When I first ran the Cleveland Marathon in 2014, I had absolutely no idea what it would mean to me five years later. I wasn’t a dedicated runner, and had never trained for a race, especially a full, until I decided to register for it with my brother. That year was my first full marathon, but also the beginning of something so damn special. Within 48 hours, I had registered for another full at Columbus. This coming from a dude who for years and years before was never going to run a full marathon. After running Columbus with success that year, I began to think about the next year when my wife noticed the Cleveland Marathon asking for people to register to become Amabassadors. I figured, what the hell.
This is when everything changed for me, and an amazing community of people opened their arms to me, and accepted me as one of their own. I have gotten to know so many good people through this program, and it has given me more confidence to be active in my local running community.
With the 2018 Cleveland Marathon weekend upon us, Brittany and I headed up to Cleveland on Friday. This is my fourth consecutive year as an Ambassador for the race, and I could not be more grateful to the staff and other Ambassadors for having me. This has been a strange 12 months for me from a running stand point, and having them around me to understand, ecourage, and kick my ass from time to time is amazing. When you find a group like we have, you really do want to hang with them as much as possible, for as long as possible. Again, I am so grateful for the past four years, and hope to be back for number five next year!
Friday was an amazing chance to hang out with this group. There is a semi-formal VIP reception at the Arcade at the Hyatt Regency. The food is good, the beer is free, and the company is incredible. We shared stories and jokes, and soaked in the beginning of what had the feeling of an amazing weekend. This year felt different for some reason. It had a special aura around it, you could feel it in the air.
I mentioned the free beer at the reception. I definitely got my money’s worth from that this year. After Brittany and I went back to the hotel, we started an episode of The Office, and I don’t think I even made it past the intro before falling asleep. Before I knew it, the alarm had gone off, and it was time to drink a cup of coffee, eat a banana, drink some water…. and have the worst hangover of my life. I had no idea I went so hard the night before until before the 5k race on Saturday. As I was stumbling to the start, I ran into Steph Lesco (a fellow Ambassador). When she asked how I felt, I responded “I am hungover AF”. “Me too!” she replied. We shared some laughs for a moment, but I had to use the restroom and wanted to run around a few minutes to see if I was even up to a 5k.
As I was running around, I noticed how good my legs felt. I had a pounding headache, but I felt really good apart from that. I decided I would toe the start and just get done as quick as I could. The mile and a half was awful. I was running a good pace, but on a downhill, the pounding turned my headache into a migraine. I was seeing the lights in my eyes, and wondered if I would finish. That would be embarrasing to DNF a 5k. I hit flat ground, made a turn, and a few moments it went away completely. So I kept trudging through. I finished this race strong, and was glad I managed to run 6:59 miles the whole way. That is still slow for me, but with my current conditioning, I was very happy. Hopefully a sign of things to come.
Sunday came the 10k. The weather was shit again, but it’s becoming a bit of a badge of honor that you earn when you run the Cleveland Marathon. Since my conditioning is nowhere near where I wanted, I decided to run with Jessica McCartney. She is a fellow Ambassador who has struggled with sinus issues and other sickness all year. She dropped from the full to the 10k, and wanted to just enjoy the race. We decided we would just run 7:45s the whole way, and just hang out. It was probably the most sound race strategy I have ever had. It kept in my limits for this day.
We ran together the whole way until about mile 5. We came down a hill and brick road, and I asked her if she wanted to push it the last mile. She just wanted to stay settled in, but encouraged me to take off. I wanted to see what I would have on my longest run of the year so far. Yes, you read that right. My previous long of 2018 was 5k followed by 1 mile after lifting. When I say this year has been complete shit from a running stand point, I mean it. But you know what? I managed to run a sub seven sixth mile on this day to end the race, and I am 100% good with that. I have something to build on.
As I crossed the finish line, I looked for my wife. Brittany has been at the finish handing out medals each year, and it is so fun to have her hang mine around my neck. This is when the real fun began for the race.
I didn’t want to recap much about my races, as there isn’t much to recap. This is about the Cleveland Marathon and our community this year. After I finished, I went back to the hotel to dry off from the rain and put on normal clothes. I grabbed my VIP placard, and headed back to the finish chute. Seeing all these people accomplish their goals from this vantage point is incredible. To see the volunteers hard at work to make the runner’s day is a rousing success. This is when it hit me. THIS is what running is all about. Sure, it’s something to have a goal and accomplish it. But to be a nameless face to help those who are accomplishing it so much more.
Last night I was interviewing my winner of my free entry, Adam Wheeler. He turned the free entry into a Boston Qualifier, which made me so happy. As we were talking, I realized that participating in a marathon is much more than just running. To be on the side lines handing out water, holding a sign, or offering encouragement is just as valuable. To snap extra photos and giving a high five means something. The community at the Cleveland Marathon is like none of any race I’ve run. Every race I believe has their strong point, but this is Cleveland’s. From beginner to elite, this community makes everyone equal and special. This is what it makes this race so special. I know that this exists in each race, but there is just something different about Cleveland that I can’t quite put my finger on.
Seeing the determination of the staff and volunteers to make this race so special was such an inspiration to me. It was a joy to “only” run the 10k. This allowed me to soak in so much more, and be a part of something greater than just my own goals this year. I am hoping this is exactly what I need to get back on the horse, and run motivated again. Something special is coming. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go run 10k real quick.