Finally the day had come and I was about to run my first marathon. The build up, the training, and the early mornings were about to see the fruits of the labor. I had decided it was time to jump off the plank and sign up for my first marathon and what better at the Football Hall of Fame Marathon in Canton, Ohio. The excitement and anticipation for what I was about to endure was driving me insane. I had been training for a marathon, then stop due to climate (white snow flying), and then decided 32 days before the marathon, that I was going to give it a go.
On race day I woke up exceptionally early, not sure what to expect, then had the next few hours to think about my race strategy…START SLOW and JUST FINISH. So I paced around the track in 48* weather, listening to my tunes, and just thinking and thinking. As the time was ticking down and getting closer and closer to start time, I head over to empty the bladder. One question I had, is why didn’t any of my running accomplices tell me about the LINES. Oh my I almost missed the starting gun. So I headed over to the corral and jumped into the 8:30/mile pace group, which was about 30seconds slower than I had done for my training. Felt really good and I was sticking to my strategy. The gun went off and we did the lead foot shuffle across the starting line up through the first 1/8th mile. Then the seas thinned and I took off, and there went the strategy. Meanwhile I started texting my wife my mile markers, so they could see me pass by the halfway marker. Needless to say I passed them about the 1:40 hr mark. Rejuvenated after seeing them…definitely!!!
So I continued on to tackle The second half of the marathon in hopes of hitting my 3:40 hour target finish time. Things were going along smoothly until Mile 17 and the cramps set in. Oh the pain felt in my calves and hamstrings were excruciating and the thoughts of, “Can I finish?” and “What the heck am I doing?!?!” set in. I continued to push through and those last 6 miles were by far the most emotionally draining that I’ve experienced. At mile 24 I told myself, never again, while still pushing through. I had to hit that finish line as my family had been waiting for 2.5 hours. Needless to say I watch 3:40 pass me by and crossed the finish line in a sprint at 4:03:15 for my first marathon. Seeing my family as I raised my arms and collapsed!
Now for my thoughts on the race!
The day before I headed down to the family with the Expo, which was held on the Freshman HS football field at Canton McKinely. It was a chilly day and a nasty rain storm hit just as we were rolling in. With this having been my first expo, I wasn’t knowing what to expect. The event was held in a few tents with various vendors and trinkets to purchase for those running in the various races. Overall it was just a basic expo, now that I have had the opportunity to experience several others.
The morning of, being the amateur I was, arrived at the off-sight parking at 4:45am for a 7am start time. Geez what was I thinking?!?! So we loaded up on the buses for the 10 min shuttle to the start of the race. As we disembarked off the buses I thought to myself, I am going to be cold for the next two hours. Just a quick note, they did offer parking right next to the start/finish line, however needed to be purchased and was limited in capacity.
The start of the race was congested as we started off on a narrow side street, but soon thinned out by the time you hit the half mile marker. The first half of the race headed into downtown Canton, where along the way to my surprise saw several supporters out cheering us on. The aid stations were plentiful and offered Gatorade or Water and the occasional port-a-toilet. The route then turned back towards the breakoff point for the half-marathoners to finish on the freshman football stadium. (Note: Due to the HoF Football Stadium construction, the finish line was moved.) The second half of the marathon winded through city neighborhoods and was an out an back route. One thing I didn’t notice at the time, but thought about it afterwards were the amount of turns we made going up and down neighborhood streets. Definitely caused me to lose my sense of direction a few times, as I was familiar of the area. One thing I did enjoy were how the mile markers were for each football team and kept me aware and looking for my favorite team, “Detroit Lions”! The overall course was not one that had a great deal of elevation changes.
The swag was amazing and I loved that my first marathon finisher medal was from this race. The race shirt was of outstanding quality and at the finish line we received a finisher blanket.
I would recommend this race to those as I know that the organizers have made great strides to making this race much better. They had some challenges in 2016 due to stadium construction and therefore had to modify the route and finish line. The 2017 installment will include a new location for the Expo, which will be larger, and a new route. The start/finish lines will now be in downtown Canton, versus next to the Hall of Fame.
Ending…those thoughts of never running a marathon again has transformed into me completing 3 more in 2016.