O-H-I-O: Let the Akron and Columbus Marathons Knock Your Compression Socks Off This Fall!

Image via ebay.

Are you shocked, Salty readers?  Is this really our ultrarunning trail-obsessed Clove posting about road marathons?   It is!  It really is!

Let’s not forget that this Clove began as a marathoner, and having completed my fair share of them, I like to think I have a pretty good handle on what makes a user-friendly marathon.  And after this past weekend’s adventure at the Burning River 100, I’m all too happy to be discussing a different distance that also just so happens to be my running first love.

While I know our Salty audience is growing across the country, we started in Ohio and I know we have an especially large fan base here at home.  As an Ohio girl myself, I am incredibly proud of our fall marathons, the Akron Marathon and the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon, and I don’t plan on missing either one in the foreseeable future.  With that in mind, I offer you the “Lucky Seven” – seven great reasons to choose one of our hometown events for your fall marathon.

Akron:  The Akron Marathon, presented by Time Warner Cable, takes place on Saturday, September 29.  Though a late summer/early fall marathon, Akron has traditionally offered runners moderate temperatures, perhaps in exchange for its challenging course.  If you’re considering running Akron, don’t delay:  the full marathon, with a cap of 2,000 runners, may sell out as early as this week, and the other races are sure to follow.  For more information and to register, visit www.akronmarathon.org

Why run Akron?  Here goes:

  1. Hills!  Some like it flat, and some prefer a challenge.  If you like to spread your marathon miles out over several different muscle groups, Akron is the run for you!  While there have been some course changes made for 2012, the hills are fierce and challenging, and you will work hard for your medal.  The bonus:  a very forgiving, flat to downhill section of about seven miles mid-race, including some Towpath portions of the Burning River 100 course!
  2. Field size.  If you prefer an event where you’ve got some space to move around, Akron may be the perfect fit for you.  Large enough to be a big deal, but small enough to “swing your arms,” there’s always someone to greet with small talk, but rarely someone stepping on your toes.
  3. Volunteers.  Akron is well-known for its incredible volunteer corps, including my very own mother-in-law!  Any volunteer at any race is of a truly special breed, but the ones at Akron get an A++ in my experience.
  4. SWAG.  In the words of the immortal Michael Scott, “Stuff We All Get.”  And here, it’s a gender-specific, very technical, very stylish Brooks running jacket.  Perfect for not only taking off the upcoming fall chill, but pimping your ego while you do it.
  5. Handshake at the finish.  One of the most touching aspects of this community race is the up-close-and-personal effort of Executive Director Jim Barnett to shake the hand of each and every runner at the finish line.  Every one.  That’s right, he spends hours on race day shaking hands with the sweaty, the smelly, the emotional and the puking.  There’s no denying how much this man cares not only for his event, but the participants in that event as well.
  6. Involve the whole family!  With a half marathon as well as the largest team marathon relay in the United States, Akron offers the perfect opportunity to involve all the members of your family in a day of health, fitness and fun.  Salty’s even run the relay while pregnant!  Yes, there’s an official kids’ run too.
  7. Stadium finish – with beer!  A stadium finish always feels like a big deal, and finishing at Canal Park, home of the Akron Aeros, is no exception.  Add to that a fantastic post-race party serving up the Michelob Ultra (not for the entire family), and you’ve got a perfect end to a fantastic day in Akron!
Clove (in red) kicking it on the Towpath with friend Susan last fall. So special to be on the Burning River course with a good friend – and at a 7:30 pace! Image via runphotos.com

Columbus:  the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon  & 1/2 Marathon takes place on Sunday, October 21 and is poised for its most successful and poignant year to date, most notably due to its new partnership.  With a field of 7,000 in the full marathon and 11,000 in the half marathon, Columbus has all the frills of a major marathon, but hasn’t lost the charms of a smaller Midwest event.  As with Akron, don’t delay once you decide Columbus is the place for you:  both events sold out in September last year, and are expected to sell out in late August this year.  For more information or to register, visit www.columbusmarathon.com

  1. FAST course.  Many have described Columbus as “flat,” and that’s not a fair assessment.  Columbus is, however, an incredibly FAST course, and boasts one of the highest percentages of Boston Marathon qualifiers of any marathon in the United States.  It has been ranked by Runner’s World as one of the top 20 marathons in the US and by USA Today as one of the top 10 fall marathons.  If you’re looking to run fast this fall, the best place to do it might be right here at home.
  2. 100 bands and entertainment stations on course.  Rock n’ Roll WHO?  Columbus boasts one of the most impressive entertainment lineups of any marathon I’ve run, with so much music that bands and DJ’s have actually overlapped each other at points.  And it’s not just the quantity that’s impressive:  whether you like country or house, rock or rap, oldies or Top 40, you’re sure to hear what you like thanks to the incredible variety of artists.
  3. Starting Line Fireworks.  Race Director Darris Blackford likes to describe himself as “P.T. Barnum let loose on a marathon,” and his race morning fireworks are just what you need to get that final surge of adrenaline as you cross the starting line.  In addition, he’s announced his intention to take his pyrotechnic prowess to a brand new level this year in a combined tribute to the Olympics and the celebration of the city of Columbus’ Bicentennial.  In other words:  MORE FIREWORKS!
  4. You’re Running Through Ohio Stadium!!!  That’s right, for the first time in the history of the event, full marathoners will be running through – not around – Ohio Stadium, known locally as “The Shoe.”  Whether you’re a born and bred Buckeye or just a visitor, this is sure to be a special moment in the late teen miles of the race.  Adding to the excitement?  Your friends and family will be able to cheer you on from the bleachers in the stadium, and special shuttles will run from the stadium to the finish line to help them be where they need to be – when they need to be there.
  5. Pricing.  Thanks to Sassy’s recent post on the rising costs of our sport, we all know it’s getting more expensive to be a runner.  While the early bird pricing of $75 for the full marathon and $60 for the half marathon ran out months ago, Columbus remains reasonably and competitively priced.
  6. Partnership with Nationwide Children’s Hospital.  In its most philanthropic and poignant move to date, the Columbus Marathon partnered this year with Nationwide Children’s Hospital, naming it the primary beneficiary of the non-profit event.  While no portion of participant registration fees will be going directly to charity, runners and walkers are invited to join fundraising teams and/or efforts and can run on behalf of specific patients.  The race itself will match up to $100,000 in participant donations.  Finally, each mile will be dedicated to a specific “patient champion” – who will be at their assigned mile marker cheering you on with their families.  What better inspiration than that?
  7. Walker friendly.  Are you a proud walker?  A walker who actually prefers walking to running?  A walker who isn’t trying to eventually become a runner?  Come spend your Sunday morning in Columbus!  Columbus is proud of its “walker friendly” status, offering a seven hour cutoff, separate awards for the walking division, and specific pace groups from 5:45 through 7:00 led by local members of the New Albany Walking Club.
An iconic photo: Salt(y) and Pepper kicking it on the Columbus course, celebrating Pepper’s birthday, and looking smoking hot. Girl power!

So there you have it:  my thoughts on why you should take a marathon stay-cation and patronize one of our amazing Ohio events this fall.  Not from Ohio, but close?  We’d love to welcome you to the Buckeye State – yes, even the Michigan fans.

Disclaimer:  I am married to the Race Director of the Columbus Marathon.  I began running this incredible event in 2001, a full nine years and two race directors before DB took it over.  While I believe he has done incredible things for this event, it has always been a highlight of my fall, and the intent of my post is to promote two very great, but very different Ohio races equally.  I hope I have done so successfully and in a balanced manner.

Do you plan to run either the Akron or Columbus Marathons this year? Have you ever run them before? Which marathons would you recommend your fellow Salty Readers try?

Trail and adventure enthusiast. Girl who swears like a sailor but not when she's teaching Sunday School. Survived infertility without a successful pregnancy. Self-employed, primarily working for Clif Bar and Company. Thirteen 100-mile race finishes with seven top 3 placements. An original Saltine.

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  1. Love this post! Columbus was my first marathon in 2010! If it weren’t for Oil Creek, I’d be going back this year, I’ve been wanting to run it again for so long. But I am running Akron this year, finally. They’re both definitely races I’d recommend to anyone looking for a fall marathon!

  2. I’m running the Akron full:)!! I’ve heard nothing but great things about the race so I’m super excited to be a part of it!! I’m a little nervous about the course, but looking forward to the challenge:)!

  3. Count me in as someone who loves both these races!!!

    1. Akron. I participate in Akron every year, almost always the relay although I did take a stab at the full (where little ol’ me got the full elite-runner treatment!), but ended up having a terrible day (no fault of the race at all!) I still wear that darn jacket all the time. I love that thing and even though Akron’s my only DNF I feel pride wearing it and promoting the race! I did run the 2008 relay when I was pregnant with my oldest. I found 4 other pregnant ladies and we were again treated like royalty! Me and my giant 7.5 month pregnant bouncing belly are featured in the 2009 marathon promo video 🙂 Planning to be there again this year. Anyone know of a pregnant runner who’d be interested in joining a relay?

    2. C’bus. I LOVE this race. Yes, even though Columbus is the town in which I suffered through stitch-ageddon in 2007 and bonk-ageddon in 2011, if I ever race another I’d choose C’bus hands down. Little did I know when I lined up there for my first marathon (and still best executed race of my career thus far!) that I was running one of the best races in the country. I ran Boston for my second and longed to be back in Columbus. It’s the perfect mix of size, accessibility, etc. I love being able to walk two blocks from my hotel to the start and not have to wait an hour crammed on the starting line. I’ll be about 1 month from delivery this year so doubt I can even make the trip down to spectate, but if I could you know I’d be there!

  4. Both favorites of mine, too. Akron was my one and only marathon and then I did the half in 2009. I live on the course basically and love everything about it. Plus, the support is amazing along the course. I experienced Columbus last year as a spectator/biking support for a few runners and really liked what I saw. So much so, I’m hoping to run the half this year and go down a day before to hang out with some friends that live near the course, too.

    1. The Towpath Marathon will always have a special place in my heart 🙂 If you want a very low-key race on a more forgiving surface and a super flat and straight course, it’s for you! The surface and the monotonous (albeit gorgeous) scenery and the lack of crowds may make running your fastest possible time difficult (I think that’s true in my case), but for some (*cough* Greg *cough*) this could be the perfect spot to run your best! Thanks for bringing it up, Melinda!

  5. Columbus is my favorite marathon I’ve run so far! I would have done it this year, except I was concerned about the timing with my relay race. One thing I’d like to add to Clove’s list is that it’s very spectator-friendly, due to the way the course is laid out. When I ran it in 2010, my specators were able to see me 5 times without having to go too far! Plus they always have great shirts.

    1. Good point. It is super for spectators too! Akron’s also decent with a similar jaunt back through downtown in the middle of the race.

  6. Great post! Thank you for highlighting Ohio marathons. I’m an Ohio native myself and have a warm spot in my heart for the wonderful state. I LOVE Columbus Marathon! I will run it every year that I decide to do a marathon. How can you not?! Flat, fast, fun, and improves every year! Even with my bummer of a race last year that included 4 minutes of standing still on the sidelines giving myself a pep talk to finish, I love the race. I will most likely never do Akron because I don’t believe my body can handle running marathons so close together and I could never miss Columbus (but I believe that Akron is a great event too). Everyone- run one of these Ohio marathons! You’ll be happy you did!

    1. It says something when we both had perhaps our worst marathons in C’bus, yet still sing the praises of the race! It’s THAT good, people!

  7. I love Akron (ran it in 2010) and was planning to run it this year, but while rebounding from Achilles issues I decided to keep things flat and return to the Towpath this year. A nice event (as I’m sure at least Salty knows), but not as high-energy as Akron. Hopefully I’ll go back to Akron next year. The course runs by the church I went to through high school in Firestone Park and less than a quarter-mile from the house I spent the first five years of my life in, so it’s always fun to return.