Running Around Cleveland

Akron Marathon – Quest for Iridium Leg One
September 25, 2011, 6:41 pm
Filed under: Marathon, Marathon Maniacs, Race Report, Running | Tags: , , ,

The Akron Marathon is my favorite race, but it is a hard one. Even as hard as this marathon is, I sent some high goals for myself. Goal number 1 was to finally break the Sub 4 hour barrier on a marathon. Goal number 2 was to finish this race in my quest to reach the Iridium level in Marathon Maniacs by running 4 marathons in 23 days.

One of the things about running a large race is the expo. The Akron Marathon Expo did not disappoint. It is great place to pick running gear on sale, new nutrition products, info on other races and so much more. But sometimes you can be surprised by what you find at these expos, like when you walk around a corner and see a short runner you know blown up on a jumbo advertisement for the Cleveland Marathon. Congratulations Jess!

Me, Steph, Ryan and Vic getting our pic taken with Mozilla, the new face of the Cleveland Marathon. Photo courtesy of Ryan.

Akron is a hilly course. It is rolling hills for the first 11 miles, followed by a flat 4 mile stretch on the Towpath. Next you go into Sand Run Metropark which is a continuous up hill for 3 miles. Once you get to the top of Sand Run, its more rolling hill to the end. This makes for a very hard course to negative split on. So I decided my strategy was to start at a slightly harder pace than I needed and hold it through Sand Run. Hopefully the extra time I made up in the first 18 miles would be enough cushion for me to bring in my time under 4 hours once Sand Run took its toll on me.

Before the start of the race I met up with my training team, Northeast Ohio Fit, to say our good lucks one last time before heading to our pace groups at the start line.

NEOFIt Couches (Lori, Terry, Brenda and me) seeing each other one last time before the start.

I began my race near the 3:55 pace groups and ran into running friends Kimi, Matt and Steph. My running friends are a huge motivation and inspiration for my running, each in their unique way, and their positive influence is made bigger when I see them before a race.

The Start Line.

The start line was packed with people and the crowd was cheering when the race started. The energy from them got me so pumped up. I was ready to break the 4 hour barrier. All I needed to do was maintain a 9:07 pace or faster. And we were off.

The first mile was so packed with runners that I was only able to get a 9:21 on that first mile. But from there I was able to speed up and take the next 3 miles around an 8:30 pace with Steph before we broke off from each during mile 4. I kept my pace going strong for the first half of the race. I saw my wife and Jess both cheer for me at several locations and got a boost of energy each time.

Still going strong at mile 10!

My first half came in at 1:54:06, a PR! I was right were I wanted to be running slightly ahead of the 3:55 pacer. I had a good cushion going into the hardest part of the race. I kept my pace going into Sand Run. My 3 miles in Sand run were 9:01. 8:58, and 9:16. The last stretch of Sand Run I saw Molly warming up for her leg of the relay and got a shout out from another inspirational runner to keep me energized for the last of that hill. I was doing it! All I needed to do was not slow down below a 10:00 min pace in these last few hills.

I’m not gonna lie, Sand Run took a lot out of me and I was having some doubt. My miles slowed. This was were I needed to be mentally tough. The crowds were thinned and the Sun was starting to beat down. I made it to Market ave leaving me on only 2 miles and some good down hill not running more than a 9:45 mile. On the down hill my pace picked and Kali, another running friend, running in the last leg of the Relay gave me a shout out as she ran past.

I looked at my watch at the last mile, sub 4 hour was mine, I just needed to run. I was pushing hard but I was moving slow. With a half mile left I heard Steph and Vic, who had finished their half marathon, shouting my name. They really got me feeling good and I picked up my pace as much as I could. I turned the last corner and ran into Canal Ballpark. I could see the finish line. I ran with the closest thing I had left to a sprint.

Pounding it out hard for the finish line.

I crossed the finish line when the clock said 4:00:18, but my chip time was 3:57:31. SUB 4 HOURS!!! A PR by 15 mins, and my best performance at Akron by 57 mins. It was the performance I had hoped for.

Akron Marathon has great finisher bling.

It was a great day for a lot of People too. Steph, Matt, Jeffery and Vic all PRed on the Half. Ryan PRed and Qualified for Boston again. Brenda PRed and only missed a Boston Qualification by 1 Sec. Terry got yet another Boston Qualification at Akron. And my friend Nathan and many others of the NEOFit team ran their first marathon that day. Congratulations everyone!

So leg one of the Quest for Iridium is done. Leg 2 is the Red, White & Blue Marathon on October 2. Today I am feeling like I can run another one. Its amazing how well I have started to recover from marathons in the last year.

One other request to my readers. Please read my blog post on the Goofy Challenge and consider donating to the Liver Life Challenge.

9 Comments so far
Leave a comment

You are SO SO SO SO awesome! I am thrilled for you! Way to destroy your time goal! I about peed my pants when I saw you going up Sand Run, you looked so strong!

Comment by mollyberries

Thanks! But I am glad you didn’t pee your pants, I would have laughed so hard I would have had to stop running. Maybe miss my goal. Thanks for cheering me on!

Comment by Justin

Holy crap – you beat your PR by 15 minutes??? Damn.
Good work, Justin!!!!!!!!

Comment by Heather

Justin I am so proud of you. I’m very glad I got to watch you accomplish goal number 1. I look forward to cheering you on in your future marathons and complete goal number 2. You are an example for when you put your mind to something and are determined to accomplish it you can! I love you.

Comment by JessicaMcI

Great recap of a great race Justin! Yay for PRs and running friends too. Good luck with your last three and getting very excited for the Towpath and Disney!

Comment by Hungry in Cleveland

congrats!! That is so amazing! When I ran akron…the sand run hills killed me. I ran them in the relay on saturday. I’ll tell you what, they are much easier on fresh legs 🙂 I’m glad you PRed! So great!!

Comment by Becca

Congrats again on a great PR!

Comment by mojamala2

Great Job Pumpking…. This is a great Read and great step 1 of your crazy ass goal!

Comment by rn4atsm

You ROCK!!!!!!!! Bring on the Towpath!!!!

Comment by @Beal88 aka Matthew Beal

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