The 40th running of the Cleveland Marathon was…in a word OUTSTANDING.
I’ve spent much of the last 29 years moving around the country and the world. I grew up in Erie, Pa, then joined the military. During my 20 year military career I lived in various locations. After hanging up my Air Force uniform I was fortunate to land an excellent job in a new location. The last 9 years I’ve been commuting to and from my job, the word “Hometown” had lost much of its meaning. My roots in anyone one place were never deep. Yet, something was always a constant during this time.
I’m not from Cleveland. I’m a Browns fan first and foremost. With my love for the orange and brown I’ve spent a lot of time in Cleveland and have a ton of friends there. Over the years, with many visit for Browns games, I have grown fond of the city. In 2013, I ran the Cleveland Marathon for the first time and to be honest it was just another race. The 2014 edition, the 40th running of this great race was different, I felt like I came home.
THE EXPO: This year I was fortune to team up with Jill Grunenwald, another inspiring author to have a booth on the expo floor. Jill wrote a book capturing her tales from running at the back of the pack with “Running with Police Escort.” I had my book “Running to Leadville” available as well. “Running to Leadville” is a fictional story based loosely on my life and also a story about what it takes to run 100-miles in the high Colorado Rockies. I had a fun time meeting runners, readers and fans of my work. It was enjoyable to be “part” of the Cleveland Marathon Experience and not solely a consumer of the event. THANK YOU to all who stopped to talk about running, asked questions, and picked up copies of my book. It was great to meet “face-to-face” many of my SM friends and to make new ones.
Yes I’m the geek who forgot to take off his reading glasses before the race and ran the entire race with them around his neck. My wife, Michele still thinks I’m cool and Guinness Book verified I ran the fastest marathon ever wearing reading glasses. So I have that going for me….
THE RACE: A marathon is not easy. Although the race organizer repeatedly broadcast over the expo PA system that this year’s course was easier than past routes, I still found the 26.2 miles challenging. Maybe it was the fact I was coming off a 100-mile effort at the Umstead Endurance Race (1 April) or maybe it was the 75-miles at the 24 Hour Run Against Cancer in late April. Or maybe it was two days on my feet at the expo, but the marathon and mile 22 respectively got the best of me.
(My Strava Map)
As I posted on my Instagram account, few starting lines have captured my attention the way the Cleveland Marathon starting line did. Standing in the center of Cleveland, next to the Q and near Progressive field with the famous banner of Lebron in front of the crowd of racers I was hyped and ready to get to work. I thought the starting line would get to congested with all the races (marathon, half and 10k) starting at the same time, but I was wrong. The beginning of the race rolled out without issues and it was fun running with members of all race distances prior to making the split.
My wife walked the 10k and got to hang out with some “Super Heros.”
After running the city portion of the route, I quickly learned the course had some teeth to it. This was not an easy course, there were hills, turns and a mentally taxing out and back section that tested your mettle. And I enjoyed it. Later I heard some feedback on the SM circuits that some people were complaining about various aspects of the race and I’ll be honest I don’t get it. The marathon is not supposed to be easy. If the route has hills, you run them. If the course makes some twists and turns, you fight through them. If there is a long out and back section, you power along it. If you did not eat right, stood on your feet for two days and forgot to hydrate properly in the days before the race…you don’t complain…you run the best race you can.
Did I mention it rained….
The Cleveland Marathon did what it was supposed to do. The race provided a fun, entertaining tour of downtown Cleveland while making you earn the finishers medal. I finished short of my sub-four marathon goal, with a time of 4:04:06. I earned that time, I suffered to get that time and I had a wonderful time doing it.
Hats off to the four hour pace team, pictured above, whom I ran with for much of the day. I think their names were Ally, from Pittsburgh, and Angel, from Cleveland. They did an outstanding job leading the four hour group. One runner commenting that this was the best tour of the city he had ever had. Ally later stopped to help a runner with serve cramps around mile 22, I stopped as well to help get this guy stable and left him my water bottle.
THE SWAG and POST RACE PARTY: I loved the finishers shirt and medal. This was my 20th marathon and I have run nearly 50 ultra-events, it takes a lot to make me look at either more than once. BUT I really liked the design and color of the shirt and medal…they go together. I did not stick around for the party in Public Square, I was beat, soaked to the gills and wanted to get back to see my son (who is stationed in Cleveland with the Coast Guard) we had a chicken wing date. From what I could tell on my walk back to my car many enjoyed the post-race party.
Well done Cleveland, you hosted an outstanding race. Although I don’t plan to move north anytime soon (too cold for my bones) I do consider this race my hometown race.
Disclosure: I was selected to be a race ambassador for the Cleveland Marathon and received a free race entry. This DID NOT influence this post in anyway. I tell it like it is…period.
Once again I would run the Ultra Marathon which began my ultra marathon running career, the Virginia 24 Hour Run Against Cancer. This would be my 8th running of this great ultra marathon in Newport News, Virginia. If you run a race long enough you will see and experience just about everything.
I’ve run my first 50 mile race, and my first 75 mile race at this event. This race has also motivated me and prepared me for my first 100 mile finish. I’ve run this ultra marathon in wind, near constant rain, extreme cold and now in what felt like the very depths of a volcano.
I love everything this race is about. Finding a cure to a terrible disease. Running with friends. Being part of a great running community. Seeing newcomers, including kids, reach their goals and become part of the fitness lifestyle. Supporting team members as they break barriers and set course and State records. Watching as “super seniors” establish benchmarks for our most valued members of the running world. To have the honor of captaining a team that has won the event three out of four years, setting a course record of 914 miles in 2016. And to witness an ultra legend as he fights to continue doing what he loves.
(Jason K, Me, a 93 year old WWII Vet (his name escapes me),
Josh D. and Eric H. the conductor of the pain train)
BUT…this event eats my lunch nearly every year.
The First Marathon – The forecast for the weekend predicted temperatures in the 90s. I found that hard to believe after all the 757 had experienced a stormy, but cooler than normal spring. During the days leading up to the race I hoped the weather man had gotten his signals crossed up.
(At times I wondered if this was a 24 hour run or swim)
My plan early on was to hang with friends, Eric and Josh following a eight and two run/walk plan Eric produced that would give us a fighting chance to reach 100 miles. Within the first miles of the day the temps were in already in the low 70s with high humidity. I could feel the effects of the heat and knew I would not be able to keep up their fast pace for long. After two laps of chasing them around the 3.75 mile loop course I had to adjust my plan of attack. To counteract the heat and humidity I throttled back in an attempt to conserve myself for the wee hours of the night.
I passed the marathon distance at 4 hours and 45 minutes into the day.
(The loop course at Sandy Bottom Nature Trail was in fantastic shape)
50 Miles - From the 26.2 mile point forward it was getting harder and harder to keep up the eight and two ratio. I had fallen off the back of the Eric and Josh train early on. With the increasing heat of the day I simply could not run at the pace they were moving at. I dropped the faster pace for running the long segments and walking the crossover sections. This eventually gave way to running and walking as my body would allow. My walks were at a 14:30 to 15 minute per mile pace coupled with fast pit stops I was able to stay on pace for 100 miles for most of the day.
One highlight of the day was reaching my 500th mile at this event.
The heat of the day was getting to be a real factor. The effort to keep up a good pace was taxing me when I ran and the recovery time was much longer. I struggled at times to keep up the run/walk ratios, but I was still feeling confident. I turned my 50th mile at 10 hours and 19 minutes into the event at a respectable 11:14 pace.
60 Miles - If there was a point where the wheels came off the wagon it was somewhere between miles 50 and 60. As the hours drew on and the combined effects of the heat, humidity and the time on my feet mounted I began to feel the bottom fall out. In years past I’ve lost the 24 hour war at Sandy Bottom Nature Trail for physical reasons…the 2017 edition I was losing on the mental front. I’m going to be 100% honest. Just 28 days removed from my 100 Mile PR at Umstead…I just did not want to suffer again. It was growing harder with each lap to get myself back out on the trail. The laps got lonelier and lonelier as the race field got thinner and thinner and with each time I took to the trail I knew I was fighting for my race life.
I reached the 60 mile mark at 13 hours and 04 minutes into the event.
67.5 and the finish. I did something at mile 67.5 that I rarely ever do during an ultra-marathon. I sat down. On my 18th lap, 15 hours and 19 minutes into the race I was mentally broken. The heat of the day won, I was beaten. I was tired. I was worn out, hurting and soaked to the skin. I had been soaking wet for more than 15 hours. In truth I wanted to be anywhere else but there.
I was done. Sitting in camp, I had been off my feet for five minutes when a friend and former team member Lloyd said he would go out with me if it would keep me in the fight. Being two laps short of my fall back goal of 75 miles I asked Lloyd if he had two laps in him. He told me he did and we headed back out onto the trails.
I finished the race with 75 miles at 17 hours and 38 minutes into the 24 hour event. I was once and for all done.