The phrase ‘Sunday morning in the middle of May…’ might evoke images of blue skies, birds chirping and fluttering among the newly green trees, rolling, grassy hills dotted with white and yellow blossoms, rabbits frolicking, a fawn drinking from a trickling stream. Except in Cleveland, where it looks like this: slate grey skies thick with dark, ominous clouds, rain, wind, 45 degrees. Show of hands, who wants to run a marathon in Cleveland in May?
I woke at 4:30AM, slathered Sports Shield lubricant under my arms and around my groin, smeared Vaseline between my toes, and got dressed. I ate a light breakfast: half a banana, 4 ounces of granola, cup of orange juice, 16 ounces of Gatorade. I grabbed my bag (packed it the night before) and drove into town. Parking was no problem; I found a spot two blocks from the start. I put on a plastic poncho to try to stay dry, with a sweatshirt under it to try to stay warm. Neither objective was achieved, as the poncho proved annoying, so I ditched it, and the sweatshirt was not sufficient to keep me warm.
I found a few of my SERC buddies mulling about, waiting for the start at 13th and St. Clair. Of course, the race did not start on time. We stood in the cold wet weather, listening to far too much self-congratulatory speechifying by the race organizers over the PA, before they finally sounded the start. I ran with the 3:10 pace group, knowing I would not end with that group. I hoped to stay with them for the first half.
The course meandered through the near east side, then headed west past the Browns Stadium. After I had worked up some warmth, I discarded my wet sweatshirt, at the mile 2 marker. We ran west on the Shoreway to W.117 St. I tried to settle in, but the pacers were erratic. Our first six miles were:7.10, 6.51, 7.23, 7.02, 6.40, 7.09.
We turned south and east, taking Detroit Ave. back toward downtown. Fortunately, the rain had let up by this time, and eventually stopped. I need to mention that, unfair as this comparison may be, Cleveland is not Boston. Aside from downtown, and a cluster of people in Lakewood around 117th, there were very few supporters along the route. Not that I rely on crowds for motivation, but in this particular race, I could have used any help I could find. I just did not have the energy and drive that I had in Boston. I knew it was going to be a long day.
As we cam back through downtown, roughly mile 10.5 to 11, I was happy to see some people had gathered along Superior Ave, trying to make a little noise. After that, I didn’t see anyone but the runners for the five miles to University Circle. There, we turned north, taking East Blvd. to Martin Luther King Blvd., miles 17 through 19. This was actually the best part of the race for me. The grade was slightly downhill, the clouds occasionally broke to let a little sunshine through, and the scenery along MLK is actually beautiful. Its a meandering old boulevard with beautiful, stone arched bridges, bounded on each side by trees and flowering bushes.
Just before the 19 mile mark, where we turned west along lake, I passed Marc, a fellow SERC runner whom I should not be passing in a marathon. He's a very good runner, in his prime, and I expected he might run under 3 hours for Cleveland. I asked if he was alright, and he said he was OK, just not great. I continued on, and within a half mile, he caught up with me. He ran with me for a bit, and I told him not to let me hold him back. He said that he didn’t have anything to shot for now, since his target time was no longer possible.
We ran together along four mile of Marginal Rd. Marc knew I was not feeling it, and he encouraged me along, reminding me to relax when my breathing was forced, picking up the pace when I started to fade. He stayed with me all the way to the last mile. That would have been one very ugly finish without him. In the final quarter mile, there were more SERC’s cheer and pushing me on to the finish. I crossed at 3:15:01, a new PR.
Since crossing that finish line, something has been bothering me. Instead of being happy and celebrating a new PR, I am disappointed. I am disappointed that I did not have the strength to finish stronger. I am disappointed with my attitude going into this race…that I wasn’t as keyed up and focused as I should have been. I am disappointed that I didn’t stay with the 3:10 group longer. I am disappointed that I had thoughts about quitting during the last six miles. I let myself take this race too easy. I didn’t put enough miles into my training. I am not going to let that happen again.
11 hours ago