Friday, November 20, 2015

Race Recap & Review: Akron Marathon Relay

In February 2014, I got an email from a few friends (that I'd just met at Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend) asking me if I wanted to be the fifth member of their marathon relay team for the Akron Marathon. Of course I said yes- that was the beginning of our running ohana; the group of running friends that have become family. We met on twitter and now meet a few times a year at races across the country.

Sadly, I didn't get to run in Akron 2014 because of my stress fracture. I went along for the weekend and cheered on my friends, vowing to return in 2015 and run the blue line with two, unbroken feet. 

This year, I would get my chance. 

Matthew and I signed up for the half (on 9/26) almost nine months ago. At some point, Chelsea invited me to run the first leg of the relay with her team. The plan was to run my relay leg (5.8 miles), hand off to Chelsea, remove my relay bib, and continue on to finish the half. 

Coach Jeff, Steff, her husband Joe, Lauren, her husband Mark, Nathan, Lauren H., Natalie, her husband Jimmy, and a bunch of Coach Jeff's "old guy running group" friends all planned on making the trip out to Akron, OH. Lauren and Mark ended up not coming out and we definitely missed them!

We all arrived in Akron on Friday afternoon and visited the expo. While this is a small expo, they did have some nice stuff. The hotel we stayed at was just a few blocks from the convention center (expo) and start/finish line so we were able to go back and forth all day.

Nathan, Coach Jeff, Me, and Matthew

This race offers a pasta dinner at the expo on Friday night and we all decided to go that route for our pre-race carb load. It was $20 per person and included pasta, salad, vegetables, and cheesecake. I think we'd definitely do this again- it was quick, easy, and tasty!

My right foot had been rocking all damn day. I'd had an x-ray the week before but no MRI so I was trying to take it easy as I was still suspecting a stress fracture. After the pasta dinner, I laid out my clothes for the race the next morning, keeping my fingers crossed that my foot would behave and let me finish the half marathon the next day. 

The crew.

Did I mention that Natalie was 7.5 months pregnant?!

Race morning. I got up and get dressed. Matthew got up... and immediately went back to bed, feeling super sick. He was feeling awful and running a fever- definitely not in any running condition. Heartbroken, he headed back to bed, reluctantly agreeing to skip the race due to illness. 

My foot was already bothering me but I met up with our ohana in the lobby of the hotel. Together, we walked up to the race start and got situated in the corrals. Steff was gunning for a PR so she started at the front of A. The others made their way to the relay stations or other corrals. Coach Jeff, Natalie, Jimmy, and I agreed that we would start together and hopefully stay together the whole race. And of course, no babies would be born on the course! :-)

We look pretty good for 7 am!

Our group of four started slow and steady. We did three minutes running, one minute walking. We chatted and ran and walked and laughed and the miles flew by. However, my foot kept hurting. It was a dull ache right in the area of my stress fracture. Soon enough, I saw the first relay exchange. I had been debating off and on the entire race of continuing to complete the half or to just cut out at the relay exchange. 

Hands up if you love running with friends!

I made the incredibly tough decision to stop. I handed off to Chelsea and watched her, Coach Jeff, Natalie, and Jimmy keep running. I stood there watching them and sobbing. I considered jumping back into the race for probably 10 minutes after they ran past me. I stood there at the relay exchange feeling super sorry for myself and blubbering on and on about my failure. 

After trying to call Matthew (he was still sleeping), I called my Dad and sobbed to him for a while. I knew this was the smart decision. Anytime there's pain, you should back off. But it still felt like utter and complete failure. I walked back to the hotel to check on Matthew. Luckily, he'd been able to get some sleep and was slowly starting to feel better. 

A very quick shower later, I went out to the finish area to get my post-race snacks: pizza, beer, chocolate milk, chips, etc. They had quite an awesome spread! I met up with Steff, Nathan, and Chelsea and we chatted for a while. 

Then we went back out on the course to cheer for the finishers, including looking for Coach Jeff, Natalie and Jimmy. 

Jimmy and Natalie trucking along towards the finish.

I ran/walked with Natalie and Jimmy until just before they entered the stadium and the final little section of the race. Coach Jeff had gone back on the course to run in one of his friends completing the full marathon. We got back into the finisher's area in just enough time to see Joe (Steff's husband) finish the marathon relay. 

All smiles for Joe at the end of the blue line.

Captain Chelsea's a popular gal with all that beer ;-)

Akron Marathon Relay Team 2015

While I'm disappointed I wasn't able to run the half marathon course, I did feel some sense of redemption by getting to run the first leg of the marathon- what I should have ran in 2014. 2014 was the year of the DNS- Did Not Start. 2015 brought my first DNF- Did Not Finish. At some point in every runner's career, a DNS or DNF will happen. This was mine. Looking back and knowing what I know now (that my foot is fine) makes it hard to not beat myself up about not finishing the half. But, I made the best decision I could with the information I had at the time; I can't ask myself for anything better than that.

I can't say enough great things about the city of Akron or this race. Well-organized from the expo to the starting corrals to the finish line party. The shirts, medals, and post-race food were all really high quality and made the whole experience feel very runner-focused. In short, this is an awesome race and I hope we keep doing this one every year. 

#runakron fans

Have you ever had a DNS or a DNF? How do you cope with the negative feelings it brings?


  1. Well, I'm doing the marathon next year so we are for sure in for 2016!!! Such a fun weekend, I miss you guys so much!!

  2. If the Wine and Dine Half Marathon would not have been shortened this year because of the weather, I very well might have had a DNF. I pulled my calf muscle with 2 miles remaining, and I had to slowly limp to the finish line. If I would have had 6 additional miles, I might have been swept! The hard part of all of this isn't the injury itself, which has to heal. It's the emotional stuff. Since I am training for Dopey, I have to WALK this week's long training session 3miles/4miles/10miles/23 miles!!! My brain is giving me all kinds of trouble about whether I am going to be healed enough and my stupid behavior that probably caused the injury to begin with (I started Wine and Dine too fast since I knew the course was shorter). I keep beating myself up wondering if my stupidity could have cost me the achievement of my Dopey goal! So I am going to just keep walking until my leg is healed, and hopefully I won't have to walk the whole freaking race weekend! I agree with you that the mental stuff is much harder than the physical.

    1. Just keep moving forward! Even walking will help you with Dopey so much. And yes, the mental stuff is hard, but- you've done hard things before and I know you can do this too :-)

  3. I love you guys! We really missed you <3

    1. For reals, it was not the same without the Baileys!