One of the fun things about being pregnant is that I put my own running goals on hold and can spend my time running helping others’ achieve theirs. This past weekend was the Cleveland Marathon and I’m not lying when I say I was excited to set my alarm for 5:15 to head downtown even though I hadn’t even entered the race.
Now me and the Cleveland Marathon have had our differences. Back in 2008 I wrote a post on my personal blog about the race and ended up meeting with the race director to discuss my suggestions. While the race director has implemented several of the changes I and others advocated for, as well as other improvements since then, there are still some issues with the race that I believe will never truly be what it could be because the people running the race and promoting the race are not directly connected with the Cleveland running community and don’t even realize how disconnected they are. There are also still lingering logistical issues, but in the race’s defense much of that has to do with the race’s growing numbers (like all marathons during this neo-running boom) and the city’s lack of cooperation. Like many other concerned Cleveland runners before me I attempted to MAKE the race into what I believe it could be, but quickly realized no matter how hard I tried the race directors and I are just not on the same page about the things that matter most to me. So, since I love running and I love the CLE I have made peace with the race and accept it with its flaws.
Anyway, enough about that. This season I coached my friend P and my plan called for me to meet up with her, head to the start and see her off on her 26.2 mile adventure! That part went fairly according to plan save for a major pedestrian jam trying to get to the 4:10 pace group. When you have ~20,000 runners you need a more organized line-up system than a free for all, but hopefully they’ll figure that out next year. Anyway, we got close enough and waited and then we were off. I ran with her for about .25 miles or so and then made my way to the sidelines. The plan was to meet again later in the race. I watched P disappear in the swarm and made my way back to the start.
I was planning to meet Clove by the starting line after the marathon, but the 10k was starting from the same line a mere 15 minutes after the marathon start. Since the marathon started late and took eons to clear out the 10k’ers didn’t line up until after their reported 7:15 start time. I watched my faster friends and other elite runners at the front of the start who were clearly irritated by the lateness. And then the announcer said, “Runners…” and they all got ready to go! But the announcer continued “good news! Just 10 minutes to the start!” Oh boy! You should have seen the eye rolls. It was pretty funny, although I would have been mighty irritated too if I was racing.
During that whole 10k debacle I was scanning the crowd for Clove. She texted me and told me she was by the DJ booth and I was right across the street from it and still couldn’t see her. Then I noticed a sign and it said, “I’m With Salty.” “That’s weird.” I thought. “Someone’s dad is called Salty too.” Thinking the sign was meant for one of the runners, I didn’t think to study the person holding it. But then I got curious and looked and suddenly realized it was Clove! HAHA. I can be a little dense! We have never met in person and in most of her photos she’s in running clothes and a ponytail so the chick in the jeans and the long hair didn’t register! FINALLY!
After the 10k runners (finally) started we ran to the corner of the street and were finally together for the first time. It’s so funny when you’ve never met someone but when you’re together for the first time it feels like you’ve known each other forever. Anyway, we had some time to kill before we were to head to our checkpoints so we made the logical decision to go stuff our faces at the VIP brunch. It’s nice having connected friends! So we ate and chatted and then were off to spectate. After seeing a few sub-1:30 half marathoners have to slow down for cars a cop let through at an intersection (SERIOUSLY!) I spotted my friend and teammate CV and gave her some cheers and then headed up a couple of blocks just in time to see Clove’s hubby running by the 12 mile mark right on time for his sub-3 attempt.
Once Mr. Clove passed we strolled on down the course and cheered and chatted as I waited for Salty-friend Michelle. I decided I’d meet her around 13 and then run 4-6 with her as she attempted to run 3:30 before meeting back up with P who was planning to finish about 40 minutes after Michelle. I said goodbye to Clove as Michelle came up right on time and we were off. It was warm, but it didn’t feel too bad to me since I was just starting on my run but I could tell all the racers were feeling it. About 1.5 miles on our way I spotted a guy with ice and sprinted ahead to grab some. I stuffed in my sports bra and ran back to Michelle and company to distribute it. I wish I had more! But it was definitely a temporary help.
Within about 3 miles we lost our company and it was just me and Michelle. We weren’t chatting so much any more and I didn’t want her to waste her energy so I didn’t say much at all. I didn’t complain as I wanted to about the incredible distance between water stops we were now encountering. We passed a stop around mile 17 and then there wasn’t another one until 19.5! At that water stop I sent Michelle on her way alone to finish the job. While our pace did slow over the 6.5 miles we ran together (we started around 7:55, but ended up averaging 8:04) we passed runner after runner after runner. I think we were passed by one guy the whole time! She was on and I could tell. I am eager to hear from her how those last miles went!
After she left I waited next to the water stop and quickly realized they needed some help. So I volunteered and put on some rubber gloves and handed out cups. So many more racers were now walking rather than running. Many needed 2-3 cups at the stop. If they only took one cup I tried to get them to take another just because it had been so long since they had anything and could be a long time before they got anything else! Runners were suffering bad and I felt for every one of them. But the 4:10 pace group was due to be in to the station soon so I had to give up my gloves and step back and wait for P. While I was waiting I ran into a friend I went to Boston with back in 2007. It was nice to have some company. I also saw Kristy who was having a rough time. I’ve been there. I know how hard it is to keep going when things aren’t going your way, but she was toughing our her first marathon finish!
I finally saw the 4:10 group, but they came and went with no P. I started to worry. I worried about P. I worried that maybe she dropped out. I also worried about myself and Boo Boo. As the time wore on the temps went up. I still had to go 7 miles back to downtown Cleveland! So I had to make the excruciatingly difficult decision to head back with the 4:25 pace group with or without P. I never did see her but it was time for me to head back.
I ran with Rick the 4:25 pacer for about a mile. He was all by himself! No group left! I felt pretty good as we ran along the lake, but then we turned to go back into the city and went up a hill in the sun and I started to not feel so great. I started to walk every now and then. I saw friends and I stopped to chat. I cheered for EVERYONE! Everyone out there running or walking was a freakin’ rock star. It was so brutal out there! I couldn’t imagine running 26.2 in that. I was on my way to 15 with a 45 minute break in the middle and I was getting pooped! I was tempted to take a shortcut and run straight to downtown rather than follow the meandering course, but I figured being a pregnant lady running alone in the hood was probably not the smartest move. So I kept on. I am so glad I borrowed a handheld water bottle. I don’t think I could have made it without it! When we were within 2 miles of the finish I saw a girl crumpled on the side of the road with her boyfriend tending to her. I stopped and urged her to keep moving. “Walk as slow as you need to go, but keep moving forward. You have come too far not to finish!” Then I saw another man sitting down and told him the same thing. He got up and kept going. I hope they finished!
As we got closer to the end and back into civilization (whoa miles 22-24 were GROSS. Nasty industrial area and TERRIBLE pot-holey roads. Sure, I used to tempo over there with my downtown crew, but to include that in a race to highlight our city–um no! As my friend Matt so kindly informed me, “they found a dead body under one of those bridges a few weeks ago.” Yeah, it was that nice!) I was getting excited for everyone. I congratulated everyone I passed after mile 25 and encouraged the crowds to celebrate these amazingly tough people! Finally my turn off came and I kept on running to Key Tower where my shower was waiting. I gotta say. That shower felt pretty good!
I got a text from P after I was dried off. She finished around 4:45! YES! Kristy ended up with a 4:14 and Michelle was 3:36:07. 48th woman overall with a BQ! CONGRATS EVERYONE!