We last left off with me finishing the 8k on Saturday. After the race, Liam and I headed home for a day packed with lots of fun including a fairy festival (yes, you read that correctly) and a dinner and ice cream date with my dad.
It did feel a bit odd to be packing up and prepping for a race so soon after finishing the first. Typically, if I do race, it’s not twice in the same weekend! So for a second night in a row, I put together a race outfit, figured out my fueling and went to bed early. The logistics were a bit different for the half marathon, as this time, Liam would be staying with my mother in law and I’d be catching an early rapid (train) back downtown.
Sunday morning, I was up and ready by about 4:30 am which is actually a fairly typical wake up time for me. I headed out around 5, grabbed coffee and a fig bar and was on the rapid by 5:25. I struggled to finish my breakfast-maybe nerves or excitement but figured I’d be able to eat while running if necessary (thank you to my ultra running skills where eating real food on the move is a necessity!) I had the good fortune of meeting up with another runner who was taking the rapid for the first time and we passed the 20 minute ride to downtown Cleveland by talking about our race plans and strategies. The main concern of the day seemed to be weather. It actually ended up being ideal- 60 or so at the start, a mostly comfortable wind, some humidity but no direct or intense heat. I’d say we lucked out weather wise for the first time since 2014!
Once off the train (and through the ridiculous line to get out of the station), I headed to the casino for a little pre race prep i.e. bathroom. I try and avoid the portable bathrooms if at all possible because ummm gross. And the casino bathrooms are just way nicer and always empty so that was my first choice. Heading out of the casino, the corrals were just a few minute walk away and I was easily able to find some fellow ambassadors for a pre race pic. We wished each other good luck and off I went. I moved down the corrals and snuck into the corral in front of mine in order to line up with Leighanna who was pacing the 4.10 marathon group. I was originally in Corral D (estimated finish time of 2.10 I believe) but I planned to run a bit faster as I’ve been feeling good and regularly clocking some 9.30 pace easy runs. After finding Leighanna, I was somehow able to find a number of other friends despite it being a race of 15,000 participants. We passed the remaining few minutes with Instagram stories and selfies haha. Clearly I was not in serious race mode!
The walk to the starting line was quick once the race stated (less than 3 minutes) and we surged forward with the masses to the strains of the the traditional “Cleveland Rocks.” The energy was palpable as we made our way through the thicket of runners within the first miles. I settled into a comfortable pace with my friend Allison who I run with 2-3 times per week. We spent a good amount of time laughing, high fiving, and engaging with spectators. As this was week 3 post 100k, my aim was to have fun and not focus on time. I kept saying to Allison; “this is our regular Sunday coffee run.” Plan was to push when I could but back off if needed.
Miles 1-4 were quick (9.46, 9.28, 9.19, 9.16) as we left downtown, passed the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (and an amazingly loud and energetic band) and headed into the East Bank of the Flats. We flew in on a steep downhill and I let my legs and body fall forward with gravity (never been a great down hill runner so I patted myself on the back for that) and later climbed back up on a monstrous uphill as we passed over the Cuyahoga River and into Tremont (someone said something like 45% grade) It was steep but we managed to only slow to a 10.06 pace during that mile. It was also a grate type bridge which felt odd but again, not racing so no big deal.
From there we entered Tremont, a city that I love (my brother lives there!) and on to Ohio City. I continued to feel good-legs were strong, pace was conversational and Allison and I continued with our fun racing strategy which was basically tell as many jokes as possible with the occasional musical interlude. As far as spectators, I must say that they were amazing this year-I really don’t feel like we spent much time without spectators which was such a boost and something I don’t recall from prior years when the course was different. Also, shoutout to my friend Rachel’s husband-I saw him 3, yes 3 times over 13 miles and each time he had the cowbell swagger goin on! Thanks Adam!
We (actually I) did slow down a bit for the remainder of the race (pace ranged from 9.29 to 9.55). Fatigue started to hit a bit and I started walking aid stations. I didn’t feel bad or in pain. Just like there was no zip to my legs which is probably due to the residual of O24. I managed to stick with Allison until mile 11 when she said she felt like “coming in hot” and took off! I held on and trucked through for the last 2 ish miles. I told myself I would work hard because I can and with a tiny little kick I finished in 2.08. Not my best not my worse. I was happy with the outcome as I really didn’t have a goal other than to have fun and not die. Both were accomplished so I can say it was a successful day.
The finish line was well organized and I quickly made my way over to the Beer Garden to meet my friends. My friend Emily hit a PR and nailed her goal of sub 1.45!! The mood was electric as we celebrated her hard earned victory and the amazing races we’d all had. I can’t say I’ve had a better post race experience-everything was easily accessible, lots of different food options (I grabbed and ate a Quest Cereal Bar even before I left the corral!) and it was easy meet up with other’s post race. As the rain set it, I took off with my new medals and tired legs. 5 minutes later, I was on the platform waiting for my train back to my car. It doesn’t get any easier then that!
Overall, I can’t thank the Organizers of the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon enough. It has been a privilege and a pleasure to serve as an Ambassador over the last year. I love this race and how special it is to our community. Can’t wait for RunCLE41 in 2018!