If you would have told me a year ago that I’d be at the start line of an 8K, I would have called you crazy. Yet that’s where I was on Monday morning.
As the race announcer for the Akron Children’s Hospital Akron Marathon Race Series, I can’t race the National Interstate 8K on race day. Instead, the Akron Marathon staff set up a “race” for me.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I pulled into the Infocision Stadium parking lot, but I arrived to see not just the Marathon staff waiting for me, but a contingent of Blue Line Beginners who would serve as our cheering section and water stop crew throughout the run. There was even pump up music and an introduction like we’ll do for the runners on Saturday!
At 7:00 a.m., it was time. Akron Marathon Race Director Brian Polen, Social Media Manager Lauren Toole, and George McFly from 94.9 WQMX took off from the start line with me to start the 4.9 mile trek around the University of Akron campus and Downtown Akron.
I knew the first 1.5 miles would be important. In the Blue Line Beginners test run a few weeks ago, I walked the first half mile before running the next mile. I ended that run with gas in the tank, so I decided to try running the entire first 1.5 miles this time around. This challenge was compounded by the fact that there was still some lingering soreness from when I tweaked my leg a few weeks ago. Much to my surprise, the pain went away and we flew through it faster than I thought I could. Our cheering section was set up right where we were going to start walking, so we decided to keep running a bit longer.
After walking to the two mile mark, it was time to run down the hill to Main and Market and start the trip down King James Way. It was here where the advantages of run/walking came into play. My watch had been showing a sub-10:00/mile pace for much of our running, but there was no way I could keep that up for nearly five full miles. Instead, we walked a bit near Canal Park and again on the three major uphills on the back half of the course: Broadway near The Depot Apartments, the bridge on Exchange St., and the hill leading to the UA Student Union. It was around a half mile of walking in all, but it made all the difference in getting me through.
When you reach the UA Commons portion of the course around mile 4.3, you can see Infocision Stadium and you know the finish line is close. I was pretty spent by this point but I knew I had to keep pushing.
I thought back to the first training session I did in February when I found myself huffing and puffing after a mile of walking, a mile that happened to be the first mile of the 8K course. I thought back to a month ago when I suffered my first major setback when I tweaked my leg so badly that it hurt to walk. After coming all this way, I couldn’t stop now. With Brian, George, and Lauren cheering me on, we made it around the stadium and to the field.
Turning the corner onto the field at Infocision Stadium was a moment I’ll never forget. Seeing the Akron Marathon staff and the Blue Line Beginners crew waiting for us, getting my very first race medal, and downing some postrace Chick-Fil-A and root beer was awesome. We finished the 8K in 55:41, more than six minutes faster than the time I put up during the test run.
But the work is far from over. I’ll be back on the road later in the week getting ready for the Goodyear 10K and the Akron Half Marathon. I’ll also be on the mic this weekend, encouraging the runners at the National Interstate 8K and 1 Mile. It’s been an amazing journey so far, and I can’t wait for what’s to come!
It started as a Beacon Journal project, became a year-round organization, and is now ready to welcome its next batch of running newbies.
Blue Line Beginners will hold its first meeting of 2018 for new members on Saturday, March 31 at 11:00 a.m. at the Main Branch of the Akron Summit County Public Library in Downtown Akron. The organization, founded by Beacon Journal reporter Paula Schleis, aims to take people who have never run a race before and train them to run the races of the Akron Children's Hospital Akron Marathon Race Series.
Schleis and Akron Marathon Race Director Brian Polen joined Jasen to talk about the program and how just about anyone can get involved.