It wasn’t even a year ago that I had lined up to the start line of my first marathon and here I was lining up for my third marathon. When I decided to run the Hall of Fame Marathon, there was only one goal for this race and that was to finish. The idea was that I would use this race as one of my qualifying races to become a Marathon Maniac. I picked it as I had heard great things about this race and it was only about 2 hours away so travel would be easy. Since I was running the Pittsburgh Marathon only 7 days later, I approached this to be a nice and easy race.
The week before the race I had a pretty big set back as I was again diagnosed with Bronchitis. In reality, I don’t know if it was actually a new diagnosis or just that I never fully recovered from the first round. I was again put on Prednisone, but the rest part of getting better was pretty difficult as I was back in NYC for work. This gave me even more reason to go into the race at even more of an easy pace and take it easy. It also meant I took off the whole week before the race except for 2 very easy miles on Saturday.
After that easy shake out run, I decided to just get on the road. I had nothing else to do and it was a great day for a drive, so off I went. In the almost 9 years of living in Pittsburgh I had never been to Canton, Ohio. One of the nice perks of this race is that you also got entry into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, so I planned on taking advantage of that day.
I knew this race was a small race, but I didn’t expect the expo to be what it was.. or the lack there of really. The expo itself was outside on Don Scott field. There were some tents set up, but no one was around. The only tent that had anything going on was where you picked up your bib and could shop for some HOF Marathon merchandise. I believe it took all of 2 minutes for me to grab my bib & shirt and take a look around the merch. Since I thought I would be spending more time at an expo and I didn’t I just headed right over to the Hall of Fame to check that out. The perk with the race saved me $24 for my ticket and another $10 for parking. For a race that I paid around $70 for, I think that was quite a perk.
One of the first things I saw as I entered the Hall of Fame was Peyton Manning. Okay, not THE Peyton Manning, but a mural of him. Of course I stopped the first person I could find to get my picture with him. I spent just over an hour there and probably could have spent more time, but didn’t want to be on my feet all afternoon. I also was just hungry. As much as I love football and thought I knew a lot, I actually walked away learning a lot more about the overall history.
After that adventure, I finally checked into the hotel and actually headed to a local brewery for a little snack. Scenic Brewing Co was close by so I figured why not check it out. I ended up grabbing a flight and honestly, didn’t want away with a beer I liked. Oh well. After dinner, I wanted to call it an early night, so I pulled out my race clothes and figured out where I had to go for the shuttle to the race site. The race site by the Hall of Fame had parking you could pay for (I think it was $25) or you could head to a local college, park there and shuttle in. My hotel ended up only being 5 minutes from the college, so that worked out well. I think I was asleep by 9pm since I had a 5:30am wake up call on Sunday.
Race morning came all too quickly. I actually got a great night’s sleep, but having that alarm go off at 5:30am is never fun. I got myself together, packed my bags up and was out the door by 6am. I made it pretty easily to the college to catch the shuttle to the race. This is probably the first time where you can tell this is still a young race. Certain logistics still need some work. They had 2-3 busses around the pick up site, but the line extended for a good 15 minute wait. Instead of trying to load multiple buses at once, the volunteer would count out the number of people per bus, load them, the bus would leave and the process would be repeated. It just allowed for unnecessary waiting around. Also, the volunteer wasn’t counting very well as each bus had empty seats. When you have that many people being forced to shuttle to the race site, fill the seats. We’ll make friends.
Finally around 6:30am I was at the race site. I had a bag to check and I wanted to do that before hitting the bathroom line. However, I could not find where that was. In fact there was about 5 runners near me circling the area looking for the same thing. Finally someone directed us to the bag check area and we headed over. This was on the field, so of course you’re walking through wet grass. This race could definitely invest in some large signage as nothing was labeled. I shouldn’t have to literally walk in circles to find out where my bag should be checked.
I will say they seemed to have a pretty good bathroom to runner ratio. There were lines, but they went pretty quickly and everyone was spread out. The race started at 7am and they had this one guy just walking through the lines yelling at runners to get in the start corral because the race was starting in X minutes. It was actually a little annoying. It was a chipped time race, so if I started late, I started late. No big deal. With about 8 minutes to spare, I did make it to the start corral area. It wasn’t anything formal, so I went by the 5:15 pace group and decided to start there. Oh, and as I headed to the start line, there was a couple getting married.
As I mentioned, the only goal for this race was to just finish. I had no time goal. In fact I was hoping there was a pace group slower than 5:15 to help hold me back. Sadly, that was the slowest. As the starting gun went off, I decided to stick with that group and drop back if I needed to. I also planned to stick to my 4:15/:45 run/walk for the race as well. For the first 3 miles or so, I stayed right around the 5:15 pace group. We’d play a little cat and mouse whenever I’d start my run/walk. The pacer, Jim, was hysterical. He was telling jokes and really trying to keep it light. There were probably about 10-15 people with the group.
Somewhere around mile 4, I realized I had gotten ahead of the pace group. I could see them just behind me, but I was slowly getting space between myself and the group. That wasn’t anything I thought about until about the halfway mark. I was pretty much on my own out there. This race did not have very many spectators along the course, but I will say those who were out there were great, especially in the back half.
I would break the race course into two sections. The first half was more through town and was a looped out and back with little overlap on the course where as the back half was an out and back and through more of suburban areas. You definitely could see the difference in areas from mile 3 to mile 18. As someone who had never been to Canton, it certainly gave you a nice tour of the area.
For those first 7 miles I was feeling great. I was fueling at the right times, taking in fluids and not coughing up a lung along the way. I think with the week off, my legs just wanted to go and that’s exactly what they did. Around mile 8 we turned into a park area. It was absolutely gorgeous area and we did about a 2 mile loop through this park. It was also around this time where I felt what was beginning to feel like a blister on my 2nd toe on my right foot and that was a place I’d never gotten a blister but at this point, there wasn’t anything that I could do.
At the end of the park, we turned into another area and there was the President William McKinley Museum & Memorial. It was a ton of stairs leading up to it and al I could think is that I’m glad I am not running that right now. As we turned out of park for good, we hit what I thought was honestly the worst hill of the race and being from Pittsburgh, it wasn’t that bad. I hate hills and suck at them usually, so it was interesting that I kept passing people who stopped to walk up the hill.
We turned and headed back toward the finish line area where the marathoners would keep going and the half marathoners would break off for the finish line. I think this was my first race where I had to pass the finish line but keep going. Mentally. That sucks. What also sucked was again the lack of signs. I remember reading on the website there would be signs directing runners and as I get to the turn off, I actually had to ask a cop standing there if marathoners stayed straight. I was 99% certain we did since I could see the finish line to my right, but there wasn’t one sign confirming that. This actually annoyed me a bit as I should not have to ask where to go, especially when the race said signs would be out there. Again, just ways this race can improve.
Shortly after the split was the official half marathon mark for the marathoners. When I hit that I looked at my watched and realized I was going WAY TOO FAST. How fast? Um, I was on PR pace of a 5:04. That was NOT the goal. Part of me was happy because I was on PR pace, but deep down I knew I was going to be paying for this in a few miles and sure enough, that was the case.
Realizing that I had a really good first half for a reason… oops.
Around this time, I also kept playing cat and mouse with some relay runners. There were hardly any runners out there since most people running that day were doing the half, so it was actually nice to just have bodies out there. I actually used them to slow down a bit, but every time I’d get off my walk break, I’d speed back up. After this race, I’ve come to the conclusion I have a love-hate with the run/walk. I love the walk break and know it gives me a nice break but then I hate that I pick it up almost too fast on the run afterwards. I still have a lot of work to do on this based on this race alone.
I knew at the halfway mark, the back half of this race was going to be bad. I thought I could make it a little closer to the 18-20 mark, but around 15 I was about on slug pace. I think what got me is that I thought a water stop was suppose to be at mile 14.5 and when there wasn’t one, I was a little crushed. The weather although cool, was still a lot hotter than weather I had been running in lately. There was also nothing but sun in the sky. No clouds. Not a one. Oh, and Canton apparently doesn’t have trees. Like I mean seriously, there was not one tree on the course providing shade. By mile 15 I was feeling that and my poor little fingers were more like sausages.
That water stop was not until mile 16.5 and by then I was just annoyed. I started walking a lot more and missing my time intervals. I figured this was payback for that great first half. Oh well. Again, the goal was just to get to the finish line. The one hope with the back half of this race was knowing the Andrew from Andrew Runs A Lot was going to be around mile 18 giving out fruit! I connected with Andrew on Twitter and even though I had never met him in person, knowing he would be there was a great beacon of hope.
Finally I saw the mile 18 sign and saw this guy standing in the middle of the road holding a platter of fruit. Andrew recognized me and we exchanged hellos as I grabbed an orange and watermelon from the tray. It was absolutely amazing. I have found that during all 3 marathons the craving for oranges around the end of the race has been intense. Usually I am not someone who craves oranges, but man around mile 20ish of a marathon, give me all of the oranges.
Then the wheels just fell off all together I think. I had kept my splits between 11:20-11:50 on average until mile 18. This was the first mile that went slower than a 12 minute mile. My stomach was cramping a bit and I just wanted to sit down, but I pushed myself to keep moving forward. Just after mile 19 was the turn around point, so I just needed to get there. Luckily as I did make the turn around, my stomach was feeling better and I tried to get back on my timed intervals. I had a little boost and took whatever I could to keep going.
When I passed Andrew again around mile 20 I saw they had some Popsicles. I zeroed in on those things and asked for one. As he handed it to me, he pulled out his Go Pro and decided to come with me for a minute. I didn’t think anything of it other than to say hi, but sneaky Andrew decided this was the best time to tell me I won his entry into the Cleveland Marathon he had just hosted. I absolutely loved the way he did this and it was a great way to take my mind off the pain and the fact that I still had 10k to go.
At this point in the race, that blister was also just annoying. It was definitely effecting me and my gait. At one point I actually thought about stopping at a med tent to look at it, but then I realized that it would probably be worse and I’d probably not continue on. So I nixed that idea.
Since this whole back part of the race was a true out and back, the scenery heading back in did nothing for me, especially for much of these last 5 miles as I was by myself. Boredom hit and the things that started going through my mind was a little crazy. Name a topic and I probably thought about it at some point.
Somewhere around mile 23, the 5:15 pacer finally passed me up. His group at this point was down to just 1 person. He was still smiling and chatting away though. I knew it was okay that he was passing me as I needed to be slowing down still, but whenever a pacer you start with passes you, it still kicks you in the gut.
These last 3 miles were some of the hardest. I really had no idea if I would make it that last 5k or not. There was lots of walking and certainly mile 24 and 25 were my slowest. It also did not help that the last relay leg was the last 5k of the race and every so often I had a bright eyed and bushy tail running slamming past me on fresh legs.
As I came to the last stretch of the race, I noticed a hill looming ahead. Again, Canton hills have nothing on Pittsburgh, but when you want to be done and this hill is around mile 25.5, it’s truly the last thing you want to see. It definitely was a lot worse from further back. In reality it wasn’t *that* bad. At the top there were 2 volunteers from one of the earlier water stops. The water stop was mostly broken down but they were there still there cheering people on. They did offer me some water, but I said no, thanked them and said I just wanted to finish at this point.
We had just 3 turns to the finish line at this point. I also started to see a lot of people with medals walking back to their cars. One of the coolest things about this race is that you finish on the track of the field. All I had to do what get to that track and I had a 3/4 of a loop and I was done! I also wanted to make sure that once I got to the area I was able to run the rest of the way in.
As I got onto the track, I was clearly the only one finishing at this time. Even though there were lots of people around, I still felt very much by myself. A few awesome people did cheer out for me which I waved and acknowledged. I think the second I crossed the finish line, I exploded in a coughing fit. I even walked right past my medal. The poor volunteer kept following me to give to me but I just couldn’t stop coughing. Someone handed me water which helped. I also got my finisher’s blanket and then headed right over to get my bag. I got someone to snap a few pictures and then it was right back to the bus to my car. As this happened, it hit me that I didn’t see a single photographer on the course. I hope this isn’t the case and they send me a link to pictures. I would be very disappointed if this was in fact the case. I honestly think from the time I crossed the finish line to when I was sitting on the bus, no more than 15 minutes might have passed. I honestly just wanted to get back to get a shower before heading back on the road.
All in all marathon #3 was pretty good. Even with the really crappy bad miles, I still finished so I have to chalk that up as a win. Finishing in a 5:15 was certainly not what I expected. In a way it makes me feel like even though I have been so hard on myself lately about my training, maybe I am about where I was just before St. Jude’s. Now it’s officially time to focus on Pittsburgh. The 1st of 2 marathons in 7 days was officially done. I cannot wait to get my maniac and double agent number on May 1st!
Official Finish Time:
15/16, F 30-39