Tuesday, May 22, 2012

My Cleveland Marathon Race Recap

The Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon did not go how I had anticipated. I've had a couple days to process everything so hopefully, I can write a good recap. 

First, I would like to thank the kind people at The Cleveland Marathon for the opportunity to be an Official Race Blogger. It was a great experience!

We had a great weekend in Cleveland for "The Cleveland Experience", but this recap is going to be long enough just with the race, so I will write another post on our weekend. 

Race week the forecast was calling for warmer than usual on race day. I kept telling myself it would be ok. I knew a marathon in May, in Ohio, could be pretty unpredictable (it could be cold and snowy or hot and humid, or somewhere in between). Knowing it could be hot on race day kept me trying to run during the hottest parts of the day (when it was warmer than usual), but as a pre-dawn runner, that is pretty hard to do! 

Marathon morning, I woke up early and decided that there was no point in trying to sleep for the next 25 minutes until my alarm went off. I checked the temperature hoping it had dropped during the night and I would need my throw-away long sleeve shirt. No such luck. At 4:45am, my weather app said it was 69*F! Uh, oh! Good news? VERY low humidity. After some drama with our in room coffee maker (thank you mom for bringing me yours so I could get my much needed coffee!), I dressed and headed down to the lobby to wait for Jamie and Kate. It was funny sitting in the hotel lobby watching the drunk people head to bed while I was getting ready to go for a "little" run! 

Look how excited we are! Getting ready
to leave the hotel.

We got to Browns' stadium where the starting line was and were looking for our friend, Allen, who had already arrived to cheer and support us! We ran into another friend, Greg while we were looking and stopped to chat with him a little. Greg and I were planning to meet another friend, Alissa and all start with the 4:25 pace group.  We finally found Allen and of course stopped for a picture. 

Pre-race. Kate, Anne & Jamie

This was the largest race that I have ever participated in, they had estimated 20,000 runners between the Marathon, half-marathon and 10K (I think that is correct). And while we were trying to make our way to the correct pace areas to start, you could tell there were TONS of people. It was very difficult to move around and harder still to get lined up in approximately the correct positions. Once I found the 4:25 pacer, I was on a mission to find friends from RunDMC (our local running group) Greg and Alissa. I finally found Alissa, then right before the starting gun, we found Greg. We were able to start together which really helped to have friendly faces. Alissa and I had primarily the same goals for time so we were hoping to be able to run together for a while. 

About 8 minutes after the starting gun, we finally crossed the starting line! Wow, that was a lot of people! All the races I've done to this point, after the first couple miles, it thins out and I have been able to run my race. Not so with the Cleveland Marathon. It was extremely crowded until the turn off for the Half Marathon finish. The first mile was slow as expected and then we were off with a good pace. The first several water stop were extremely over-crowded with either not any water ready or so many people stopped and crowded around that you couldn't get near the tables. I wasn't too worried, that is why I carry my own water; for insurance that I have it when I need it! Unfortunately, it wasn't until the Half Marathon turn off that water stops were actually good. I struggled in the first half to actually get to the tables for water and then, half of the tables were not ready. I don't know if it was the heat that they went through more water than they anticipated or if the tables were understaffed. Unfortunately, that put a real damper on the day! 

Somehow Alissa and I got separated, although for the life of me, I have no clue where! (I thought I just took too long trying to get through one of the water stops) and I was a little bummed that I'd have to go the distance on my own. I got so spoiled during my training this year, having so many friends to run with! 

I think it was around mile 8 that I saw Jamie's family. That was a much needed boost!  I had already seen a couple runners down and at the mile 10 hill, we had to move over for a squad. That's never good to see, a sure sign of the heat! At this point, I decided that if I could get water from a water stop, I needed to start dumping it on my body to cool down. We weren't even halfway done and it was getting HOT.

After crossing the bridge back into downtown, I saw the first of my family on the corner. It was AWESOME! The heat was starting to get to me, but not so much that I was concerned yet. My brother, his two girls and my cousin were waiting for me. I was hot enough that I got water from them to dump on my head (hadn't had much chance at the water stops because of lack of water or couldn't get to the tables) and they filled up my handheld and off I went. It was great to see familiar faces! 

Filled bottle, cooled off and I'm on my way!
My splits started getting a little slower by this point, but if I remember correctly, I was still running the majority of the way, just a little slower than before. Looking at my splits, I'm a little surprised they were so fast. We lost the pacer by mile two or three and with the exception of that first mile where we COULDN'T go anywhere due to the amount of people, we were doing pretty good.  


At this point, I remember thinking that I could still PR. I knew I wouldn't reach my goal time but I was adjusting and ok with that. I knew Jeff, my kids and my parents were planning to be around the halfway point, and I saw them between mile 13 and 14 (again, I think that's where it was! It's so hard to remember exactly where things were when there were so many miles to remember!) I stopped again to get more water, Jeff had my spare bottle filled with Nuun ready for me, dad dumped more water all over me (felt SO good!), got hugs from my kids and I was off again. The support and encouragement was just what I needed! 

My awesome family & support crew helping me on my way!
Unfortunately, things went rapidly downhill from there. We were running along and I remember looking ahead and thinking "Where is everyone?". It was at this point that the sidewalk was shaded so we all moved into the shade. There were a lot of people running/walking at this point; myself included. My legs wanted to go, but unfortunately, my body did NOT agree. Every time I started running, I felt nauseous. I kept thinking MLK is coming soon, it's a downhill and I think it should be shaded. It will be better. Not so much for me. So I ran as far as I could, then walked. This continued for the rest of the race. Here is what kept me going...

Text conversation with Jeff:
  • me: Almost to 16. Walking a lot. Might make it under 5 (hadn't given up at this point) 10:02am.
  • me: Too hot. Trying not to over heat. Lots of walking. 10:22am
  • Jeff: Be Safe!
  • Me: I am. don't know if I'll finish.
  • Jeff: You will, but if not, your health comes first.
  • Me: I know. so disappointed.
  • Jeff: Hang in there! We love you and are proud of you no matter what! GO MOMMY GO!

That helped a lot, and of course there were some tears at that point! It was hard to let go of ALL of my goals, but even before Jeff said it, I kept thinking there will always be another race...there is only one mom for my kids and it would be stupid to jeopardize my health for a race (let's face it, I'm not an elite athlete, I don't get paid for this and will never be a contender for winning a race!).  

Jamie and I had a couple of text conversations along the way and I was extremely worried about her. I kept thinking; maybe I'll just sit down and wait for her, then we could finish the race out together. But I knew if I stopped to wait, I would NEVER keep going. At one point, I started thinking about a DNF, but at that point, there were so few people along the course that I had no idea how to even go about doing that. How in the world do you quit during a race?! Then realized that no matter my finishing time, I worked TOO hard and trained for too long to have a DNF. One foot in front of the other for as long as it takes. Besides, at this point, I thought that if people were being taken off the course by ambulance, I needed to finish as long as I stayed safe. I couldn't give up just because it was rough and not what I wanted. I had to finish for those runners that couldn't reach the finish line.

Mile 20 we ran along the lake on a bike path. I kept longingly looking at the cold lake while I ran/walked. I think it was just after we got off the bike path that I heard my name. I was looking around to see who I knew and it was ALISSA!!!!! I was so excited that she caught up to me, but at the same time felt bad that she wasn't ahead of me finishing like I had hoped she would be! We ran/walked or "shuffled" as we called it at that point to the finish. Luckily, the water stations in the second half of the race were better staffed and more prepared for us than the first half was . I was able to re-fill my water bottle when I needed too and they were hosing us down when we went through (THANK YOU!) 

The running community is awesome! I am thankful for the friends that I have made through running and the people I have met through RunDMC, DailyMile and Twitter. Without RunDMC, I probably would not have met Alissa who helped get me through the finish. There were two friends from RunDMC (our local running club) that came just to cheer for us and it was AWESOME to see them along the course! Thank you Jessica and Richard!! And HUGE thank you to Allen, making it to so many spots along the course!!! 

Miles 21-24ish went through some not so nice areas and the streets were in pretty rough shape. I was watching the ground to make sure I didn't step in a pot hole and twist an ankle. The way my race was going, anything was possible at this point! The course volunteers were now telling us how many blocks to water stops. However, I didn't know there were any heat alerts until Jamie texted me telling me it was a yellow alert. When we were around mile 24 I think it was, someone told us it was now a RED ALERT and we HAD to stop for water. We hit the mile 25 water stop, got hosed off again, and we decided that we would run it in and finish as strong as we could. It was rather slow going, but knew when we got to E 9th, it was all downhill to the finish. There were now volunteers out on the course passing out bottled water---I KNEW the heat was bad if that was happening! I have never been so happy to turn a corner in my life! We "ran" down the hill, turned the corner and entered the finish chute. I saw my family, yay!!!!! then Kate came running out to encourage me to the finish. I was so happy to see her with her medal and that she waited HOURS for me to come through! We crossed the finish line!!! Not in the 4:25 or less that I was looking for, but I FINISHED! Considering there were so many times during that race that I was ready to sit down and be done with the race, I consider that a HUGE win! 


The Cleveland Marathon taught me a LOT about myself. It taught me that I am stronger than I ever thought I could be. It taught me that no matter how badly I might think I want to quit, I don't give up. 

One of the members of RunDMC posted this last night on our facebook site: 

per·se·ver·ance noun
1. steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.

and said that completing the Cleveland Marathon was a study in perseverance. He is absolutely correct.

My fantastic husband went to the store and found some fruit bars that he met me at the finish line with. That tasted SO good!! Luckily he did that as there was not much left over at the finish line. There was water, chips, pretzels and bananas. I was hoping for chocolate milk; apparently they ran out as I saw trash cans overflowing with chocolate milk bottles. I was hoping for a bagel, or SOMETHING full of carbs. Other than the chips, no such luck. I know it took me a LONG time to finish the race, but I never imagined that they would be out of food/drink already. Luckily, they had lots of water and I took a couple as I knew I needed it. 

With my biggest supporter!!! 

We took several pictures and moved into the shade to relax and wait for Jamie to come through. I received the text that she finished and made my way to the finish area. So happy to see her come through!!!!! 

We did it! Marathon #2 done!
Definitely not the race I trained for, but I know you cannot train for the weather. Definitely a race that I will always remember and hope that I taught my kids and nieces some valuable lessons about dedication and sticking to your goals no matter how they may change. I FINISHED! 

Official time: 5:20:35

My time may not be what I wanted it to be, but I am very proud of my race and the completion of marathon #2! Might have to run a third now though to get that time I wanted....


  1. So proud of you for persevering!! I think any race that taught you something about yourself is a WIN, even if your finishing time isn't what you hoped it would be. Great job, Anne! You ARE stronger than you think!

  2. How did we completely miss each other with the pace group at the start of the race? And Jessica is one of my college friends! She was so awesome for coming out and cheering, your group in Columbus sounds great!! Congrats on the finish, you did awesome!

    1. I just read your recap and thought the same thing! Such a small world, isn't it?! Our running group is AWESOME!!!

  3. You did a fantastic job. You should be very proud of your accomplishment.

  4. Congrats!!!!!!! I was out there running with friends and cheering and it was BRUTAL! You were not alone in your struggles. I saw people stopped on the side of the road with less than 2 miles to go and I had to literally pick them up and try to get them moving. Those late miles through the warehouses were awful too! What were they thinking? Only good thing about them was the shade! I hope your next race is a high of 50, a beautiful scenic course with well staffed waterstops! You deserve it after this one!!!! Congrats again and recover well!

    1. Thank you, Salty! I just read your spectator recap and agree with many of the points you made. I high of 50...that sounds perfect!

  5. Nicely written post! This race was so brutal...I had a good cry around the 12 mile mark over what I knew was going to be another missed BQ & again at 18 when I saw my PR drifting off into neverland. That's when I found an acquaintenence of mine who had been in the 3:45 pace group (I started with the 3:55's) We both laughed & shuffled our way to the finish; Brandon came for me around mile 20, Karlee & her friend Ashley at 22...those were the longest miles of my ever-livin' life! 6th & slowest marathon ever & I feel like my stellar training season was all for nothing...funny how we runners beat ourselves up huh?! Well done & glad you had so many friends and family there to support you! Oh, they finally found my info. & I now have a time posted at least!

    1. Thanks, Deb! This race served as an important reminder about how no matter what kind of training we do, race day is out of our hands with things we cannot control. Frustrating, though! Part of me wants to go out and actually run 26.2 miles just to see how I do for my own peace of mind. Hmmm... RunDMC race perhaps? :)

  6. Congrats on finishing such a tough race. You just never know what Ohio will bring you weather wise. Glad you stayed safe on the course! It makes me worried for the Canton Marathon Relay I am running in June. Guess it is time to start training in the hot weather!

    1. Thanks, Jessica. Yes, train in the hottest parts of the day, for sure!

  7. I am so proud of you for finishing!! Sometimes that's all you can hope for. You can't control the conditions. Congrats!! Great post.

  8. Congratulations on your finish. What an amazing accomplishment to push through and persevere!

  9. Congratulations! I have been reading several post-race posts this morning and it's helping me put into perspective what I accomplished. This was my first marathon, so I didn't know how much of my extra time could be blamed on the heat (I finished 30 - 45 minutes slower than I had hoped). I now think quite a bit. I finished about 20 minutes after you, but am proud that I ran almost every step. The heat was brutal and I kept thinking, "I cannot believe there is no shade in this city!" Congratulations for persevering! It is an accomplishment that no one can take away!

    1. Thank you, Heather! Congrats to you on your first marathon finish! Sorry your first experience was such a tough one, but if you can survive that race to the finish, you can definitely do another one!

  10. Way to finish! I totally understand your experience with trying to run but being nauseous every time you did. I ran the Chicago Marathon in 2010, which was about 85 degrees and red alert basically the whole time, and I felt the same. It was terrible, I walked so much after training had gone so well. It was heart-breaking. This sounds like it was so hard and you did the right thing to slow down and just finish! Go you!

    1. Thanks, Paulette! After a couple days, I'm starting to recognize that just finishing this particular race is huge, but you're right, also heart-breaking after such fantastic training!

  11. Finishing this Marathon just made you a stronger person. I know it can be hard to accept a less then planned performance after spending so many months of training and having to sacrifice. Having said that, I think that you will run other marathons and find them that much more enjoyable. And after all of them done, you will always remember Cleveland as it showed you what you were made of.

    Congrats on finishing. Job well done.

    Dave Peters

    1. Thank you for the kind words, Dave!

  12. I've read through this twice now and still, the best comment I can come up with is:
    You, my BRF, are awesome.
    I truly hope you aren't bitter about this experience. There is nothing that we could have done differently. The weather we were given was a disappointment especially because of how well we trained. We were SO ready!
    Knowing that you were "only" two miles ahead of me, part of me was hoping that I could catch up to you.

    Next time, we'll meet our goals, bigger goals! Wherever, whenever we choose our next 26.2 adventure...look out, here we come!

  13. Anne, You may not know or feel it now but running a marathon as hard as this is what will help you have a great one next time or maybe the time after that. We don't have to set a PR on every race but we do get stonger after each one. Each one bring on a new set of learnings, experiences and challenges. One of these races, when you are expecting it the least you will set not only a PR but you will realize that all the ones that you did before and did not go as well had a purpose. You did great for finishing and I am proud to know so many strong people. Reading your blog and everyone's experiences is what helps me get out the door for a run or a workout. You are such an inspiration. Keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep the positive attitude.
    Michele Hofer

    1. Thank you, Michele! And yes, I learned so much about myself and about LIFE from this marathon. You are totally right...one foot in front of the other. It got me to the finish line, for sure!

  14. Congratulations!!! You did great under these brutal circumstances, you proved so much to yourself with this race, you have inspired me beyond belief, you should be proud of yourself, you did amazing!!

  15. Congratulations! Sunday was a monster, you should be proud of yourself!

  16. That was BRUTAL! but you did it, and onto the next, right?!!!! Congrats Anne!

    1. Thank you! and yes, on to the next mile...

  17. Congratulations! Great race report. What a rough set of circumstances. Awesome that you finished, bummer that it wasn't what you wanted. Know exactly how you felt. You will get the next one!

    1. Thanks, Andrew! I finished, that is the important part. Many didn't but I never gave up!

  18. Congratulations!!! A finish is a finish is what everyone kept telling me when I wanted to quit the OC Marathon a couple weeks ago. You have inspired me for a year, so keep on running!

  19. Brilliant Anne - well done. Amazing persistence and perseverance - just incredible. Really inspiring. You will definitely have to run a 3rd to get your time but only when you are ready. So proud of you and, absolutely, you are a great role model for your children and extended family. Sensational.

    1. Thanks, Ros! The running community is amazing, I get inspiration every day from all over the world and hope that I can help others the same way I have been helped!

  20. Congratulations! Bummer that the heat put such a damper on your plans, but 26 miles is 26 miles!!!

  21. The '12 Cleveland Marathon was my first ever marathon. If you remember, the winter was perfect for training. It was cool and not much snow so we could do our long runs on the weekends.

    Like you, I watched those weather reports for weeks and had a sinking feeling. I started with the 9:00/mile group... HA! No way on that May day. I finished around your time, in 5:08. I hated that time but EVERYTHING you said is true. The family, friends, support, perseverence and pride... I wouldn't have changed that for the world.

    I told my wife upon crossing the finish line to never let me run another marathon. Shoot me if I say I'm going to. Lucky for me she doesn't own a gun. Cleveland 2013 - here I come!

    I'll definitely be following you for the next few months. Good luck!!!!! and see you on the roads!


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