Half Marathon Finisher.
When I began my training for the Akron Half Marathon, I wasn’t really sure that my name would be next to those words in less than seven months. After last week, it is.
About a week before race day I thought the run would be a great one. I came off my final 10-mile training run feeling good and running faster than I had been all summer. But then I started feeling pain in my right foot that wouldn’t go away.
Akron Marathon Race Director Brian Polen told me it was likely a result of tying my shoes too tight. I loosened my laces, but the pain persisted. I was able to get through my short training runs all week, though, so I figured that I could at least get through the 13.1 miles with some extra walking.
As it turned out, it wasn’t that big of an issue. It was smooth sailing as Brian, Akron Marathon Social Media Manager Lauren Toole, and I took off down High Street and over the Y Bridge into North Hill. It wasn’t until we were heading back toward Downtown on Gorge and Glenwood that I noticed that I had an issue. By the time we reached the halfway mark, it was bad enough that I needed to add more walking than I had hoped.
I can’t really explain what happened over the next few miles. As we made our way down Brown St. for miles 7 and 8 the pain went away and I was able to run faster. Miles 9 and 10 were some of the fastest we ran all day.
After mile 10, I was in uncharted territory. I had never run more than 10 miles in one workout. I’m used to my workouts going up in distance every week so I figured it wouldn’t be as bad as I thought it could be. But after 10 quick (for me) miles, I hit a wall. I knew I would be able to finish, but I also knew the final three miles would be ugly.
As we went through that last trip through Downtown Akron, I couldn’t help but think back.
To when I used to look skeptically upon runners.
To when I agreed to announce the Gay Games Marathon back in 2014, the first race I ever announced and the event that introduced me to the amazing people of the Akron Marathon.
To when I was asked to be the voice of the new Akron Marathon Race Series events in 2015.
To all those times when George McFly from 94.9 WQMX would needle me about how I should become a runner.
To last August, when I told Brian over beers that I would train for the race series.
To February, when I was winded after a 1 mile walk.
To all those mornings running around the neighborhood.
To all those Saturdays with the Blue Line Beginners.
We broke the tape (actually it was a roll of beer tickets) in 2:36:18, much faster than I expected. It was awesome to see my family there along with the Marathon staff and even some members of the Blue Line Beginners who stopped by. It wasn’t long after we left our post-race meal at Akron Family Restaurant that I started thinking about what race is next. And there will definitely be a next race!
I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to repay the people who helped me along this journey: The Akron Marathon staff for setting all of this up; Brian Polen, Lauren Toole, and George McFly for running races with me (and congrats to Lauren on running her first half marathon!); The Blue Line Beginners for keeping me going on those long Saturday runs; Vertical Runner of Wooster for making sure I had the right gear; the team at 1590 WAKR for letting me do this; the Lake County Captains for putting up with me when I couldn't do normal on-field host things; and each and every one of you who has offered a word of encouragement along the way.
If you ran the Blue Line, it was awesome seeing you at the finish line. If you didn’t, don’t think for one second you can’t. It takes hard work, dedication, and some free time, but you can absolutely be an Akron Marathon Race Series finisher. Who knows, it may just change your life. It certainly changed mine.
“You can’t change the weather. You can change your attitude.”
I found myself repeating that phrase over and over again Monday as I ran the Goodyear 10K course.
Over the last six months, the vast majority of my runs have either been in cool weather or in the shade. Monday, it was in the mid 70s and high humidity. Not exactly the ideal running conditions. But there’s nothing you can do about the weather, and it was pretty similar to the weather for some of the previous August races in the Akron Children’s Hospital Akron Marathon Race Series. So I got ready to run my first ever 10K in what felt like a swamp.
You could argue the weather was payback for June. Because I’m the Akron Marathon’s race announcer, I have to run my races on different days. This paid off at the National Interstate 8K as it was significantly cooler and more overcast for my run than the actual run. No such luck this time around.
To be honest, I was just happy that I made it to the start line. Right after I ran the 8K, I developed some pretty severe pain in my foot that knocked me out of commission for several weeks. I tried foam rolling, exercises, ice, and rest, but nothing seemed to make the pain stay away while I was running. It took changing from the support shoes I usually wear to more neutral shoes for the pain to finally go away.
The sticky weather wasn’t the only thing different about this run. Because the Goodyear Proving Grounds weren’t available for the Blue Line Beginners test run a few weeks ago, I ran the first mile of the actual course for the first time on race day. The proving grounds portion of the course resembles a NASCAR track. It’s fast and flat, so it’s a great way to start a race. It was great seeing several members of the Blue Line Beginners waiting for us when we exited the proving ground and headed for the street (sidewalk in my case) portion of the course.
I was hoping to match my pace from the 8K in the 10K, but I figured by the time we left the proving grounds that wasn’t going to happen. My running pace was slower than it was in June and I needed a walk break by the 1.5 mile mark, a bit earlier than I was anticipating. I was lucky to have Akron Marathon Race Director Brian Polen and Social Media Manager Lauren Toole running with me to keep me going.
The course itself helps too. It’s a fairly fast course that gives you a good tour of Goodyear’s facilities and the new East End development on E. Market St. before running uphill toward Akron Executive Airport. You get a good look at the Air Dock before the half marathon course heads for Ellet and the 10K course turns back toward the finish.
The Last Mile
After the turnaround, the course heads downhill for most of the last mile. Still, I was spent. I had also developed a blister on my foot. I knew I could still put in a decent result, though, so I pressed on.
As we entered the final half mile, Brian reminded me how far I’d come in the last five months and how few people actually finish a 10K. It was exactly what I needed to finish strong. I crossed the line in 1:11:48, only 13 seconds per mile slower than the 8K. I was happy with the result given the humid conditions and the amount of time off I had to take between the 8K and 10K.
Now that I have one 10K under my belt, Brian suggested I run another before the half marathon to get some more experience under my belt. I’ll be running the Amish Country 10K in Berlin on September 8. The hillier course will be a challenge, but one that should help me get ready for the hills in the Akron Half Marathon. I’ll be announcing the Akron Marathon this year, so I’ll run my half marathon on Monday, September 24.
I’m also excited to be on the mic for the actual running of the sold out Goodyear Half Marathon and 10K this weekend. I get to spend a lot more time announcing the names of runners as they cross the finish line in this race than the others in the series. If you’re running, make sure to reach out to me or stop by the start line stage before the race so I know to be looking for you!
If you would have told me a year ago that I’d be at the start line of an 8K, I would have called you crazy. Yet that’s where I was on Monday morning.
As the race announcer for the Akron Children’s Hospital Akron Marathon Race Series, I can’t race the National Interstate 8K on race day. Instead, the Akron Marathon staff set up a “race” for me.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I pulled into the Infocision Stadium parking lot, but I arrived to see not just the Marathon staff waiting for me, but a contingent of Blue Line Beginners who would serve as our cheering section and water stop crew throughout the run. There was even pump up music and an introduction like we’ll do for the runners on Saturday!
At 7:00 a.m., it was time. Akron Marathon Race Director Brian Polen, Social Media Manager Lauren Toole, and George McFly from 94.9 WQMX took off from the start line with me to start the 4.9 mile trek around the University of Akron campus and Downtown Akron.
I knew the first 1.5 miles would be important. In the Blue Line Beginners test run a few weeks ago, I walked the first half mile before running the next mile. I ended that run with gas in the tank, so I decided to try running the entire first 1.5 miles this time around. This challenge was compounded by the fact that there was still some lingering soreness from when I tweaked my leg a few weeks ago. Much to my surprise, the pain went away and we flew through it faster than I thought I could. Our cheering section was set up right where we were going to start walking, so we decided to keep running a bit longer.
After walking to the two mile mark, it was time to run down the hill to Main and Market and start the trip down King James Way. It was here where the advantages of run/walking came into play. My watch had been showing a sub-10:00/mile pace for much of our running, but there was no way I could keep that up for nearly five full miles. Instead, we walked a bit near Canal Park and again on the three major uphills on the back half of the course: Broadway near The Depot Apartments, the bridge on Exchange St., and the hill leading to the UA Student Union. It was around a half mile of walking in all, but it made all the difference in getting me through.
When you reach the UA Commons portion of the course around mile 4.3, you can see Infocision Stadium and you know the finish line is close. I was pretty spent by this point but I knew I had to keep pushing.
I thought back to the first training session I did in February when I found myself huffing and puffing after a mile of walking, a mile that happened to be the first mile of the 8K course. I thought back to a month ago when I suffered my first major setback when I tweaked my leg so badly that it hurt to walk. After coming all this way, I couldn’t stop now. With Brian, George, and Lauren cheering me on, we made it around the stadium and to the field.
Turning the corner onto the field at Infocision Stadium was a moment I’ll never forget. Seeing the Akron Marathon staff and the Blue Line Beginners crew waiting for us, getting my very first race medal, and downing some postrace Chick-Fil-A and root beer was awesome. We finished the 8K in 55:41, more than six minutes faster than the time I put up during the test run.
But the work is far from over. I’ll be back on the road later in the week getting ready for the Goodyear 10K and the Akron Half Marathon. I’ll also be on the mic this weekend, encouraging the runners at the National Interstate 8K and 1 Mile. It’s been an amazing journey so far, and I can’t wait for what’s to come!
It seems like just yesterday that I started this journey toward the Akron Half Marathon, yet in less than three weeks I’ll take to the National Interstate 8k course to complete the first race of Akron’s summer trilogy.
With coaching from Akron Children’s Hospital Akron Marathon Race Series Race Director Brian Polen, I’ve gone from walking a mile to run/walking six miles. Earlier today, I put in a 5k workout in honor of Global Running Day.
Until today, I hadn’t run on two consecutive days, and my legs didn’t let me forget about it. The first half of the 3.1 mile workout went well, but I could tell that doing the whole thing without walking any of it was going to be a challenge. I wound up having to walk about a half mile in all.
While the workout didn’t quite go as I planned, I couldn’t help but think back to February when I did that very first mile walk. At that time, I would have called you crazy if you said I would be doing anything close to a 5k. It’s amazing how far you can come with a little time and a little effort.
Stick and Ball Sport
Yes, you read that right. Sticks and balls do have a place in running.
A few weeks ago after putting in my first six mile run, I noticed a sharp pain in my right lower leg that wouldn’t go away. When I was sitting or standing it didn’t hurt, but anytime I tried to walk it was painful. The issue didn’t go away as the days went on, so I wound up not running for nearly a week.
Eventually I met with Brian to talk through what was going on. He told me the pain in my shin was likely because the rest of my leg was tight. He suggested two pieces of recovery equipment that got me back running the very next day.
The Stick is exactly what the name suggests: A long, flexible stick with handles on each end. Eight plastic rings surround the stick and act as massagers. It's basically a rolling pin for tight, sore muscles. Along with a foam massaging ball called The Orb (apparently they don’t spend much time coming up with names for these things) and a plan to rotate shoes between the support shoes I was wearing with a more neutral pair, I was able to get back to my training program.
Three Weeks To Go
It seems like it has come up fast, but the National Interstate 8k and 1 Mile is three weeks from Saturday on June 30. Because I serve as the race announcer for that race, I’ll be running the course on Monday, June 25. For anyone looking to get a taste of the course before race day, the Blue Line Beginners are planning a test run on Saturday, June 16.
"Slow down to go faster."
As a fan of auto racing, I've heard that phrase a lot. Don't be so aggressive on certain parts of the race track and your lap times will actually get faster. It turns out the same is true in running.
Over the last couple of weeks, Akron Marathon race director Brian Polen has been slowly adding more running to the run/walks in my training program. At first, I was running as fast as I could for the one minute at a time. Needless to say, "fast as I could" wasn't so fast by the end. For the first mile or so I felt fine, but after that I would notice my running pace falling off. By about the 1.5 mile marker, my walking pace was completely gone as well. As the two mile mark approached, I wasn't sure how I was going to get to the end of the workout.
It took a few times running myself into the ground to realize that I had better back off my pace a bit so I could make it as far as I was supposed to go. But once I did, not only did I feel better but I saw noticeable improvement in my overall pace.
Lt. Dan wasn't lying
In the film Forrest Gump, Lt. Dan reminds Forrest and Bubba about the importance of socks. He was talking about the Vietnam War, of course, but I've found that socks really do make a big difference in running too. When I was trying on shoes at Vertical Runner of Wooster, I couldn't get anything to fit right and not slide around too much until I had on compression socks. There are a bunch of different brands, but the best ones are designed to help people avoid blisters and wick away moisture. The ones I bought cost around $15 per pair, but it was worth it.
Better with friends
In talking to people about my plan to run the Akron Half Marathon, I frequently hear things like "how can you run for that long by yourself? won't it get boring?"
I can't answer that question yet, but I can tell you it's a lot more fun when you get to run with other people. I did my longest workout yet (3.5 miles) with Brian Polen and Lauren Toole from the Marathon staff. Being able to talk with people during the run helped me forget how much work was ahead of me, and I actually felt better than I had at the end of most of my runs in spite of the distance.
Not too late to start
If you still want to get involved with this year's Akron Children's Hospital Akron Marathon Race Series but haven't started training yet, that's okay! This is week one of the Blue Line Beginners program for 2018, and the workouts consist only of 15-20 minute walks, run/walks, or runs. The group will be meeting Saturday at 8:00 a.m. at Botzum Trailhead, 2928 Riverview Road, Akron, for their weekly group run. Members of the Akron Marathon staff are usually in attendance, and there are frequent guest speakers to address various topics related to running.
I'm well into my second week of training for the Akron Children's Hospital Akron Marathon Race Series. While I'm nowhere near ready to hit the Blue Line yet, I've already made a few observations:
We're less than 200 days away from the Akron Marathon, but that doesn't mean it's too late to get started on your own Blue Line journey! One of the cool things about the Akron Marathon Race Series is that they have different distances at different races throughout the summer, so if a half marathon or a relay leg seems too daunting you can start with something as short as a 1 mile and work your way up from there.
The week ahead: Two more brisk walks at longer distances... hopefully with less snow!