Without a doubt, always on of my favorite weekends of the year. It has come and gone, and I’m quite melancholy about that, but there is so much good to reflect on. This was my third year being an Ambassador for the Cleveland Marathon, and doing that during the 40th edition was insanely special. Our Ambassador is really close, and we had a lot of huge things happen this weekend.
But first I’ll start by saying that this was the first weekend my wife and I had to ourselves since our son was born four and half years ago. A great excuse to spend a weekend together, and really special to be without the kid for a couple of days. It was really cool because Brittany hadn’t had the chance to meet all of the Ambassadors yet, and she got to go to the VIP reception with me this year. So we got the chance to get all fancy, and she got the chance to meet everyone. She fit right in, because they all kept saying they pretty much knew her anyways.
The VIP reception is always full of laughs and good food… and plenty of beer (it’s free, sue me), but this year had something extra special. Melissa Bixler is one of the favorites of the group. I got the chance to meet her boyfriend at the reception, and let me tell you, she found the right guy. He knew what this group and event meant to her. We all take pictures with our significant other on the steps of the Arcade, but she got so much more. Chad certainly listens and pays attention to Melissa, and after they took their pictures, he got down on one knee and proposed to her. Couldn’t believe we had an engagement this weekend! So happy for you guys, and congratulations! Here’s to many years of happiness!
After the VIP reception, it was off to a bar to watch the Cavs game. Fortunately it was over at the second quarter, and I was able to get some sleep before the 8k the next morning. I chose to do the 8k/Full challenge as a chance to get back to having fun in running. I knew that I could race a good 8k for confidence, and that it would take some pressure off of the Full the next day. If I run out of gas, I blame it on the 8k, and get out and have fun. Was it the best strategy? For racing and time, probably not, but for fun, absolutely! So I woke up Saturday, put in a little warm up, stretched, and towed the line. I was ready to go full bore for 4.97 miles and try and defend my age group (30-34) crown from last year. Last year I ran 6:33s for the whole event, and knew I needed to stick around there or faster. The hard thing about going after age group titles, you never know who you’re racing. I can’t compete with the college kids or high schoolers, but most of the 30 year olds, I can hold my own against.
Once the race started, I managed to hold myself back from starting out way too fast. It’s hard when all the little kids and teenagers start running 5:30 miles to do that. People just sprint in the shorter races, for a half mile before they die, and I knew better. So I dialed it back, and felt great. We ran through downtown, by the Browns stadium and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and hit mile 1…. 6:12. I was a little irritated with myself on that, but still felt great. Then we hit mile 2 and 3, and I was still rocking around 6:30. I was happy with that and knew I’d be where I needed to be to come close to my AG winner. As one of the older dudes, one of my favorite things is pounding a high schooler into the ground. Usually it happens towards the end of a half marathon. But with this being just over 5k, I came across one about mile 4. I slowly reeled him in, then floored it past him. I felt him hang with me for maybe a quarter of a mile, but turned around at one point and he was gone. Then ahead of me I saw another guy. He looked like he could be about in my AG, so I wanted to start reeling him in, but I just didn’t have enough time.
I loved that the race added a second water stop to this event this year, and was really pumped when @amyballa (instagram) shouted me out. Thanks for being out there this day, and making me feel so cool! It was enough for me to continue to try and reel in this guy ahead of me, and we came into the 5k walkers on the course. The guy ahead of me took the route of running outside of the runners, I decided to try and zig zag. He was maybe 8 seconds ahead of me, and I knew if I could hit the tangents better, I had a chance. We made a final turn, and then I saw the finish. I looked at my watch and thought “There’s not enough course. This isn’t long enough”. I actually freaked out for a second and thought we cut the course. An 8k is 4.97 miles, but I wasn’t even close. I kicked to the finish and stopped my watch at 4.75. Mary Sutter, the Social Media Guru for the event, stopped me to congratulate me on my finish. I was seriously freaking out. I never want to cheat in running, and felt maybe I did. Turns out everybody said the course was short, so it is what it is. I was able to finish 8th overall, but just missed my age group with a time of 30:35. The actual distance was 4.75 which was 6:26 miles. I want to count it as an 8k PR, but I can’t.
Here’s a lesson for people who may be new to running, there is usually a reason something isn’t perfect. I am actually pretty upset the distance wasn’t where it was supposed to be, but I understand that this race did a lot to share the finish across FIVE events, 5k, 8k, 10k, half, and full. Then you are at the mercy of the streets in the areas to be able to map a distance perfectly. The focus of the Cleveland Marathon wasn’t to make the 5k/8k courses perfect. It was to add a special element for people who want to push themselves even harder, accomplish new goals, and get some extra swag. The 5k/8k courses weren’t certified, and that’s OK. I say all this to say, no race is 100% perfect. Some races focus on amazing swag, some focus on fast courses. Some races put their energy into making a world class event with entertainment. You are NEVER going to get it all.
A lot goes in to coordinating these types of things, and I am grateful to have received an awesome medal for the 8k, and a super badass medal for completing the 8k/Full. Sure, I could bitch and moan about the short distance, but that would take away from MY accomplishments. Perhaps you could just sit back and enjoy what you did on a given weekend, and revel in the fact that you’re a complete badass. That’s what I’m doing with my 8k. Didn’t win my AG, but I beat a youngin’ into the ground, and finished top 10 overall for the second straight year. I have plenty to be thankful for.