Months ago I suggested to some twitter friends that we run a marathon relay. They thought I was joking about the whole idea, but after some persistence and lots of research, we finally decided upon running the Akron Marathon Team Relay. The original team consisted of Jeff, Lauren and myself, but because the Akron Relay could have up to 5 people, we brought on Steff and Sarah.
For months we planned, we trained and did everything else involved with getting ready for a relay. Since I took on most of the planning, they all deemed me Cap’n Chelsea. I had no problem with this, as I’d honestly rather plan all the details and know what’s going on than just show up and not know anything.
The first thing on the do list was to come up with an awesome team name. I can’t recall who came up with it, but since 4 of the 5 (ahem, the 1 of 5 is me) are big Disney people, we went with Team Four Princesses and a Frog. Of course Jeff was the token frog! The second assignment was to break up the relay legs. Sarah took the first leg (3.9 miles), Steff took the second leg (4.8 miles), we put the Frog in the middle (7.5 miles), Lauren took the big hill in the fourth leg (4.5 miles) and I snagged the last leg to finish in the stadium (5.5 miles). During the many months leading up to the race, Team Four Princesses and a Frog, quickly became the favorites on social media by the Akron Marathon staff. This is also how the Princesses were asked to be on Team Panera for the Akron Marathon. What a great experience that was in itself as well!!
The weekend wasn’t just about the team Four Princesses and a Frog, as Nathan flew up from Florida to run the half marathon and Matthew (Sarah’s boyfriend) also decided to run the half as well. We also talked Kelsey into signing up for the half.
A week before the race, Sarah got some bad news that she had a stress fracture in her foot. No running for awhile. In a boot and on a scooter! To say she was pretty bummed might be an understatement, but she is awesome and instead of running with us, she became our number 1 cheerleader! Steff also stepped up and ended up running Sarah’s leg.
So, here it was. Akron Marathon weekend finally was here! Jeff went up early to pick up Nathan, Sarah and Matthew drove out early to meet them & Steff and I hit the road after going to the Great Race Expo. Kelsey didn’t make the trip as she was battling a crazy migraine, plus she was moving that weekend. Lauren and MB were suppose to be in Akron around 6pm, but didn’t make it until almost 9pm. Those crazy kids are always late. We all did the expo separately and then Steff and I worked the Pittsburgh Marathon booth there for a free entry into next year’s race! (Umm, hello free entry for my first marathon!!)
We had dinner reservations that night and let’s just say that was a disaster. Needless to say, we ended up getting a hefty discount on dinner and if I am ever in Akron again, won’t be going back there. At least it provided several hours of pure entertainment though!
The group wanted to meet at 6:15am to head to the start line. Those crazy kids and their early mornings. I asked Steff to basically wake me up at the last minute. Since I was running the last leg, I technically didn’t have to even get ready for the race yet. I had planned to see the start and then head back to the hotel, relax and get ready.
Since we were running for Team Panera we got VIP Access to the start/finish line and an awesome Team Panera shirt to run in as well!
The group made it to the lobby in the morning and then we were off to the start line.
Poor Nathan looked like he was stepping out into an arctic chill. (We later found out he wore 2 pairs of socks because he didn’t want to get cold — That crazy FL boy!). We made our way to the start corral, said good-bye to Steff, Nathan and Matthew and the rest of us made our way to the VIP Start Line area.
It was nice to step back and actually watch the start of the race. It’s not something you get to do a lot as a runner, since you’re usually in the starting corral getting anxious to cross the start line.
After all the runners were off, Jeff headed to his relay start and Lauren and I went back to the hotel room. We just relaxed and then Lauren headed to her leg. Finally about an hour or so, I go ready and headed out. I walked the last .5 miles or so of the race and found out I had a chance to see Matthew finish, so I stayed around to see him turn into the stadium.
I went to grab the shuttle to the start of my relay leg as I didn’t want to miss Lauren. I got there with about 45m to space, so I cheered on other runners & waited for Lauren. I finally heard our bib number called but what I also heard was “CHELSEA” “CHELSEA” “CHELSEA” CHELLLLLLSEA” coming from Lauren as she ran through the relay exchange. I jumped out, got the slap bracelet, gave Lauren a hug and off I went!
I had 5.5 miles and my goal pace was 10:45. I was feeling good in the first 1.5 miles and was hitting my pace perfectly. I got to the one hill on my leg and actually passed some people. Now, when I pass someone, especially marathons in the last 4 miles of their race, I always turn to them, cheer them on and give them a little motivation boost. I am sure many want to punch me in the face and others actually might appreciate the gesture, but either way I always do this.
The leg I had was through some nice neighborhoods. There were a lot of really nice houses, great cheering sections & even people setting out goodies for the runners to grab. Somewhere with about 2 miles left in the run, I came across this one marathoner and started to over take her.
As I passed her, I did my typical motivational push, cheered her on and smiled. However, as she looked at me all I could see was a face getting ready to burst into tears. I immediately slowed down to run with her to really just check on her. She immediately said she was having pain and just wanted to give up. We talked a bit about the pain and kept reinforcing how great she has done thus far and that she was *this close* to the finish line.
She honestly just looked like she hated the world right then. I want to say I get it, but not being a marathoner (yet) I don’t really get it. All I could see is that she worked so hard to get to the finish line and I could somehow help her I would. I told her we would finish this together.
I suggested we walked a little (She had been walking before I got to her) to ease up and then we would get back onto the running. I tried to get her talking about things to get her mind off the pain she had and in some of our small talk, she mentioned she was only 4.5 postpartum. My jaw dropped! I was even more impressed at this point.
She felt bad she was holding me up, but I told her if she needed a little help, I passed her at the right moment to help her. I didn’t mind slowly up to help get her through her race. We did some walking, we did some running, but the goal was just to keep moving to get closer to that finish line. As we were coming into the last stretch, I told her to buckle in that we were going to finish this beast.
We got to the turn into the stadium and I think she just wanted to be done. Understandable. I told her we had .1 left and she couldn’t give up now and that her whole family was there waiting for her. I had told the whole group the night before that I was going to cross the finish line doing something crazy. Well, once we hit the field, I could see her getting to the finish but I turned around, started running backwards to cheer her on all the way to the finish. I crossed the finish line with the clock saying 4:14(ish).
I immediately hugged this girl, got medical over as a just in case (since she still kept saying how much pain she was in) and reaffirmed to her that she did an amazing job and her finish was nothing to hang her head on. I said good-bye and headed over to get our relay medals. I quickly found the group in the large crowd and passed out our medals! Our finish time was 4:08:05!! WOWZERS. Such little speed demons. (Also, my pace just dropped to sub 11’s once I started run/walking with the marathon runner, but it was totally worth it!)
Once we finished handing out medals, hugging and taking selfies, we headed back to the hotel to change before we got on the road. All of this couldn’t have happened without the amazing staff at Akron Marathon, especially Andrew, and Panera. Thank you all for putting on one amazing event and supporting us all through our training!
One race was done for the weekend… one more to go!