I’m so happy that I was asked to join a relay team for the Akron Marathon. This was my first relay — and one of my favorite races so far. I’ll likely plan to do the half next year because I had such a great experience. Thanks again to my teammates Chelsea, Lauren, Joe and Sarah!

Thanks to Pittsburgh City Girl for this group shot!

Thanks to Pittsburgh City Girl for this group shot!

Registration and Cost: Individual cost for 5-person relay team was $40 each. Registration page currently shows a cost of $48/per person, so the price must go up at certain intervals as the race approaches (which is typical). Akron Marathon reps were giving out discount codes during the Pittsburgh Marathon Expo, which were not redeemable for the relay portion, but good to look out for if you’re interested in running this next year.

Expo and Packet Pick-Up: The Expo was definitely not as large as Pittsburgh, but easy to navigate with what seemed to be many of the usual expo vendors. I was a little confused about packet pick-up, and ended up at the t-shirt table first… then had to re-route back to the escalators to get my bib. THEN go back and get my shirt. Directional flow just wasn’t intuitive to me, despite there being a blue line right from the escalator to the packet pick-up. DUH. (I know, I know, that’s ALL on me.)

Follow the Blue Line, Mel.

Follow the Blue Line, Mel.

Bag Check: I didn’t do bag check for this race. But on the way to my relay exchange spot, there was a woman who walked along with me and couldn’t find where the drop-off was for Leg 2. Because I wasn’t on that leg, I had zero clue how to help. She was super anxious though.

Weather: BEAUTIFUL, and on the cooler side, especially since the race started in the dark (no thank you, 7am start time). Sitting around waiting for the relay was an interesting experience — and a little cold, to be honest. But I made some start line friends and settled in with my coffee and snacks. I didn’t anticipate building up so much nervous energy while waiting… I just wanted to run!

Making friends at the relay exchange.

Making friends at the relay exchange.

Course: I really loved my leg of the course — I had one of the steady climbs of the race (there was certainly a worse hill though on Leg 5), which I didn’t mind. This part of the relay leg also took me right by my sister’s house, so I was able to see her and my niece cheering from the tree lawn (or, “devil’s strip” if you’re *that* kind of Ohioan). My leg was 5.5 miles, which started downtown and proceeded out of the city up (!!) W. Market and onto Merriman, continuing onto Portage Path and through the (gorgeous!) Stan Hywet grounds. My exchange ended at Firestone High School.

Heartrate Hill was TOUGH (not part of my relay leg, but part of my run)

Heartrate Hill was TOUGH (not part of my relay leg, but part of my run)

I needed to get some extra mileage in, so I ended up looping into the fifth relay leg of the course on the opposite side of Firestone (sidewalks and off the course when I could to not actually be “participating”) to get myself back into the city. Which is really easy to do when there’s a blue line to follow! Some of the spectators were hilarious, commenting “You didn’t run enough?” and “Over achiever!” as I passed through. Unfortunately, I ran out of time to complete the full 18 miles that were on my training schedule, as we had plans in the afternoon with the family.

Fans and Experience: At Pittsburgh, I felt really overwhelmed by the crowds; Akron, I felt just the opposite. They invigorated me — I was giving high fives and thanking everyone, talking to other runners. I didn’t run with my headphones for my entire leg. Music, food (people with oranges are the best!), Swedish fish… probably mimosas, had I asked — everyone was so freaking fun and excited to be cheering us on.

AK-Rowdy lives up to its name, even when celebrating the marathon. I was positively inspired to be one of these kinds of spectators at Pittsburgh next year to experience the opposite side (side note: I’ve decided that I don’t want to run Pittsburgh next year).

"Blue Line badasses this way" -- in front of DBA restaurant (and where I had an AMAZING dinner the night before the race).

“Blue Line badasses this way” — in front of DBA restaurant (and where I had an AMAZING dinner the night before the race).

Finish Line: I didn’t finish off the fifth leg, so after my extra 5.8 miles, I looped around the stadium to check out the finishers festival and meet up with my relay teammates.

Chocolate Milk in my hand, and I am happy from a good run.

Chocolate Milk in my hand, and I am happy from a good run.

CHOCOLATE MILK! That always makes my day. I knew that I would basically be left out of the post-race noms, considering they were a) beer, b) pizza, and c) a power bar with gluten in it; so having chocolate milk canceled out any ill feelings.

Bonus: It was really nice to have water, port o potties and silver blankets available at the end of the relay exchange. Again, this was my first relay, so I’m sure this is probably customary. There were also shuttles available to take runners back to the finishers festival (I opted to run back).

Medals and Swag: Another SUPER bright t-shirt, which I’m pumped about. The medal reminds me a lot of the Runner of Steel medal from Pittsburgh. The race sent out a virtual “race bag” email with discounts and such, but there was a nice physical bag given out with packet pick-up.

Great race swag!

Great race swag!

Since I ran miles 20-26, I got to see a bunch of different marathoners perspectives and personalities: some looked like they were dying, others smiling and talking to their running mates, another was seemingly video recording her experience by way of the cyclist who kept riding along with her at several places. This one poor girl though was breathing SO HARD at Mile 22 it took everything in me to not tell her to stop and slow down for a minute. But… #notmyrace.

OVERALL
The Great: It totally made my day to see my sister and niece cheering.
The Good: Since I was waiting around for my relay start, we got to watch the front of the marathon pack and WOOO BOY was it amazing to see them.
The Bad: I seriously don’t have anything bad to say about this race! I had a wonderful experience, despite being super nervous and totally Type A about doing my first relay (yes, I printed out the 22-page info booklet).
The Ugly: Oh man, the finishers had to CLIMB UP STEPS to get out of the stadium… and that was rather ugly to watch. I also watched someone run to puke, so… great visuals to bring with me when I run my first marathon in a few weeks.

Splits: 10:12 (1) / 9:50 (2) / 9:56 (3) / 9:31 (4) / 10:03 (5) {and the extra 6:08}

Results: Our official team finish time was 4:43:44.
My watch showed a total of 5.63 miles for an average 9:53 pace; total time: 55:40.9

Related posts: