Friday, July 4, 2014

Race Report - North Canton YMCA 5-Mile Race

The North Canton YMCA 2-mile/5-mile Race is an iconic local race held every 4th of July. It's one of at least two major 5-mile races in Stark County. The course starts and finishes on Main Street, the spine of downtown North Canton. In 2012, I was still recovering from running the Canton Marathon in June and wasn't ready to go back to racing. In 2013, I ran the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta. This year, I didn't decide to run this race until late June after tentative plans to go out of town fell through.

The 5-mile race would be a great lactate threshold/VO2Max workout that I usually do on Thursday. A big plus -- it was on a Friday and wouldn't interfere with my long run on Sunday. I also hadn't done a 5-Mile race since the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival 5-Mile race in July 2012 when I gasped my way to a 41:24 (8:17 a mile). My fitness had improved significantly since then, and while my main focus is the marathon distance and my secondary focus is the half marathon distance, I wanted to see what I could do at a much shorter distance. I had done a few 8Ks (4.97 mile) races in college cross country my sophomore year, but I don't remember my times from those races.

When I woke up this morning, I decided to wear my red, white and blue Pro Football Hall of Fame Marathon shirt because of the holiday and it would match my blue Bondi band and my red and black Nike Air Pegasus shoes. I usually run with a water belt, but I decided to experiment, and run without one and rely on the water stations.

The starting line is three miles from my home, and I knew residential streets to take to bypass the traffic.

It was 62 degrees with 82 percent humidity, which was a big improvement from mid to high 70s with 70-90 percent humidity during the prior week. I had struggled to even run 9 minutes a mile. By race time it was 64 degrees with 73 percent humidity. With the lower temperatures, it was as if a suit of armor had been taken off. We were so lucky to get this weather this morning.

I started my 2.76-mile warmup run at about 8 a.m. and ran down South Main Street to Everhard and back. I easily ran 8:50 a mile, when that would have been a hard pace just a few days before in the heat. I stopped by my car, had some last-minute water and jogged to the starting line by the Chase Bank on North Main Street with about three minutes to spare. I actually didn't have to use a port-o-potty because I've learned more about how my body works. I made sure to go a couple times before I left home, I didn't go crazy drinking too much water, I drank to thirst and once I started warming up, my body absorbed all my fluids and didn't send any to my kidneys. I never had to use a restroom until I got home at around 11:15 a.m. This is in contrast to the 2012 race when I drank too much water and was in the port-o-potty when the gun went off. I didn't cross the starting line until about 45 seconds afterwards.

The race is self-seeded. You submit an estimated pace range at registration, and you get a bib with numbers in a color that matches that pace group. I was in the second group, 6 minutes to 9 minutes a mile and I was near the front. I first lined up on the right side, but then moved to the left side once I remembered that North Main Street curves to the left before you make a right turn onto Holl Street.

I said hello to Brigitte, a talented young local runner whom I was photographed with around Mile 15/16 of the Chicago Marathon the prior October. The gun fired. And we were off.

Now the YMCA announced about a week before that the course had been changed due to potholes in the Hoover High School parking lot. The course dating back to 2011 had gone north on North Main Street, east on Holl Street, south on Dogwood, east into a loop around Hoover High School, east on 7th Street, south on Eastbury, right and then north onto Winston, west on 5th Street, south on Sutton, west on Hower, south on Woodside, west on Hower, south on Pershing, west on Glenwood, north on Foster, west on Bachtel and then north on South Main Street to the finish line in front of the YMCA building.

The new course went east on Holl, but then north on Overland, east on Castleton, east and south on Chappel Hill, west on Holl, south on Dogwood past Hoover High School and then east on 7th Street. After Pershing, it would be west on Summit, north on Foster and then west on Bachtel. It's not clear if the new course is USATF certified.

My plan was to run no slower than 7 minutes a mile. I set my Virtual Partner pacer on my Garmin to 6:59 a mile. I had struggled to run the original course in 7:10 a mile on June 19th, barely beating 36 minutes. However, it had been 68 degrees with 94 percent humidity. But I decided to play things safe and go at about marathon goal pace. My goal was to break 35 minutes. However, Runner's World Race Predictor said based on my last marathon time of 3:12:40, I could do a 5-mile of 33:16. On the other hand, I didn't think I was in the same shape as I was in late April when I ran the time.

The pace plan quickly fell apart. The first mile is mostly downhill. I was aiming a pace that was a notch or two below all out but I was still going pretty fast. Within a few minutes, I was already 36 seconds ahead of pace according to Virtual Partner. I passed Brigitte. I considered running along the left side of the road, but everyone was going into the right lane, and I didn't know if there was a course lane restriction, so I swerved quickly to the right. After making the curve left, I aimed at the tangent toward Holl.

Before we got to Holl, I saw I was just behind Molly Triner, who would go onto win the 5-mile race in 29:08. I knew that she's much faster than I am, so I backed off and allowed people to pass me on the turn. Still at the Mile 1 marker on Castleton, I tapped the lap button. 6:16!!!!

Whoa! I thought. Too fast. I wanted to save something for the big hills coming up. So I immediately started to back off. At the first water stop on Dogwood, the course tangent was on the left side of the road. The water station was on the right side of the road. I swerved to the right and nearly bumped into Brigitte, who was right behind me. "Sorry, Robert," she said. I indicated it was OK, let her pass and then went right to grab some water. Dogwood curves left and then right, and so I ran the tangent line. I passed Brigitte on 7th Street as we started a gradual ascent up the hill. I had run Dogwood and 7th Street several times on marathon goal paced runs and was familiar with the terrain.

I slowed down slightly on the uphill and then began to pick it up for the steep downhill after that, trying to maintain my form. We passed the two-mile marker. 6:42 - for mile 2. Not too bad. 7th Street becomes Eastbury. I ran the tangent line as the road curve left and then right again and was running south on Eastbury on the right side of the road which was very cracked. The next water stop was on the left side of Eastbury, which is a very wide street.

I decided to skip the stop due to the extra distance, but I kind of regretted it later as I felt a bit dehydrated. It was still about 70 percent humidity. I knew the hard part was coming up. When you make the right turn onto Winston, it goes uphill slightly to 5th Street. I was already slowing down, when we passed the Mile 3 marker - 6:44. It was Ok. At this point, I was pretty sure I was going to break 35 minutes, but I knew the much tougher part was coming back. It was here where a couple of young women passed me. I let them go. I needed to run my race. I was also worried about the hills coming up.

I grabbed a much needed cup of water on Sutton. Then turned right to go uphill on Hower. I slowed down. Quick left on Woodside. Quick right onto Hower, which goes up again then left onto Pershing and downhill. People who apparently knew me (running community? My work at the Repository?) were calling my name. (By the way, thank you so much for your support!) We crossed Maple Street and hit the Mile 4 marker. My watch said 6:58, but I thought at the time it said 6:53. I knew I was faltering.

We then started ascending the steepest hill on the course -- on Pershing. I had run this hill several times over the years. But usually at an easy pace. I had never done a fast run on it. Usually, when I had a workout, I planned the route around this hill because it can be demoralizing. I ran tough up the hill but not all out, as I knew there were still two uphill sections to go.

I then went downhill, made the turn onto Summit and grabbed another water. Thank goodness, the station was on the right side of the road. Summit goes slightly uphill. Then right on Foster. We were approaching the last uphill segment on Bachtel. At this time, I felt I was running on sand. We had less than half a mile to go. I made the left turn, and I fought my way up Bachtel and made the right onto South Main Street. The street crests slightly at that point and then goes downhill at a slight grade to the finish line. This stretch feels like it lasts forever. I was trying to go into my kick but I was struggling to go all out, all out. I passed one or two runners. But couldn't pass the last runner. I could see the finish line a few hundred feet ahead. I huffed and puffed. Pushed and pushed. The announcer was calling my name. "Finishing is Robert Wang of the Canton Repository!"

I didn't think I could pass the guy about four seconds ahead of me. But I saw the clock was ticking 32:52. If I wanted to break 33 minutes, I had to hustle. I pushed it a bit faster and crossed the finish line as the gun time clock hit 32:59. (My chip time was 32:56).

Later, I found out that I ran the stretch from the Mile 4 marker to the finish line in 6:15. I was like what?????? It sure looks like horrible pacing. 6:16, 6:42, 6:44, 6:58, 6:15.  Or were the mile markers a bit in the wrong positions? That's common at many races. Obviously, the Garmin is usually not accurate. Assuming it was 5 miles, the pace was about 6:35/6:36 a mile. My Garmin said I did 5.03 miles@6:33 a mile. With the course changes, I'm wondering if the course was a little short. And it was apparently not certified as I can't find a new certification map on the USATF website.

Beth Woodward, a top female runner in the area who's run a sub-three hour marathon and had finished two minutes before, slapped my hand as she was doing her cooldown jog and congratulated me. Ron Legg, a 68-year-old man from Beach City who ran a 31:52 asked me my name. I then ran my three-mile cooldown, running to the Acme shopping plaza and back, giving me 11 miles for the morning

I was 61st overall, the 55th man and the 11th in my age group and gender. The amazing performances of some runners in the 40s, 50s and 60s who finished way ahead of me give me hope I can further improve. A 46-year-old man, a local cross country coach, had a 29:17. A 55-year-old man from North Canton, whom I had passed at the Mile 25 marker at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Marathon in April, ran a 30:07. Jim Chaney, the 50-year-old race director for that marathon, won his age group with a 30:16.

Of course, the employees of Second Sole, the runner's specialty store, dominated the leader board. Nik Schweikert (23:47) and Tony Miglozzi (24:26) placed, 1-2 in a blistering pace under five minutes. Molly Triner (29:08) and Sara Polatas (29:17) placed 1-2 in the women's race with strong sub-6 paces. Hannah Alderfer, (30:23) who had strongly passed me right after the Mile 21 marker in the marathon was third.

Part of me feels I left a little bit out on the race course. On the other hand, with the hills late in the race, I didn't want to be too aggressive. And I wasn't very experienced in pacing a five-mile race. I wonder if  I could have caught the guy just ahead of me in the final stretch with more of a kick and bumped me up to 60th place and 10th for the age group. I was still winded from going up Bachtel at that point.

But I'm very encouraged by my time because it's right around where my fitness should be early in the training cycle. I ran a pace faster than the pace I'll have to run when I make my attempt to break three hours in a marathon. And I've got many intense weeks of training ahead of me in hopes of beating 3:05 in my marathon in late October.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

2014 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon - Boston Qualifiers

I want to congratulate the dozen people from the Stark County and Wayne County area who ran a Boston Marathon qualifying time in the 2014 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon this morning. 

Stark County and Wayne County qualifiers

Michael Sullivan, 45, of Wooster - 2:59:42
Chris DeRosa, 40, of Canal Fulton 3:00:28
Ryan Routh, 26, of Orrville 3:02:40
Jacob Conrad, 28, of Wooster 3:03:07
Al Yovichin, 51, of Doylestown  3:08:00
Bill Dando, 38, of Uniontown 3:08:52
Keith Huth, 53, of Wooster 3:14:16
Mark Elderbrook, 53, of Wooster 3:17:16
John Dillon, 46, of Massillon 3:22:59 

Barbara Lorson, 32, of Orrville 3:12:26
Nicole Gareri, 33, of Uniontown, 3:27:20
Karen Morrish, 54, of North Canton 4:00:48

Here are the stats on how many total people BQed in the Cleveland Marathon today, by how much time they beat their Boston qualifying standard and by gender.

Note: I assume everyone has a birthday between now and the 2015 Boston Marathon.

2014 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon - May 18, 2014
Finishers: 1,899
Boston Qualifiers: 241
% of Total: 12.69%
BQ minus 20 minutes: 52
BQ minus 10 minutes: 49
BQ minus 5 minutes: 64
Squeakers (BQ minus 0:00-4:59) - 76
BQ minus 4:00-4:59 - 7
BQ minus 3:00-3:59 - 14
BQ minus 2:00-2:59 - 17
BQ minus 1:00-1:59 - 20
BQ minus 0:00-0:59 - 18

Total finishers 1,145
Boston Qualifiers: 137
% of total: 12%
BQ minus 20 -- 25
BQ minus 10 - 26
BQ minus 5 - 31
Squeakers (BQ minus 0:00-4:59) - 55
Squeakers BQ minus 4:00-4:59 - 6
Squeakers BQ minus 3:00-3:59 - 9
Squeakers BQ minus 2:00-2:59 - 11
Squeakers BQ minus 1:00-1:59 - 16
Squeakers BQ minus 0:00-0:59 - 13

Total Finishers - 754
Boston Qualifiers: 104
% of total: 13.79%
BQ minus 20 - 27
BQ minus 10 - 23
BQ minus 5 - 33
Squeakers (BQ minus 0:00-4:59) - 21
Squeakers BQ minus 4:00-4:59 - 1
Squeakers BQ minus 3:00-3:59 - 5
Squeakers BQ minus 2:00-2:59 - 6
Squeakers BQ minus 1:00-1:59 - 4
Squeakers BQ minus 0:00-0:59 - 5

Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon Boston qualifiers - May 18, 2014


1. Phip Lagat, 31, 2:12:39
2. Eliud Too, 26 2:13:35
3. Abebe Mekurya, 30, 2:17:07
4. Richard Kessio, 40, 2:28:14
5. Jack Klecker, 22, of Charlotte, NC, 2:28:43
6. Chris Yanichko, 22, of Grove City, OH 2:37:21
7. Ian Kallay, 20, of Painesville, OH 2:44:34
8. Paul Krupa, 50, of Middleburg Heights, OH
9. Jeffrey Lammers, 39, of Bowling Green
10. John Kruzka 34, of Avon 2:48:12
11. Jeb Stone, 35, of Traverse City, MI 2:48:48
12. David Hathaway, 43 of Elyria, OH 2:48:53
13, Corey Culbertson, 27, of Chillicothe 2:49:52
14. Israel Merkle, 25, of Akron, 2:51:38
15. Edric Combs, 36, of Medina, OH 2:51:46
16. Michael Zelwin, 26, of New York, NY 2:53:21
17. Graig Kluge, 41, of Cleveland Heights, OH
18, Mark Hunkele, 43 of Mars, PA 2:54:26
19. Michael Epp, 34, of Westlake, OH 2:54:28 
20. Jared Donnamiller, 30, of New York, NY 2:55:00
21. Stephen Hoca, 43, of Olmsted Falls 2:55:33
22. Shaun Dever, 27, of Plymouth, MA 2:55:35
23. Michael Templin, 28, of Lakewood, OH 2:57:22
24. Randell Hansen, 35, of Gold River, CA 2:57:56
25. Kevin Jones, 44, of Brecksville, OH 2:58:14
26. Keith Exel, 31, of Pataskala, OH 2:58:28
27. David Fredrick, 32, of Cleveland 2:58:40
28. Joshua Finkle, 23, of Arlington, Va 2:58:48
29. Justin Thomas, 30, of Roaming Shores, OH 2:58:59
30. Joe Francescanglei, 27, of Cleveland, OH 2:59:11
31. Craig Stevenson, 23, of Rockford, MI 2:59:12
32. Justin Gardner, 29, of Troy, OH 2:59:17
33. Justin Ingels, 32, of Athens, GA 2:59:20
34. Jonathan Bolha, 32, of Austintown, OH 2:59:23 (Scooby!)
35. Jeffrey Held, 40, of Columbus, OH 2:59:33
36. Ryan Galisewski, 27, of Lexington, KY 2:59:35
37. Michael Sullivan, 45, of Wooster - 2:59:42 LOCAL
38. Jay Wittmann, 32, of Concord, OH 2:59:57
39. Chris DeRosa, 40, fo Canal Fulton, OH 3:00:28 LOCAL
40. Brian Campbell, 26, of Berea, OH 3:00:41
41. Kent Ives, 25, of Onsted, MI 3:00:54
42. David T. Johnson, 31, of Tampa, FL 3:01:20
43. Ryan Patriarca, 33, of Painesville, OH 3:01:21
44. Gary Ford, 41, of Poland, OH 3:01:22
45. David Gentile, 52, of Rocky River, OH 3:01:55
46. Gregory Vevrek, 32, of Newburgh Heights, OH 3:02:08
47. Devon Matthews, 26, of Pittsburgh, PA 3:02:28
48. Brendon Matthews, 34, of Bluffton, OH 3:02:32
49. Ryan Routh, 26, of Orrville 3:02:40 LOCAL
50. Jacob Conrad, 28, of Wooster, OH 3:03:07 LOCAL
51. Chris Honig, 28, of Chicago, IL 3:03:15
52. Michael Fowler, 32, of Jacksonville, FL 3:03:37
53. Cody Taylor, 18, of Brunswick, Ohio, 3:03:40
54. Jacob Ort, 31, of Reynoldsburg, OH 3:03:52
55. Stephen Godale, 45, of Aurora, OH 3:04:11
56. Eric Szymczak, 28, of Cleveland, OH 3:04:15
57. Jason McDowell, 23, of Burghill, OH 3:04:18
58. Shane Hughes, 31, of Clinton, Pa., 3:04:27
59. Nicholas Hanson, 31 of Upper Arlington, OH 3:04:41
60. Scott Long, 34, of Aurora, OH 3:05:35
61. Paul Augustine, 50, of Kernersville, OH 3:06:01
62. Miguel Bendezu, 36, of Shaker Heights, OH 3:06:17
63. David Eddy, 44, of Rocky River, OH 3:06:20
64. Jim Wu, 38, of Cincinnati, OH 3:06:22
65. David Spell, 35, of Strongsville, OH 3:06:27
66. John Yoder, 34 of Danville, OH 3:06:30
67. Timothy Welch, 55, of Westlake, OH 3:06:56
68. David Silvey, 40, of Beavercreek, OH 3:07:54
69. Al Yovichin, 51, of Doylestown, OH 3:08:00 LOCAL
70. Andrew Niederst, 35 of Strongsville, OH 3:08:37
71. Eric Lammers, 40, of Elyria, OH 3:08:51
72. Bill Dando, 38, of Uniontown 3:08:52 LOCAL
73. David Blechschmid, 46, of Aurora 3:09:25
74. Randy Osborne, 43, of Strongsville, OH 3:09:47
75. Kevin Rowles, 36, of North Royalton, OH 3:09:52
76. Jim Mann, 46, of Concord Twp, OH 3:11:27
77. Michael Nash, 44, of Oak Park, IL 3:11:51
78. Sean MacMahon, 39, of Toronto, ON 3:13:46
79. Alan Burkholder, 43, of Denver, CO 3:14:04
80. Greg Loos, 46, of Rapid City, SD 3:14:16
81. Keith Huth, 53, of Wooster 3:14:16 LOCAL
82. Terry Moller, 50, of Waterford, MI 3:14:43
83. Roray Hanratty, 42, of Sunnyside, NY 3:14:53
84. David DeMatteis, 46, of Aurora, OH 3:15:41
85. Steven McGowan, 46, of Mentor, OH 3:16:35
86. Mark Elderbrook, 53, of Wooster 3:17:16 LOCAL
87. Douglas Owens, 57, of Chesterland, OH 3:17:40
88. Jeff Schorr, 51, of Medina, OH 3:17:52
89. Tim Hugen, 47, of Avon 3:18:30
90. Andy Harris, 51, of Willowick, OH 3:20:12
91. Peter Schwanke, 46, of Westfield Center, OH 3:20:49
92. Scott Picker, 52, of Solon, OH 3:20:51
93. Jeff Sawicki, 49, of Hinckley, OH 3:21:22
94. Frederick Belke, 46, of Canfield, OH 3:21:41
95. Steven Hubbard, 44, of Olmsted Falls, OH 3:21:45
96. Kevin Landis, 46, of Elyria, OH 3:22:22
97. Tim Davis, 46, of Dayton, OH 3:22:29
98. Brent Stewart, 58, of Gates Mills, OH 3:22:38
99. Jon Offredo, 45, of Worthington, OH 3:22:57
100. John Dillon, 46, of Massillon 3:22:59 LOCAL
101. Charley Bowen, 45, of Culloden, WV 3:23:10
102. Tim Quinn, 44, of Wadsworth, OH 3:23:14
103. Matt Shaheen, 45, of Brecksville, OH 3:23:16
104. Roman Seniv, 46, of Parma, OH 3:23:27
105. Jeff Bradbury, 44 of Chagrin Falls, OH 3:23:35
106. Neil Dostal, 53, of Cleveland 3:23:55
107. Jeffrey Bauer, 50, of Cuyahoga Falls, OH 3:24:34
108. Owen Cooper, 46, of Vandalia 3:24:45
109. Chad Douglas, 44 of Warren, OH 3:24:58
110. Joe Cavasinni, 49, of Chagrin Falls, OH 3:25:41
111. Vincent Gould, 51, North Lima, OH 3:27:10
112. Mark LeDuc, 59, of Minneapolis, MN 3:28:38
113. Jay Iayshock, 50, of Canfield, OH 3:28:57
114. Jeff Ziol, 52, of Hudson, OH 3:29:03
115. Mark Sarlson, 53, of Beachwood, OH 3:29:12
116. Joe Guilyard, 56, of Penfield, PA 3:32:46
117. Bruce Orosz, 58, of Warrenton, VA 3:33:04
118. Andrew Klein, 55, of Fort Wayne, IN 3:34:24
119. Andy Belaska, 56, of Sheffield Village, OH 3:34:52
120. Barrick Stees, 55, of Chagrin Falls, OH 3:34:58
121. Ronald Saczalski, 67, of Powder Springs, Ga 3:35:02
122. Bill Allan, 56, of Burlington, ON 3:35:41
123. Daniel Myatt, 60, of Farmington Hills, MI 3:35:59
124. George Themelis, 54, of Brecksville, OH 3:36:56
125. Michael Marchiondo, 56, of Powell, OH 3:37:30
126. Druais Jean Paul, 62 of Paris 3:37:45
127. Gary Kirby, 57, of Brunswick, OH 3:39:20
128. Dave Wallingford, 61, of Bellevue, OH 3:38:26
129. Bruce Cantrell, 57, of Brunswick, OH 3:39:39
130. Samuel Pak, 63, of Hudson, OH 3:40:46
131. Wing-Kwong Keung, 63, of Brecksville, OH 3:52:13
132. Richard Perza, 62, of Ambridge, PA 3:52:49
133. Neil Harsany, 65 of Lake Mary, FL 4:02:12
134. Richard Schneider, 66, of Williamsburg, VA 4:08:41
135. Tim Warren, 64, of Bay Village, OH 4:08:50
136. Wayne Wheeler, 75, of Loveland, OH 4:09:02
137. Cyrus Rhode Jr., 70, of Spencer, TN 4:12:30


1. Sarah Kiptoo, 24 2:34:58
2. Dehinininet Jara, 29 2:41:14
3. Carol Smith, 28, of Bethesda, MD 2:45:53
4. Serkalem Abrha, 27 2:48:25
5. Kir Selert, 26, of Brooklyn, NY 2:51:50
6. Shanna Ailes Istnick, 35, of Kent 2:57:22
7. D'Arcy Hlavin, 25, of Berea, OH 2:59:27
8. Emma McCarron, 23, of Mansfiled, OH 3:05:53
9. Laurah Lukin, 31, of Cincinnati 3:06:17
10. Tara Keller, 39, of Bexley, OH 3:08:42
11. Sarah Horbol, 27, of Lakewood, OH 3:09:55
12. Clara Shaw, 25 of Ann Arbor, MI 3:11:10
13. Barbara Lorson, 32, of Orrville 3:12:26 LOCAL
14. Aldona Stungys, 43, of Mentor, OH 3:14:24
15. Rachel James, 32, of Cleveland 3:14:27
16. Jennifer Gorham, 32, of Hillard, OH 3:15:40
17. Grace McCarron, 26, of Bexley, OH 3:16:11
18. Laura Moore, 22, of Upland, IN 3:17:07
19. Kristina Zahniser, 35, of Dublin, OH 3:18:00
20. Lauren Anthony, 30, of Atlanta, Ga 3:18:25
21. Kate Schoonover, 35, of Wadsworth, OH 3:18:54
22. Jamie Rogers, 26, of Fort Smith, AR 3:19:16
23. Connie Gardner, 50, of Medina, OH 3:19:37
24. Abby Hawke, 31, of Cleveland 3:19:40
25. Jo Williams, 27, of Shermans Dale, PA 3:20:14
26. Amanda Tomasikiewicz, 28, of Plainfield, IN 3:21:45
27. Cheryl Bayart, 31, of Cleveland Heights, OH 3:21:59
28. Karen Watson, 33, of Windsor, ON 3:22:12
29. Jennifer Murphy, 24, of Northville, MI 3:22:50
30. Al Corrigan, 19, of Burton, OH 3:24:39
31. Amanda Lindsey, 33, of Lakewood, OH 3:24:47
32. Andrea Hall-Miller, 41, of Lorain, OH 3:25:53
33. Lydia Easterling, 26, of Jacksonville, FL 3:26:15
34. Julie Sikora, 22 of Sharpsville, PA 3:26:16
35. Lindsay Gilchrist, 23, of Ada, OH 3:26:21
36. Kristen Jaremback, 34, of Washington DC 3:27:04
37. Jennifer Kopanic, 23, of Boardman, OH 3:27:11
38. Nicole Gareri, 33, of Uniontown, 3:27:20 LOCAL
39. Gabrielle Wuensch, 26, of New London OH 3:27:26
40. Sarah Haas, 30, of New York, NY 3:27:36
41. Danielle Wuensch, 26, of New London OH 3:27:37
42. Pam McCormick, 33, of Windsor, ON 3:27:49
43. Susan Navratil, 51, of Cleveland 3:27:52
44. Victoria Harms, 31, of Pittsburgh, PA 3:27:54
45. Carolina Margarelia, 31, of Astoria, NY 3:28:04
46. Shauna Hanley, 33 of Oakton, VA 3:28:19
47. Kelsey Stief, 25, of Upper Sandusky, OH 3:28:31
48. Allie Mooney, 21, of Highland Heights, OH 3:28:44
49. Mary Looby, 26, of Cleveland Heights, OH 3:28:52
50. Emily Hess, 30, of Ashland, OH 3:29:12
51. Adrienne Mielnik, 27, of Painesville, OH 3:29:25
52. Dianne Laheta, 52, of Broadviiew Heights 3:29:31
53. Elizabeth Belcher, 42, of Powell, OH 3:29:32
54. Stephanie Hodge, 48, of Guilford, CO 3:31:29
55. Erin Brede, 31, of Shaker Heights, OH 3:31:31
56. Stacey Grashoff, 38, of Fort Wayne, IN 3:31:46
57. Sunita Seshia, 36, of Everett, OH 3:32:10
58. Kristen O'Brien, 25, of Chardon, OH 3:32:25
59. Andrea Parga, 32 of huixquilucan, 3:32:33
60. Taryn Gress, 27, of Parma Heights, OH 3:33:14
61. Brooke Meadows, 25, of Englewood, OH 3:33:15
62. Kelly Lynch, 35, of Chicago, IL 3:34:03
63. Carolyn Kuhlman, 39, of Westlake 3:34:12
64. Tammy McFarland, 37, of Youngstown 3:34:31
65. Jamie Babyak, 30, of Ravenna, OH 3:34:52
66. Michelle Martin, 45, of Akron, OH 3:34:56
67. Elizabeth Reinhart, 34, of Alison Park PA 3:34:57
68, Tisha Way, 36, of Cincinnati 3:36:24
69. Mollie Hutton, 36 of Pendleton, NY 3:36:44
70. Nataie Wilby, 42, of Waterdown ON 3:36:52
71. Heidi Seuling, 40, of Floyds Knobs, IN 3:37:00
72. Jeannie Rice, 66, of Concord, OH 3:37:35
73. Amy Clark, 37, of Wadsworth, OH 3:39:27
74. Christine Bell, 48, of Flushing, MI 3:41:35
75. Susan Hooper, 39, of Medina, OH 3:41:52
76. Jill Dunaway, 41, of Cleveland, OH 3:43:13
77. Nancy Smith, 61, of Ashland, OH 3:43:18
78. Katherine Zampolin, 49, of Richmond, VA 3:43:37
79. Brenda Maher, 58, of Vineland ON 3:43:39
80. Janet Lee, 41, of Centerville, OH 3:44:00
81. Andrea Walker, 42, of St. Catharines ON 3:44:05
82. Kristina Soaw, 40, of Youngsville PA 3:44:24
83. Ann Miller, 48, of Erie, PA. 3:44:50
84. Tracy Wallace, 44 of Minneapolis, MN 3:45:55
85. Debra Horn, 55, of Shaker Heights, OH 3:48:11
86. Heather Kilbride, 45 of University Heights, OH 3:48:15
87. Patrice Tomasello, 50, of North Royalton 3:48:21
88. Tammy Gallo, 48, of Dublin, OH 3:49:26
87. Lulu Taragos, 52, of Minneapolis, MN 3:50:18
88. Robin Bennett, 47, of Dallas, TX 3:51:19
89. Wendy Jones, 49, of Coshocton, OH 3:51:20
90. Susan Sarachene, 45, of Austintown 3:52:23
91. Melanie Kerho, 46, of Welland ON 3:52:40
92. Nancy Smith, 60, of Indianapolis 3:52:48
93. Haley Cruse, 44, of Minesing, OH 3:52:52
94. Karen McCable, 48, of Lodi, NY 3:54:06
95. Patti Sparks, 51, of Rocky River 3:54:10
96. Vicki Schoen, 53, of Bellevue, OH 3:54:34
97. Christine Schoenholz, 50, of Avon Lake 3:57:43
98. Karen Morrish, 54, of North Canton 4:00:48 LOCAL
99. Amie Chong, 55, of Oakwille ON 4:06:36
100. Colleen Iacofano, 59, of Painesville OH 4:06:58
101. Cynthia Richards, 63, of Stow 4:09:10
102. Danuta Kubelik, 65, of Crystal River, FL 4:23:10

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Review - Pro Football Hall of Fame Marathon, Canton, Ohio - April 27, 2014

- I ran the full marathon.
- This was the inaugural year of this race put on by the for-profit Run to You Racing. Jim Chaney, the race director, was an associate race director for the Akron Marathon and the race director for the Buckeye Half Marathon and he's well respected in the running community in Northeast Ohio.  This is not the same race as the inaugural Canton Marathon in June 2012, which was run by different people and folded due to financial difficulties.
- The race course features a series of near-loops but you never repeat any element of the course like with a true loop like the Erie, Pa. marathon. In one stretch, you do run back the way you came on Fourth Street NW and Harrison Avenue NW. It's primarily asphalt streets with some brick. There are no trail or grass portions.
- The race features a football theme as various elements such as mile markers have the colors of NFL teams. If you like pro football, this is your race.
- Full marathon had 593 finishers. The half marathon had 2,047 finishers. I suspect there were a lot of registrants who didn't show up. And I don't know how many didn't finish. I think the rough winter for training also hurt turnout. I believe it will grow in subsequent years.
- The race did have pacers. But only at 10-minute increments such as 3:05, 3:15, 3:25, 3:35 etc. I never ran with the pace team.
- I never got the feeling that this race like some other for-profits which will remain nameless, generally skimped or took shortcuts. Examples: plentiful water stations, fleece finisher blankets, great medal, great T-shirt, free admission into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. One possible exception: not the usual assortment of snacks after the race.
- The weather at race time was in the mid-30s and rose into the 40s. Better a bit colder than a bit too hot. There was some moderate wind.
- The course is hilly. There's no avoiding this in Stark County, Ohio. I believe the organizers designed a course that minimized the elevation climbs. But this is not pancake flat like the Chicago or Disney marathons. On the other hand, I don't believe it's as hilly as Flying Pig or Pittsburgh the following weekend. The first two miles are primarily downhill, so you have to watch not to go out too fast. There's no particularly big super-steep hill on the course like the Sand Run Road on the Akron Marathon course. And it's far less hillier than the inaugural Canton Marathon in June 2012 on a very different course. But the constant uphills and downhills and turns take a toll on you mentally especially at the end. If you're not prepared, the course can break you. From Mile 21 to 25.5, it's a steady climb from one hill to another. The worst uphill was Mile 4 when you run north on Market Avenue N. I recommend you run the course in advance, which I did several times. By knowing exactly what was ahead of me, I was able to hold things together to BQ. After you ascend 25th Street NW to the Plain Township Fire Station #3, it's pretty much downhill a half mile to the finish in Fawcett Stadium by the Hall of Fame. You'll read other reviewers say the course was mostly flat. While the stretch from the Mile 16 marker to Mile 19 marker is flat, the course is not mostly flat. They just may be used to running on these types of hills. After the race, my calves were in pain, which is usually not the case after a marathon.
- My goal was 3:10, but I struggled with holding pace due to the hills but salvaged a Boston qualifying time.
- The scenery is all right. It's not the Chicago Marathon. It's not Columbus or Miami. But you get the best of a typical medium-sized Midwestern town: The Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Ralph Regula Federal Building, Canton City Hall, the McKinley Grand hotel, the Stark County Courthouse with its four majestic angel statues, the Palace Theatre, the historic Market Avenue corridor and Central Plaza, the Canton Memorial Civic Centre, the St. Haralambos Greek Orthodox Church. (You just miss Malone University), Stadium Park, the McKinley Monument (officially the McKinley National Memorial where President William McKinley and his wife Ida are entombed), and the McKinley Presidential Museum. But all of that is in the first half. The second half is mainly residential neighborhoods and a few schools. But no desolate looking industrial areas like St. Clair Avenue in the 2013 Cleveland Marathon.

The Good

- Fantastic, affordable entry price of $65.30 for signing up in August.
- The race offered bib transfer for five days from April 6 to April 11, 2014 and will for an extra fee mail your packet to you. Obviously, that's rare among races.
- Access to Fawcett Stadium restrooms. This is huge! No typical long wait for a port-o-potty. I got there at 6:45 a.m. I was able to make a quick stop at a restroom with zero wait and get to the starting line. The facilities were immaculate. Only the use of Cleveland Browns Stadium before the 2013 Cleveland Marathon tops this. Any other race, you will wait and wait to relieve yourself.
- Hassle-free, wait-free efficient gear check. Doesn't get better than this. Many races can't brag about this. I got there at 6:45 a.m. I dropped my bag off with warm clothing in less than 30 seconds, which was held in the stadium seats. After the race, they had my bag ready for me within a minute.
- The football-shaped medal using real football materials and an image of the Pro Football Hall of Fame looks great. The only minor issue was the tiny chip I later found on the back and maybe a tiny depression in the Hall of Fame icon that's very hard to see. But it's not a big deal. I'm not medal obsessed. It's just a memento.
- Bibs are beautiful in bright, vibrant colors. Your first name is in gigantic letters on the bib while the bib numbers are in small type on the bottom. This is to make you feel like an elite runner and make it easier for spectatators to cheer for you.
- The short-sleeve tech T-shirt you get is super awesome in blue, white and red colors. The logo of the Pro Football Hall of Fame is on the front and it says Marathoner or Half Marathoner on the back. Got to be among the best marathon T-shirts in the country.
- You get a colorful fleece Pro Football Hall of Fame Marathon finisher blanket instead of the usual, cheap paper-thin silver mylar blanket. This was key as it was a very chily morning.
- Like the inaugural Canton Marathon in June 2012, the finish was in Fawcett Stadium where the NFL plays the Pro Football Hall of Fame pre-season game every year. Except this time, it was on the 50 yard line. Definitely a great finish line area. Large area to lay out on the grass after the race if you want.
- Overcrowding was never an issue. As it's been for other races. Basically, your corral assignment is based on the expected time you submit. I got Corral A. Unlike other races, I didn't find a group of walkers blocking me at the start. I got to run my own pace right from the get go without having to wati for the crowd to thin out. However, I wasn't so isolated. There were always a couple of runners right ahead and right behind me. Of course, it thins out considerably in the second half.

- - See below my issue with the fact the water stations were often away from the tangent on the course, but the water stations were run smoothly and there was a plentiful number of them. A lot of for-profit races skimp on the number of water stations to save on resources because they can't get the volunteers. Not this race. The volunteers were great and supportive and frequently yelled my name and encouraged me on. Water was first, which I liked as most races have Gatorade be first. And the aid stations always had plenty of water. No issues here. The water stops were placed at the half mile marks after nearly every even-numbered mile marker and on on the half mile marks after some of the odd-numbered mile markers.
- Medical tent in the finish area was fantastic. A therapist applied the massage stick to my terribly, sore and aching calf muscles. It was excruciating but had to be done. They had benches there to put ailing runners on. He then wrapped ice around my calves for a few minutes. I definitely was pampered here.
- The race organizers were very friendly and eager to answer questions in person, by email and on their Facebook page. I can't say that about every race.
- The police and road workers did a great job ensuring that I wouldn't get run over by a car with the placement of police cruisers and cones. They did a great job of traffic control. This was not the case for the 2013 Cleveland Marathon where there were not police officers or volunteers stopping vehicles on all streets adjoining St. Clair Avenue.

Neutral - Not particularly good or bad
- The pasta dinner in the Pro Football Hall of Fame's conference center was poorly attended. They had a 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. seating, but it appears in the end they consolidated the two into a 4:30 p.m. That's too bad, as it was a decent value for $17 compared to most other races's pasta dinners. I think a lot of local runners wanted to carboload at home or eat at a nice restaurant. You got two types of pasta and some red sauce and salad, roll of bread and slice of cake. Which was totally fine. I don't regret doing the pasta dinner as it gave me a chance to meet the pacers for the race. The thing is the few people that were left such as me got kicked out by 6 p.m. Not that many people attended the Pre-race party hosted by race sponsor Tilted Kilt either, and the only carb loading dish on their menu was a creamy pasta dish that didn't look too healthy. But I met a couple of neat people there.
- All the mile markers had clocks. You can't say this for every race. I did miss seeing the Mile 14 marker on Broad Avenue. The clock for the Mile 1 marker seemed off, but the remaining clocks appeared to be on track.
- The expo was held in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. All runners were admitted free into the Hall of Fame and could for free bring one guest to look at the exhibits, busts of football greats and check out the vendors. tt was OK. It was definitely a novel concept to take the expo vendors and spread them throughout the Hall of Fame. However, the number of vendors was nothing compared to say the Akron Marathon expo which was held at the John Knight Center. Or the Cleveland Marathon held at the IX Center. The Bondi band companies, Fitletic and the Stick vendors weren't there and they attend nearly any expo worth attending in the United States in my experience. The biggest vendor was Second Sole, the local running shoe specialty store chain. By having the vendors spread out throughout the hall, I did a liittle more walking than I would have liked. Bib pickup was on the Fawcett Stadium field and gear bag pickup was in the Hall of Fame. I also live in the area and had already visited the Hall of Fame, so this wasn't a big deal for me.
- Crowd support was OK. There were a few spots where there was more of it than others like Market Avenue N, Cleveland Avenue N, Monument Road, Stadium Park Road and Perry High School. There were spots where there was no support except a scattering of people in the Perry Township neighborhoods. Don't count on it being like the Chicago Marathon where tens of thousands are cheering. They definitely cheer for you at the end at Fawcett Stadium. You run over a timing mat the final 100 meters and the announcer says your name in the final stretch.
- On course, entertainment was sparse compared to the Akron and Columbus marathons. I remember a tuba band. There may have been cheerleaders somewhere. This is something the race could improve on. It wasn't essential as far as I was concerned.
- You got a Subway sandwich, a banana and a bottle of water after the race. That was it. A couple bags of chips or snacks would have been nice. I don't partake in the chocolate milk.
- There were Port-o-potties on the course. I remember seeing at least one. But as I never use them during a race, I didn't see where they were.
- You descend the Perry High School driveway in Mile 20 and run around the oval. There, students have assembled a makeshift wall to symbolize the wall. But then you have to climb uphill along the driveway to return to 13th Street SW before hitting the Mile 20 marker. That was my slowest mile of the entire race. The original course did not have this detour but had to add it for distance. I could have done without the additional descent then ascent. (To be fair, they eliminated a hill on Fairlane from the original course).
- Runner Tracking was Ok. Not great. Not horrible. Bib timing chip worked as intended. It was tied to Chronotrack, which I don't feel is as good as Xact Realtime Updates, which immediately confirms it's going to post to your Facebook timeline and gives you the choice to choose the audience for the updates where Chronotrack I think defaulted with friends. Splits were only offered for the 10K, 20K, 30K and finish line. Obviously, I would have liked more but I understand more timing mats requires more resources. The Chronotrack updates did post on Facebook and it did text updates to my phone. At least the race results allowed you to browse the finishers, their times and places. Not every race does that for after the top 10 runners.
- The race did send you email updates every month before the event and then every week the last 0month. It was nice to get that. They did continually post to their Facebook page and did a days countdown with their mile markers.
- Boston Marathon finishers who ran the race got special bibs after running Boston only six days before.

The Bad
- Parking - All parking was at the Stark County Fairgrounds, the same site as for the Canton Marathon in June 2012. The Pro Football Hall of Fame does not have the parking to accomodate 4,000 runners and spectators. As I live two miles from the starting line, I got there around 6:05 a.m., 55 miinutes before race time Big mistake. I should have gotten there earlier. There was a long line of vehicles waiting to get in. It took about 25 minutes for me to get in and park. Then there was a 10 minute wait for a shuttle bus, which were school buses hired from a school district. The lines was really long. But luckily the bus was quick. I was at Fawcett Stadium by 6:45 a.m. and I made the start just in time. To be fair, a lot of this is out of the organizers' control. Every Ohio race has this problem because no one wants to wake up earlier and get there at 5 a.m. and then a lot of people arrive at 6 a.m. I should have gotten there earlier. I've waited more than 20 minutes in constant bumper to bumper traffic for the first Canton Marathon, the Akron Marrathon and the Columbus Marathon in 2012. 
- The water stations, for the most part, were not along the tangent line of the course. If a right turn on the course was coming up and you were aiming toward the right side, the water station would be on the left side, forcing you to veer left to get water and then go back right. This repeatedly disrupted my rhythm and forced me to run a slightly longer distance. I spoke with the race director later about this, and he said this was intentional so people who wanted to skip the water station wouldn't have the people stopping for water and volunteers in their way on the tangent line. I'm used to running bigger races where the aid station tables are often on each side. The problem with water stops off the tangent line is if you're a runner who drinks water at each stop, you're going to run a longer distance than if you skipped the stations. Though, in one case on Mile 16, the volunteers handed out water so far from the aid table, you had to veer away from the tangent line to get around them.
- After the race, you had to walk up a steep hill to get back to the shuttle buses to take you back to the Fairgrounds parking area. As my calves and knee were in horrible shape, it was excruciating to hobble up the hill. I talked to the race director later about this, and he said the buses couldn't pick up runners at the bottom of the hill on Harrison Road as that was where the half marathon courses and full marathon courses were at. He said people were supposed to go up the stadium steps which were easier than the hill to get back up to the buses but not every runner or spectator was told that. I'm hoping they offer some type of golf-cart like service to ferry people who are hobbling to the top.
- Some potholes on some streets. It could have been worse. The city of Canton and Perry Township road departments did make a major push to fill in potholes along the marathon course and actually resurfaced the entire right lane of Third Street SW between McKinley and Cleveland avenues. They couldn't get to all the potholes. The 2013 Cleveland Marathon was way worse in terms of road surface.
- Monument Road at points inclines to the right in the right lane and to the left in the left lane. It has a lot of uneven pavement and features a couple of hills. It's not pleasant but it's not outright unbearable to run on this road. Because it's by Stadium Park, it's often part of the courses of a lot of local races.
- The coning of some intersections was not as I had expected reading the course map. On some roads, there were no volunteers or few cones to tell you which lane of a road you were supposed to run on. The lack of signage at the point where the half and full marathons split off confused the leaders in the half marathon race who went the wrong way. However, I knew exactly which roads I was supposed to run on and the exact turns (maybe not the exact lanes I was supposed to be on) as I had run the course several times. On Broad Avenue on the final mile there was no one there to tell me whether to run on the right or left lane of Broad. The same for McKinley Avenue. Market Avenue and Cleveland Avenue were well coned and you knew where to run.
- Sport Photo was the event photographer. I was not very impressed by the pictures. They were only stationed around the 15K point, the 30K point and the finish line. They did the usual picture of you holding your medal with a fixed background. As your number wasn't featured prominently on your bib making tagging very difficult, the pictures were linked to when you crossed the timing mat. The background was often some cones, a bunch of trees or a residential neighborhood. Very pedestrian. A friend who's a professional photographer took better pictures of me near the McKinley Monument, which would have been a great spot for the Sport Photo photographes to be. Also the number of pictures were limited as they were only at these points. They did not have a photographer roam and take candid pictures at the starting line or after the background pictures like MarathonFoto does. They took the pictures from a ladder, so you didn't get much background. For digital downloads, they charged $40 for one picture, $50 for three, $60 for five and $80 for all the pictures plus $3.99 for the finish line video and sales tax. The pictures weren't worth these prices. They weren't as high resolution as MarathonFoto pictures. MarathonFoto, which has upped its game the past year, charges a ton of money. But at least they give you a lot of pictures for your money. For the Chicago Marathon, I had 70 pictures alone for $75. When Action Sports Images shot the Canton Marathon, it also had fewer photographers do the race but at least they got the money shot with the Pro Football Hall of Fame bridge in the background and people by the Stark County courthouse.
- On some spots on the course - particularly 23rd Street NW and Third Street NW you have to run across sections of worn brick. You should be particularly careful on these stretches to avoid a twisted ankle. To be fair, the race removed two steep roads with horrible bricks from the original course.
- On Wertz Avenue NW on Mile 25, there were half marathon finishers walking back to their cars and a couple of them blocked the course. Three women had to scamper out of the way as I approached them.

To sum up, I think the race is off to a good start. I had an overall positive experience. My biggest peeve was having to veer off for the water stops off the course line and if that's the biggest problem, the race did pretty well. I expect it to get better in future years, as the organizers work out the kinks. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Pro Football Hall of Fame Marathon Race Report - 4/27/2014

The Pro Football Hall of Fame Marathon in Canton, Ohio on Sunday, April 27th, 2014 was my eighth marathon in 22 months. And it would be my second serious attempt to qualify for the Boston Marathon after I came up seven minutes short at the Disney Marathon in January. I signed up for the marathon last month because I really wanted to support my local marathon, after the Canton Marathon disintegrated due to financial issues after its one and only June 2012 race.

To qualify for Boston, I would need a 3:15. But registrants are admitted into the race in the order they beat their qualifying time. In 2011, only those who beat the qualifying time by at least 1:14 were admitted. In 2012, all qualifiers got in. But in 2013, you had to beat the qualifying standard by 1:38 or faster to enter the race. I wanted to ensure I would get in by beating the qualifying time by five minutes. The goal was 3:10. If I failed to beat 3:15, I had no chance at Boston. I improved my chances by every second faster I got. If I got 3:10, I could register for Boston earlier than those who beat it by less than five minutes.

After taking two weeks off from running after the Dopey Challenge and the Disney World Marathon in early January, I had only 13 weeks to train, with the first 10 weeks being the most crucial. Ideally, you'd like a few weeks more. Several things did not go according to plan. The temperatures as you know were 20 degrees lower than normal. I had to run at times in zero degree temperatures, wearing a baklava mask, special thermal brief and four layers of shirts under a jacket. I failed to get enough rest, and got really fatigued in mid-March. After weeks of hitting my necessary paces, I failed to hit my planned pace on a couple of workout runs and could barely jog afterwards. To avoid overtraining, I had to take a day off on a Monday and the following Saturday and Sunday off, skipping a long 20-mile run. And then 23 days before the marathon, I developed pain in my right knee, which my sports therapist later believed was tendinitis of the hamstring where it attaches to the inner part of the knee.  I took a Saturday off, took Advil and iced it and tried to run on it for a 21-mile run (6 mile warmup, 10 miles@7:15 a mile, 5 mile cooldown) exactly three weeks before the marathon.

The result was disastrous. As soon as I woke up from my nap after the run, my right knee was in serious pain when I walked. I immediately got a couple of sessions of sports therapy on it. But I had to take four days off, disrupting the rhythms of my taper which was supposed to start that week. On the Friday, I attempted to run four miles on it, and couldn't run faster than 10:40 a mile. On Saturday, I ran the 17.75K south of Washington DC at a decent pace and it felt much better. I ran 20 miles the next day on the second half of the course, 10 of the miles at 7:54 a mile but slowed down as it got dark and I didn't want to aggravate the knee. By Thursday, the pain was nearly all gone. But it re-emerged in a much milder form a week later on a 7-mile run and I was really worried it would play a factor in the race. It did not. But I started feeling something going on in the right knee area late in the race and it flared up a couple hours after the race as the knee stiffened. Now it's very painful to walk.

I slept about five hours before the race, which is more than I got before Chicago (three hours) or before Disney (two hours). I had four alarms set for 4:30 a.m. But it was my big black cat Lando's wailing which got me up at 3:51 a.m. I did a warm up jog outside, stretched, ate two bagels and three bananas, did a quick shower and put on my clothes. It took me forever to get ready. I didn't get to the Stark County Fair Grounds parking area until 6:20 a.m. after 15 minutes of sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic. There was a huge line for the shuttle buses, but it moved quickly and by 6:45 a.m., 15 minutes before the start, I was at Fawcett Stadium. One awesome thing about this race, with the stadium restrooms open, there was no wait to use the toilets. I was able to use one just 10 minutes before start time. This might be the first race I didn't have a major bathroom issue before a race.

I then scampered past the Pro Football Hall of Fame to Corral A, quickly took off my throw-away clothes and placed them by a trailer, took an energy gel, drank some water, retied my shoes and turned on my GPS watch. I kept on the arm warmers and the "Runner Girl" knit gloves. After the quick national anthem, at 7:01 a.m., the gun sounded.

I wasn't really ready for it. I hesitated to cross the starting line for a moment and then ran straight across the mat about eight or nine seconds after the gun had sounded, starting my watch. My biggest concern the first mile which was mainly downhill was not going too fast. It seemed like everyone was going too fast. It was chilly. In the high 30s and sunny, and there were a lot of people running ahead of me. I knew I would eventually pass them. I had my virtual pacer set to 7:11 a mile, as miles as measured by a GPS watch tend to be a bit shorter than miles measured on a course. To get a 3:10, I would have to run 7:15 a mile.

I kept my eye on the pacer screen to make sure I wasn't going too fast. But before I knew it, the five second alert sounded, and I immediately slowed down. I could see the 3:05 pacer, a guy from Kalamazoo named Ken Brooks, just ahead of me. I passed the Mile 1 marker on Harrison and tapped the lap button on my Garmin. 7:09 it said. A little fast. But I didn't panic. We were going downhill.

Mile 2-7

We turned left from Harrison onto Fourth Street NW and crossed I-77 and took a right at Lincoln then left on Tuscarawas and then a right on Third Street SW. We passed the Mile 2 marker. My split was 7:21. Oops! Too slow -- for a downhill! I tried speeding up a tad, but that was the worst place to accelerate as we approached the first uphill stretch. I slowed again. We were looking into the rising sun. We passed the Ralph Regula Federal Building on our right, the first water stop and then Canton City Hall on our left before turning left onto Market Avenue N and Central Plaza. We passed the Stark County Common Pleas courthouse on our left and then passed the Mile 3 marker. 7:19 - That was a tad better, but not great. That was the second marker I'd missed the split. I knew the next mile would be the toughest of the first half, because we went up a lot in elevation on Market Avenue. It was at this point I shed the Runner Girl gloves, asking a spectator to dispose of them. At this time, I was still struggling to get settled in. My calves were slightly cramped, but I knew they would eventually soften due to the blood flow. I had chosen to run in cotton socks, as my calves tended to cramp when I tried the thin or thicker, spongier nylon, polyester socks.

We approached the first crest of the Market Avenue N hill and we went downhill before it would go uphill again. We turned left onto 25th Street NW, which goes uphill toward Malone University, as a group of people cheered for us.

"Come on Robert," a volunteer shouted. (Our first names are the prominent part of our bibs).

Another water stop. I slowed, grabbed a cup and then quickly took a swig out it and threw it onto the ground. Years ago, when we ran the one and only Canton Marathon, the course had gone right on Harvard and all the nuns in the House of Loreto came out to watch us. This time, instead of going right, we went left onto Harvard rather than going up to Malone. The original course had gone left onto 23rd Street, instead of 25th Street to avoid blocking people going to nearby churches. But I had complained that the bricks were too worn to climb when going up the hill. I don't know if it was my complaint, they changed the course.

We turned left onto Harvard and right on 23rd Street NW, where it was mainly a brick street. Some of the brick was worn, and I was very wary of twisting my ankle on an eroded patch. We passed Mile Marker 5 - 7:17. Because we had just gone uphill, I wasn't panicking, but my virtual pacer indicated I was 23 seconds behind pace. I knew I had plenty of time to make up the lost ground. The next few miles would be downhill.

We left the brick section, went up a hill. I passed an older gentleman while turning left onto Cleveland Avenue. There we were greeted by a pretty big cheering schedule. The next two miles, I was wondering if I was going too fast. I hit the Mile 6 marker near Kempthorn Motor at 7:08. I ran over the 10K timing mat about 90 seconds later at 45:19, or 7:19 a mile. (My all-out 10K at the Peachtree Road Race the previous July was 45:24).

Around 12th Street, where Cleveland Avenue became McKinley Avenue, I hit the 45 minute mark and I took an energy gel, throwing the empty gel onto the ground of the WKSU tent just south of 12th Street and got water from water stop. I then strained to stay on the tangent as McKinley Avenue went off in a different direction. I had thought from the certification map that we would have to turn right onto Fourth Street NW from a cone in the center of McKinley. I somehow never saw the cone, and turned right from McKinley, passing the Mile 7 marker, 7:09.

At this point, I was averaging 7:16 a mile. I was seven seconds behind in pace, but 3:10 was still in reach.

Miles 8-13.1

I went up a hill by Timken High School, crossed Fulton and then went downhill on Fourth Street right where a pack of dogs had chased after me more than three weeks before. This time no dogs. I turned right onto McGregor, went up a slight uphill, turned left onto Seventh Street NW and then right onto Monument Drive NW, a hilly street by a series of Canton parks with lots of potholes and cracks that inclines toward the right on the right side of the street and the left on the left side. I stayed on the right side. You probably noticed I haven't talked too much about the runners around me, as I tend to be in my own zone when racing. But there were plenty of half marathon runners around me. It wasn't a crowded race and congestion was rarely an issue.

We passed the Mile 8 marker just north of 12th Street NW as I was going up the hill. 7:14. I was still on track as I reaped the benefit of the downhill on Fourth Street NW. But between here and the end, each successive uphill section just killed my pace.

I continued up the hill, confused whether the tangent line went along the street's right side or left side. After half a mile, I had to go to the left side to get water from the water stop. I then went down the center line, leaning toward the left and then aimed for the right side for the turn up a steep embankment to Fulton. I slowed down, tailing this guy wearing a half marathoner shirt. Then turned left onto Fulton. It was difficult to run on the tangent line and there were several patches of potholes. But the steep climb toward Fulton cost more more time than I realized as we passed Mile 9 marker: 7:29. "Oh oh! I thought.

I tried to speed up. We made the left turn onto Stadium Park Drive NW into Stadium Park, right by the Pro Football Hall of Fame we had started from. Several people were cheering for us on both sides of the street. We ran over a timing mat where a photographer was stationed on a platform over the course. I wasn't really in a mood to give a big smile. There were several runners ahead of me. I was trying to focus on running the tangents of Stadium Park, which winds back and forth south. This stretch is relatively flat. I passed the 10-mile marker. 7:15. 16.2 miles to go. I was still on pace, but I was getting mentally tired. Could I keep this up? It was after this point that my Plan A of beating 3:10 started unraveling.

We went uphill slightly, crossed 12th Street NW, and then went downhill. Stadium Park then winds left and then right. I tried to stay on the tangent line which curled onto the right side of the street. But the water stop was on the left side. I gritted my teeth in frustration and had to veer left to get water and then back right back to the tangent line. Then came a steep, but short uphill section under some trees. We then had to go right toward the McKinley Monument (officially the McKinley National Memorial where President William McKinley, who was assassinated in 1901, and his wife, are entombed. We then curled around toward the McKinley Museum and then quickly turned left, now going downhill. I made a mistake going onto the right side, forgetting that the road curves left. I had to correct myself, adding some distance to my run. Then I turned to the right and started making the ascent on the hill of Seventh Street NW. This is where I remember switching places a couple of times with a local runner named Michael Green, who was doing the half marathon. The hill took its toll. I passed the Mile 11 marker. 7:25. "Oh crap!" I thought.

We then turned left onto Lincoln, which goes slightly downhill as I tried to speed up to make up for the loss in time. But then we turned right to go back the way we came onto Fourth Street NW. I had to climb uphill toward the bridge over I-77, cross the highway and then turn right back onto Harrison Avenue. We had enjoyed going downhill Harrison the first mile of the course. Now, we had to pay for it. In addition, with the open highway, there was nothing to shelter us from the cold headwind of about 8 to 10 miles per hour. I took the right to avoid going on Lake Boulevard. For the half marathoners, we were approaching their final mile. I passed the Mile 12 marker - 7:28. I knew I was losing the pace. But I felt there was little I could do about it. With 14.2 miles to go, I didn't feel confident enough to accelerate while going uphill.

We crossed 13th Street NW and had to go up another steep incline. We were passing Don Scott field of McKinley High School on the left. My 1:30 alert went off. I took my second Honey Stinger energy gel out of my belt pouch and squeezed the honey into my mouth and threw the packet onto the ground by a volunteer, asking her to please throw it out. It was at 17th Street and Harrison that the approximately 600 marathoners went left onto 17th Street and the approximately 2,300 half marathoners went straight on Harrison. Volunteers were directing us to go left onto 17th. (The two leaders of the half marathon had gone the wrong way on 17th Street before realizing their mistake but still won the race).

I hit the 20K timing mat at 1:31:02. The second 10K, I ran it in 45:43 or 7:22 a mile. We went west on 17th Street, which slightly goes uphill past the high school. I read later in the Cantonrep website that a sheriff's cruiser was blaring music. I don't remember.  I turned left onto Clarendon Avenue, tried to avoid the patches of potholes and moved along the tangent to the right side and turned right after a block on Helen Place. I then shed my arm warmers asking a spectator to take care of them. Helen goes uphill. I knew I was about to hit the halfway point but would miss my planned split of 1:35.

I turned left onto Broad Avenue, trying to dodge some uneven pavement.

All those uphills took their toll. When I hit the Mile 13 marker, my watch said 7:33, or about 1:35:17, I knew I would have a tough time beating 3:10. It was still possible. But I would have to negative split the course. In other words, run the second half faster than the first half. I had done it in the Chicago Marathon in October running a first half of 1:40:40 and the second half in 1:38:45. But the Chicago course was much flatter, there were several hills coming up, and I wasn't feel as good at the halfway point of this one as I did in Chicago.

I looked at my watch as I crossed the Mile 13.1 mark. 1:36:00 on the dot. I was a minute behind pace. I had my work cut out for me. My half marathon PR by the way is 1:35:22 set in August.

Mile 14-20

I then went downhill, passing Lehman Middle School on my left and crossed 13th Street NW. Then I had to go uphill on Broad Avenue. I ran along the center of the road, unsure where the tangent line actually was, because the certification map indicated there would be a cone in the middle of the intersection with Tuscarawas Street. I somehow missed seeing the Mile 14 marker on Broad Avenue. And I saw no cone on Tuscarawas. I made the turn right onto Tuscarawas and went into the left lane, so I could catch the turn left onto Maryland. I think a police officer was trying to encourage us.

It was on Maryland that I realized my watch said 1:45. It had been nine minute since the halfway point. I had missed the Mile 14 marker. I tried to avoid being rattled. I grabbed water at a water stop on Maryland. (The water stops were almost always located a half mile after even-numbered mile markers and sometimes odd-numbered mile markers). We were going up the right-hand lane as Maryland has a grassy median in the middle.

I turned right onto 13th Street SW, passing the Mile 15 marker. The split was 14:29. Or about 7:15 a mile. I hadn't gained any ground. But I hadn't lose any either. But then I had to go uphill on 13th Street up to Raff Road - going west toward Perry Township. At Raff, police officers were trying to allow vehicles to cross intersections before I crossed. I crossed and the road finally flattened out. On 13th Street SW, the water stop was on the right stop, but the volunteers were so far out onto the street, it pushed me off the tangent line. I passed the 25 kilometer marker near Whipple Avenue, crossing into Perry Township from Canton. After a block, I turned right onto Delverne Avenue NW and passed the Mile 16 marker. My watch split said 7:22.

It was at this point that I began letting go of 3:10. I was continuing to lose ground. I would have to run 7:08-7:10 miles the rest of the way, and with 10.2 miles to go, I didn't think I could do it. I began thinking of settling for beating 7:15 and having some chance at Boston. It was at this point on Delverne that I passed two men, literally running between them as we ran against the wind. They were talking about slowing down.

Ahead of me by about 15 to 20 seconds, I could see a tall dark-haired woman running ahead of me. I found out later it was Michele Sollenberger, 51, of Akron, long dark haired woman with dark or blue shorts. For much of the next eight miles, I could see her way off in front in the distance. We made the turn left onto 7th Street SW. Here the route weaves north, south, west and then north, west, south again through a pretty flat neighborhood.

I had to look out for a patch of rocks and potholes on the street. We then made a quick turn left onto Delverne. The tangent line aimed right. Of course, the water stop was on the left. With the street being very wide, that meant expending energy to veer left and then veer right. I wonder if all this veering added a quarter mile at least to the distance. We returned to 13th Street SW, turned right, passed Manor Avenue which was coned off and then turned right onto Ellwood Street. We passed the Mile 17 marker. 9.2 miles left. The split was 7:26. We had just run a flat mile albeit with some wind and I had a 7:21. It was at this point that I knew 3:10 was out of reach. Instead of having the chance to register earlier, I would be fighting just to merely qualify for Boston and have a chance during that anxious week in September when everyone enters and then gets ranked by time, with no idea how fast is good enough to get in.

We went north on Ellwood, turned left again on Seventh Street NW, turned left to go south on Miles Avenue all the way toward 15th Street SW. I tried to speed up. (The original course would have gone south on Fairlane to 15th Street but there was a hill there, and the course change spared us the hill). Some residents were sitting on lawn chairs watching. The race organizers had hoped that a lot of people in these neighborhoods would gather outside and cheer us on. Some definitely did, and I'm grateful for that, but there was not the crowd turnout as originally envisioned. It was more peaceful.

We made the turn right onto 15th Street SW and then right onto Western Avenue SW. I saw the 18-mile marker ahead. The split was 7:26. "I'm fading," I thought. I was shifting toward 3:15 and the line between a chance at Hopkinton, where the Boston Marathon starts, and staying home next April.

We turned left onto 13th Street SW. For some reason, the other runners were running on the right side. I stayed on the left side, on the tangent line. We went up a hill and then turned left onto Bergold before making a right onto 15th Street SW. Here the tangent line is on the right, but the water stop was far on the left and a port-o-potty was on the right. I tried to contain the feeling of frustration as this constant veering off the tangent line was disrupting my rhythm. (To be fair, not clear if a property owner wouldn't allow a water stop on their property). I went left to get water and continued.

I crossed the 30K mat and another photographer. My 30K time was 2:16:33. The last 10K I had run 45:31 or averaged 7:19 a mile. Slightly better than the second 10K. "Twelve kilometers to go," I thought. I made the right turn onto Brooklyn. The road went uphill toward 13th Street SW where I made a left turn. I knew the tough part was coming up, as I tried to dodge the patched potholes on the left side of the road.

We crossed Perry Drive and start making our way uphill toward Perry High School. I realized, I had failed to take my third energy gel as scheduled three minutes ago. I took the third gel out and squeezed the energy-giving honey into my mouth and swallowed and took a swig of water out of my bottle. Volunteers were handing out gels and I threw the packet at a volunteer's feet and asked him to throw it out, seeking to stay on the left side on the tangent line. I passed the 19 mile marker. My watch said 7:14. I had some hope.

Thirteenth Street continued to climb. I eventually reached a water stop on the left just before the high school where the employees of Second Sole, the specialty's runner's store. The store employs runners who are among the best in the nation. I grabbed a cup of water from Bob Fay, a young, tall man in his early 20s who's sold me many pairs of shoes the past two years. Molly, a 26-year-old runner who had run 3:03 at the Boston Marathon six days earlier said she called my name. I was so out of it I didn't hear her. I learned later that the employees were trying to figure out what was that mysterious red stain on the back of my shirt. I had no idea it was there.

I continued to run west on 13th Street, staying just to the right of the shoulder line. Then we turned left to run onto the Perry High School drive loop. Originally, the loop hadn't been on the course, but they added it so the course would make the distance. The problem is not only do you have to run down the loop toward the high school entrance, you have to run uphill to get back to 13th Street SW. Some students were cheering for us. On the left, they had constructed a makeshift wall to symbolize the wall we were all going to be hitting.

I struggled up to return to 13th Street SW. We made a quick left and then a quick right onto Wrexham. We crossed the 20 mile marker. My watch said 7:40. "Oh s--t!" I thought. The wheels were coming off. I could see Michele up ahead with some male runners farther ahead than ever. Any more splits like those and Scooby, the 3:15 pacer who can run a 2:44 marathon from Austintown would be catching up to me. I had met him Saturday afternoon at the pasta dinner at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. When he told me he was the 3:15 pacer, I realized that effectively he was my Balloon Lady. If he passed me, it was Mission Failure.

I remembered my first marathon when I left the 4:30 pace team at Mile 5 only to have the 4:30 pacer, an outgoing woman named Krista catch up to me at Mile 20. It was the most humiliating and despairing moments of my life. At the Disney World Marathon in January, I had started fading from a 7:40 pace to an 8:10-8:25 pace from Mile 20 through Mile 24 but just getting things back together to accelerate to 7:30 a mile and fending off the 3:25 pacer who nearly passed me at the 24 mile marker on the boardwalk to Epcot. I finished in 3:22:11.

I felt I couldn't go any faster. Yet I didn't feel I was hitting a wall or that my glycogen stores had run out. I had carboloaded heavily the prior three days. Eating pasta or bread often as soon as my stomach made room for it.

Mile 21 to 26.2

We went east on Tuscarawas Street W, passing several police cars that were blocking traffic. I ran on the left side by the cones. I thought what would happen if a motorist swerved out of control in the other lane striking me. But at least the fricking marathon would be over. We went up a hill. Then down a hill. There was a water stop on the right. I slowed for the water. Then made the transition to the right side to catch the tangent line by an OfficeMax. I was only able to preview run this stretch of Tuscarawas once in April as the busy traffic and lack of sidewalks make running here when the road isn't closed very dangerous. We made the right uphill on Sippo. I passed the Mile 21 marker. The split was 7:29. That was better than 7:40. But I had surrendered another three seconds to Scooby, the 3:15 pacer to catch up.

We then made a left onto 12th Street SW. I knew the tough part was coming up. This was the last downhill portion for a while.

We crossed Perry Drive again. Made a left onto Saratoga. And then faced a bitch of a hill going up Saratoga. It was here that Hannah Alderfer, a 23-year-old woman from Dover who works at Concorde Therapy, passed me. She had pursued a negative split strategy, which worked very successfully for her. She was going about 7:31 the first 10K but then accelerating to 7:28 a mile after 20 kilometers and then 7:24 after that but then she poured on the jets and speeded up to 7:17 a mile. Going about 7:30-7:40 a mile, I could only just passively watch her run by.

We crossed Tuscarawas Street W and continued north on Saratoga. Alderfer shot by Michele and some faltering male runners and turned right onto Aurora in the distance. I never saw her again. I would finish 1:47 behind her. Saratoga has a lot of potholes. I veered right and made the right turn onto Aurora Drive. Now it would be hell.

We went up a steep uphill before crossing the 22-mile marker. This was the pinnacle of despair. The split was 7:38. Scooby had gained 12 seconds on me the last mile. If this continued, Boston was done. We crossed Woodlawn going slightly uphill. And then veered right to curve around toward the back of the Fisher Foods and Whipple Avenue. I knew there were several hills coming up. As we approached Whipple, I was trying to speed up but felt something was holding me back. I saw police cruisers up ahead as police officers were directing traffic on Whipple. I struggled to find the path through the cones and crossed Whipple back into Canton and ran through as cars stopped to my left and my right. We were going by the back of the shopping plaza with the Chinese buffet. Another uphill, and I was on Valley View and Aurora was over with the post office to our right.

Valley View goes uphill slightly. The Mile 23 marker was at the end of Valley View. 7:28 - better. But another two seconds awarded to Scooby. Somehow I had to get things together. Boston was slipping out of my grasp, slowly but surely with more uphills to go. I tried pushing just a little bit more. I realized that my right knee, which had been largely cooperative, was now aching. My calves burned with the constant pounding. "Only 3.2 miles to go," I thought. "Come on, only 3.2 miles to go. Just a little jog." It was only three miles. A little run to Everhard from my home and back. But mentally, it felt like 10 miles. We went uphill several blocks past Harter School. Several of the streets crossing Third Street were brick and the brick was deteriorating resulting in uneven pavement that could snare an ankle. I gingerly stepped over the brick. There might have been a water stop. I don't remember. It wasn't until after Harter that we got a gradual downhill toward Wertz.

Ahead, I could see I was reeling Michele in. She was faltering. So were some other runners. Third Street NW inclines a bit to the left, increasing the strain to stay on it. We turned to the left on Wertz. The 24 mile marker was a few hundred feet ahead. To our left, were the Stark County Fairgrounds where we had all parked our cars. I'm sure several people thought about going to their cars instead of the finish line at this point.

It was at the 24 mile marker that I passed Michelle. "Good job," she said to me. She would finish 36 seconds behind me and win her age group. I grunted thankfully in response as I could barely speak. There was a man walking right in front of me. I had to veer around him. The mile split was 7:25. I had gained a second on Scooby.

I knew at this point that Boston could be decided. It wasn't enough just to barely beat 3:15. Given the pattern of the last year, to have a decent chance of getting into the race I needed some pad time faster than this to give me a chance. How fast I ran these last 2.2 miles would decide how much pad I would have. I knew 3:10 was well out the window. But I had to run these last couple of miles as fast as I could. I might never have this chance again. A lot of people I had met through the Dopey Challenge group were no doubt following my progress. Through me, they saw a chance that they themselves might qualify for Boston. I couldn't let them or myself down. Plan A had failed. But I could salvage Plan B. I knew if I could get to the Mile 25 marker with a time of 3:05 or better, I had a chance. But it would not be easy. Most of the remaining course through Canton Township and Plain Township went uphill over a course of several hills followed with a downhill finish. The last uphill ascended to Fire Station #3 in Plain Township and then it was all downhill from there (until the rise before the Fawcett Stadium finish).

I was doing what I could to keep the negative thoughts out of my head. I can do it, I thought. I haven't hit the wall. My times did fade a bit but not spectacularly. I was pushing myself going north on Wertz trying to dodge the patched potholes.  I was afraid my right calf muscle would pop. Just a couple more miles. Hang in there for a couple more miles. I could see myself approaching the turn to the left toward the intersection of 13th Street. It was sunny and still cool.

I crossed 13th Street and hit an intimidating uphill. There were five blocks, six blocks until the right turn onto 16th Street NW. I pushed and pushed. People who had finished the half, their finishers blankets wrapped around them were walking back to their cars. A group of three women were in my way. I kept running at them and they scattered. I saw 15th Street. Two more blocks. Then one more block. Then the turn right onto 16th Street. People were there cheering, urging me on.

The street went gradually up the hill and then steeply. I could see the traffic on Broad. I reached the Mile 25 marker at Broad. My split: 7:17. I didn't even look at my Garmin. I looked at the mile marker clock. It said 3:04:00. (My chip time was 8-9 seconds behind the clock, but I forgot that). The train was leaving for Boston, and I had about 10 minutes to catch it. 1.2 miles to go.

I started north on Broad, which would go uphill, downhill a bit then uphill a bit again. On the left, half marathon finishers were walking south on Broad. I passed Sal Hernandez, 55, of North Canton who had slowed down and would win his age group. He urged me on. I was going up and up. I dodged these group of girls - half marathon finishers. on the road running along the center line of Broad, struggling up that hill. I could see Fulton in the distance. It seemed so far away. I saw police cruisers on the side of the road. I saw the sign for 20th Street. Five block. Then the sign for 21st Street. Four blocks. "Where are you 25th Street?" I thought. "Where are you?"

There it was. I turned right onto 25th Street. Last hill. A young man was walking toward me on my right side. I was going to run right into him. He quickly got of the way. There were firefighters and paramedics at Fire Station #3 on the left, watching (in case I or other runners collapsed). Up. Up. Up. Then I got over the crest and pushed my way down. Right on Clarendon. More half marathon finishers walking back to their cars, some cheering me on. Left on Woodward. Quick right on Blake. I didn't even look at my watch. I knew not that much time was left. I turned right on Barr. The Mile 26 marker. I didn't look at the split. (It was 7:08). I dashed south on Barr. People may have been rooting for me. I couldn't hear them. I saw a volunteer in the distance. He directed me toward the right. I sped by him toward the gate of Fawcett Stadium. I knew any possible window was closing. A volunteer pointed me to run on the right-hand lane, for the full marathoners. I felt my grass hit the artificial turf of the stadium. The announcer was calling my name. I turned to the left, saw the finish line on the 50-yard line. The clock said 3:12:47. Some people were cheering and crossed the line and stopped my watch.

I looked at my watch. I couldn't believe it. 3:12:40. (I ran that last 0.2 miles in 1:28). I had held on to beat Scooby. I was hobbling. My calves were screaming. I tried to move forward. A volunteer asked if I was OK. "I'm Ok," I said. A volunteer handed me my medal and I passively accepted it and hobbled my way forward. Someone else put the fleece finisher's blanket on me that I had seen on the people returning to their cars.

I hadn't guaranteed a spot. But technically I was a Boston qualifier. In June 2012, when I struggled to finish my first marathon at Fawcett Stadium in 4:49:48, this outcome was unimaginable.


I forgot that my result had been instantly beamed to my Facebook page and dozens of Facebook friends were congratulating me. I got a picture taken of me and grabbed water, a banana and a Subway sandwich. I checked my phone, which had been on my water belt the entire time. The result had been texted to my phone, making it more real to me. In a race with 593 finishers, I was 36th place, the 30th male and 9th in my age group and gender.

Naomi and Kisha, two women I had met at the Tilted Kilt on Friday night, had promised to wait for me. They had run the half marathon and finished about 20 minutes before. They were there as promised and demanded a picture which I happily obliged. A police officer snapped it for us.

Part of me was happy I had BQed. But part of me was disappointed that I had fallen short of 3:10.

By this point, I could barely walk. I went to the medical tent, where a therapist used a stick on my calves as I lay on my stomach on a bench. I winched and screamed in pain as he worked the calves really good. "I'm going to have to be mean," he told me. Later, I sat with ice bandaged around my calves. It was then that Megan Smith, my Dopey Challenge from the Florida Keys called to congratulate me. Her sister Crystal Campbell in Tampa texted me. I looked on my Facebook app notifications page. It was filled with 70 notifications. Sue Lawrence, a Dopey friend, was posting that she was just in tears. Amy Shapiro was leading a mass congratulations thread. Someone else posted my time and splits on the Dopey Challenge Facebook page. My boss tweeted that I had qualified for Boston. Even now, it's tough to imagine how much how I did meant to other people.

I hung out at the stadium a while, nearly freezing in the chilly air. Thank God, I gear checked some warm clothes. It was a struggle to walk up a hill to get to the shuttle bus and get back to my car. I went to Bombay Sitar for a buffet Indian lunch and ate alone while reading all the Facebook messages on my phone. After sitting down for an hour, the right knee stiffened and now it hurts worse than the calves. I didn't have time to go to the post-race party at Jurzee's Sports Bar. I went instead to Second Sole to chat with Nik Schweikert and Molly about Nik taking the wrong turn at the end of the half, which he won anyway in 1:10. And I had to put up with Molly theorizing falsely that the stain on the back of my shirt was due to a third nipple on my back. Silly girl! I don't know if I'll ever catch up to her though.

I've been very fortunate in life. I've had a lot of awful disappointments and things not go my way. But I've been very lucky with the things I've been given in life. The time you run in a race is not the most important thing in life. But it's an inspiring benchmark of an accomplishment you once never would have possibly imagined.