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:
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
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?