:08:45, which was good enough for fourth in the men’s race. Jess, my teammate and training partner, ran an Olympic Marathon Trials ‘B’ standard of 1:14:23 to win the women’s race. Heidi finished with her second-fastest half marathon, and very close to me to grab third in 1:18:56.
I was happy to see others do so well and proud that I had raced as tough as I could. The original goal training for this race was to grab the Olympic Trials ‘B’ standard, but when I ended up injured four weeks out, we had to adjust. I was proud to race to my current fitness level and race smart enough to use it to my advantage. I am also happy to be healthy and back working on chasing the Olympic Trials standard one step at a time.