Here it is — my recap and review of the 40th running of the Cleveland Marathon. It sounds so fancy when I say it like that, doesn’t it? If you missed yesterday’s recap of the 5K/8K and VIP event, make sure you give it a read.
I feel like anything I put in this recap and review won’t do this race justice. It was such an incredible weekend. I’ve run the Cleveland Marathon races since 2014 and I stand firm in my declaration that the 40th running of the Cleveland Marathon was the best yet.
Cleveland Marathon Race Review
I’ve both driven and taken public transportation to the Cleveland Marathon. Both are really easy and parking’s never been a problem. Unfortunately this year, my friends and I hit a bit of a snafu. We planned on parking at the hotel where the VIP event was two nights before and using the restroom on the way to the corrals but they locked the bathrooms! It was a scramble to get from our parking garage to the corrals back to the porta-potties and back to the corrals again. Thankfully everything worked out, but my vote is public transportation next year. #simplify
The swag for the Cleveland Marathon was amazing this year. It was the 40th running, after all — couldn’t just give out run-of-the-mill stuff! The challenge series runners received three medals, a keychain, and a blanket. Full marathoners received a medal, keychain, and a towel. Half marathon finishers and single distance finishers (5K, 8K, 10K) received a keychain and a medal. I did have a brief moment of FOMO over the blanket on Friday night before the 8K and almost signed up for the challenge series, but I ultimately decided to be smart and not run back to back races.
The crowd support was amazing this year. I’m not one to care much for crowd support, but this year truly took it to a whole new level. I attribute this to both a course change as well as ideal weather conditions.
In years past, there have been very long stretches of desolate roadway — either in the form of potholes for miles or the miles of shoreway along Lake Erie with literally no crowd support at all. This year the course meandered through all the Cleveland hotspots — downtown, the Rock Hall and Roll Hall of Fame, the Flats, and Tremont. Cleveland is notorious for potholes but this year it was minimal. There was a lot to look at — places I had never been before in Cleveland — and every area of the course lent itself to easy access for spectators. I even saw fellow blogger, Lisa! It was a really nice surprise.
The post-race atmosphere was tons of fun. In prior years, the finisher chutes were confusing and congested. The post race party wasn’t really accessible (I actually don’t even know where it was) and the crowd just kind of dispersed at the end. This year, however, the finish line was located at Public Square. The Beer Garden was adjacent to gear check, there was music, tons of finish line spectators, and a much more fun atmosphere in general.
The weather! What Cleveland Marathon wouldn’t be complete without some wacky weather, right? This year was no different. Thank GOD it was nowhere near last year’s fiasco, but it was warm and humid which meant lots of people were suffering from slower pace times as well as edging on dehydration. The weather was in the mid 60s with 80% humidity. After I finished, my family and I headed to the VIP brunch at an adjacent hotel and by the time we came out it was pouring. I was thankful I wasn’t out there but I knew some of my friends were still on the course for the full.
Now that the nitty-gritty’s out of the way, I’ll move on to the race recap.
Cleveland Marathon Race Recap
My friends and I drove downtown (against our better judgement of taking the rapid), planned on using a restroom en route to the starting corrals, and then I planned to meet up with fellow Cleveland ambassador, Melissa, to hopefully pace her to a PR. Unfortunately, said bathrooms were locked! and we had to hightail it over to the porta-potties at the start. Upon arriving at the starting area, the porta-potty lines were 45+ minutes wait time and we only had 30 minutes before the race. Talk about panic! I had two cups of coffee and a lot of water before heading downtown, and my friends both had to use the bathroom, too. Thank goodness a nice gentleman came over and told us about a whole line of potties by the finish line with no one waiting. Brilliant!!
I jogged back to the starting line, found Melissa, gave her her race plan, and then the race started! There was no time for selfies, no group photo — nothing this year. Such a rush.
Unfortunately Melissa and I didn’t run together. I pulled over a couple of times to wait for her but I never saw her. After the second time of stopping, I felt a tap on my shoulder and it was my friend, Will! He was running the full as a training run and was in no hurry. Lucky for me, I was running the half as a training run and also in no hurry. I count my lucky stars that I had a running buddy because I wasn’t quite ready to turn on the tunes — I was only about two miles in at this point.
“Just shuffle fast enough not to be walking.”
The first couple miles breezed by. Will and I have known each other for a while so it was nice to catch up with him. We averaged a 10 minute/mile pace, which was perfect, but got quickly derailed at mile 4 with a 45% grade hill. I swear to god, the hill was no joke. Will joked “just shuffle fast enough not to be walking” and we had a nice laugh. But damn, even the shuffle was brutal!
After the hill from hell, it was smooth sailing. Kinda. It was super humid and I could feel myself getting a bit dehydrated. I wasn’t doing a great job at hydrating with my drink because it was too sweet. I do better with plain water during the warmer months and I should have remembered that when I filled my bottle on race morning. In any event, I grabbed water at almost every water stop for the remainder of the race. At one stop, around mile 8, I grabbed two and chugged them both.
I saw Lisa somewhere between miles 6 and 7 I want to say, but I can’t be sure. It was such a surprise to see her! We were hoping to meet up after the race but then the rain happened, so that didn’t happen. At least she snapped this action shot of me. It looks like I’m talking to the runner but really I’m smiling and calling to her — just mid-turn I guess!
The biggest takeaway for me from miles 5-10 was how hungry I was. It was all I could do to not talk about food. I’m sure Will tired from hearing me talk about all the burgers, lasagna, pancakes, sausages, bacon, pizza, donuts, and beer I was going to ingest after the race. To be fair, I only had eggs, potatoes, sausage, and bacon afterward.
Around mile 10.5 is where I split off from Will. This was the saddest part of my day! As soon as we said our goodbyes I was all like, “uhhh… now what?” I had no one to talk to and I wasn’t really interested in listening to tunes. Plus running with him was keeping my pace up a bit. Left to my own devices I was worried I was going to slow waaaaaay down.
No sooner did I have these thoughts and put my earbuds in did I hear, “do you know what time it is?” A lady was asking me what time it was. Of course I checked my watch and then we started chatting. I eventually found out her name was Lucy. She had run one half marathon before but it was years before, and one marathon 20 years before that. She and I were instant running partners. We were the same pace and talked about how we enjoy running with other people. When she found out I was a running coach she said that she didn’t really run fast across finish lines. Challenge accepted.
We sailed through a mile and a half at an easy 10 minute pace. As soon as I saw there was only a mile and a half left, I told her we were picking up the pace.
We got faster and faster until I finally had her sprinting. She told me she liked to pick people to beat in races. She had her sights set on one person that was way too close and not enough of a challenge. We ended up picking off five other runners and she cruised across the finish line with a sweet new PR.
As for me, I didn’t PR this race. In fact, this was my personal worst in terms of time. But I tell you what — this was a fantastic race for me. Not only did my IT bands behave, I got to run with a friend, make a new friend on the course, and I helped her snag a new PR. It was a really awesome race. I couldn’t have asked for a better day.
Finish time: 2:14:29
After the race, I found my family and a few friends, and then headed to brunch! It was amazing and I was so happy to have so much food. Half marathon food dreams do come true!
And remember Stephanie from yesterday’s post when Melissa got engaged? Well, as it turns out, her then-boyfriend (now fiance) proposed at the finish line of the marathon! And the whole race was in on it! I so wish I had been there to witness it, but at least there are tons of videos and pictures. Two ambassador engagements in one weekend — love certainly was in the air!
The 2017 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon — the 40th running of the Cleveland Marathon — was one for the books. It was an amazing weekend all around. The course was fantastic and the energy from the runners and the spectators was contagious. I don’t know one person that had a bad race in Cleveland this weekend. Not one.
I would be remiss if I didn’t give special acknowledgement to the Cleveland Marathon staff and organization. Thank you so much to the team behind the Cleveland Marathon events. The race you put together this year is far and away your best one yet. I look forward to what’s in store for the future. I appreciate all the time and care you give your ambassadors, and I’m grateful I had the opportunity to be a part of this memorable weekend. To my fellow Cleveland Marathon ambassadors: it’s been real, as always. I’ve enjoyed getting to know you all over the last two years. Now, when are we going out for drinks?
TALK TO ME!
Have you ever witnessed a post-race marriage proposal?
Have you ever had a personal worst race performance only to have it be one of your most fun races?
Linking up with My No-Guilt Life, Marcia’s Healthy Slice, and MCM Mama Runs for Tuesdays on the Run, and HoHo Runs and MissSippi Piddlin’ for the Weekly Wrap. Also linking up with Nicole, Annmarie, and Jen today for Wild Workout Wednesday!