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A Marathon for Football Lovers:  Pro Football Hall of Fame Marathon 4/29/18

A week before the race, the weather was looking perfect – sun and clouds and in the 60’s. Perhaps a little warm, but definitely tank top weather for running a marathon. I had no question as to what I was going to wear. However, as we got closer to the day (and already in Ohio), the weather was looking colder and colder with NW winds in the teens (so go ahead, subtract about 7, 8, 9 degrees from the actual temperature!). On marathon morning, I woke up just after 4am (well, I lied... I woke up hungry about 1am, ate a banana and went back to sleep) and I immediately checked the weather and it was 31 degrees but it felt like 24 degrees. Great I thought, I am going to freeze LOL. I was even debating not taking a shower but my hair was still a mess even if I put a hat on, so I decided to be clean plus it helps wake me up. At home, I NEVER take a shower before running because I can’t stand feeling clean and then going out to sweat. It just seems like it doesn’t make sense, but for race days, I make an exception. As I was getting ready for the race and now gagging down a half of muffin, oatmeal and protein bar, I was bundling up as much as I could so I wouldn’t be cold during the race. I know you sweat like crazy but I have this thing about being cold. Um, I HATE IT! Yes, I do even though I toughed it out in -24 degree weather this winter with snow, ice, anything. I absolutely hate being cold. I kept saying to myself, 24 degrees should feel like a heat wave, but sorry it doesn’t. We left the hotel at 6am for a 7am start and we didn’t have to travel far – maybe 5 miles tops to get to the Stark County Fairgrounds. However, we elected not to listen to SIRI and got stuck in the shit traffic on the way to the race. It was unbelievable bumper to bumper traffic and OF COURSE, I had to PEE!!! Thank God the kids were not in the car because I was swearing like a truck driver. Yes, I hate being cold, I hate traffic (from my long commuting days in and out of the city) and I had to PEE to boot. Plus I hate being late for races. Anyone who really knows me KNOWS that I am ALWAYS prepared. I have everything down to a science. This traffic pissed me off because I wasn't prepared. I didn’t expect this to be such a big race. Essentially a 5 mile drive took us 45 minutes as we were CRAWLING along. We finally got to the Stark County Fairgrounds at 6:45 and Pat dropped me off and I literally ran about three tenths of a mile to the port-o-potties, did my business and ran to the start line shivering the whole time. (I wanted to stay in the port-o-potty to be warm.) I didn’t expect to see Pat again as he would never find me in this enormous crowd of people and frankly I was too damn cold to take my hands out of my sleeves to text him. It was so cold, I had to use my throwaway gloves to cover my phone for the entire race or it would lose its battery. (I learned this during the freezing winter months!) Finally, I got brave enough to text him and tell him I was near the truck (that was parked in same place from the previous day’s 5K). Jeanine texted me as well and said good luck and I told her I was freezing my ass off and she said, it’s good to run in the cold. Yes, but not TODAY!!! I had 4 (yes 4!) dri-fit shirts on to keep me warm and an old sweatshirt that Pat gave me back in 1991 that I cut in half to wear as a throwaway. Believe it or not, but he found me before the race and was trying to keep me warm. I was shivering….it felt like 25 degrees now and my hair was still a little wet. It sucked. They even slightly delayed the start of the race because the traffic SUCKED and people couldn’t get there!! So then he gave me a smooch and the shit was about to get real. Off we went. The cool thing is they had fire coming out of the Cleveland Browns helmets at the start line so you were really warm for like a split second. LOL! Then it was like here we freaking go people. Let me just say the roads around this Fairgrounds completely sucked. They were dirt/gravel (thanks, I really wanted tiny pebbles in my shoes at the START of a marathon with only 26 more miles to go) and the amount of potholes were ridiculous. I was just looking down at the road to make sure I didn’t fall into one and break my ankle. I never saw the first mile marker but figured I was running my usual pace (in the low 8’s). Some marathons I ridiculously run in the 7’s to start if I have done a good job tapering but have to slow myself down because I cannot sustain that pace forever. I’m not that good. LOL. I was debating when to ditch my sweatshirt. I was still cold at mile 1 and 2 and I didn’t want to lose the sweatshirt unless I was absolutely certain I would never want it again. So it was just before mile 3 that I tossed it. At exactly mile marker 3, I looked at my stopwatch (which I thought I started at the start line) and it freaking said 0:00:00 and I was so pissed. I had no freaking idea what I was doing for a run time although it felt like in the 8’s. It would only figure that this marathon did NOT have clocks every few miles and NOT even at important checkpoints. Suddenly, I was in SHIT-OUT-OF-LUCK land when it came to understanding my pace and running time. It pissed me off but what could I do?!? I decided to at least START my stopwatch exactly at mile 3 so AT LEAST I had some clue. If I figured I ran 3 miles in 25 minutes, at least I could tack that on to the time on my stopwatch the rest of the marathon to get a sense for my “who the bleep knows” time. I ran through downtown Canton and all around a bunch of schools that had banners of student athletes which I thought was pretty cool. Each mile marker in the marathon had a Hall of Famer’s picture so that was fun to see. I knew most of them – just because I am a football freak. It’s seriously one of my passions. I would play football if I could. No, they would squash me like a grape, but I absolutely love football – almost as much as running. I would prefer to watch NFL Network instead of the crappy news. I was probably around mile 6 or 7 when I saw a lady near the back of the pack on the other side of the road wearing a Patriots shirt and I said “Go Patriots” and she cheered too. It felt good to bond with someone – someone I didn’t even know but we like the same team. I wondered if she was from New England. I should have thought to wear football gear and that was the cool thing about the race, people wear wearing the shirts of their favorite pro football team. Here we were all brought together this day for this race in Canton, Ohio! Throughout the next few miles, I knew I was clicking (as compared to the marathon in New Orleans) and at mile 8, so 5 miles after I started my stopwatch, it said 45:46, so essentially just a little over a 9 minute per mile pace. I thought that was decent. I try to temper myself because I know 26.2 flipping miles is a LONG way to go so I try not to go complete gangbusters right out of the gate so I’m not dying later on. Although my best races always got off to a fast pace (Myrtle Beach mile 1 in 7:15, Philadelphia mile 1 in 7:41), so here I go again arguing with myself. However between mile 8 and 9, I HAD to go to the bathroom. Like emergency! WTF where is there a port-o-potty NOW!?! I saw one just about mile 9 and thank God! I know I lost three and a half to four minutes in there but I had to because I did NOT want to stop again. I hate stopping as it is, so I figuring stopping once is better than twice. Thankfully I did not have to wait in line – although people were ready to barge in while I was in there. Um can you see the door is locked and the color is RED? After that major pit stop, I was off and running again but I was nervous. Soon afterward, they passed out GU and the guy must have been blind as a bat because he didn’t give me one and this nice guy behind me ran up to me and gave me one. How sweet! This is why I love marathoners. They are so freaking nice and disciplined too. You can’t go wrong knowing a marathoner. They never let you down. But to be honest, I wasn’t even sure I WANTED the GU. I was so worried about intaking food and it not agreeing with me, that I just held it in my hands for 3 more miles until I was sure. I ate my first GU between miles 6-7 which is late for me, so I know I wasn’t going to really need it until mile 12. As we turned around on the course and then ran by the posters of fallen military personnel, wow, it was just an emotional experience looking at that and trying to run. You see these names of young people killed in duty and it just breaks your heart. I remember thinking how sad it was that those people lost their lives and so I can’t complain about having to poop my brains out and lose 4 minutes in a marathon. I just kept thinking about them, their families and the impact that has on people … forever. It made me feel grateful for their service, for life and the ability to conquer this course. It was overwhelming to see poster after poster of all these people who lost their lives. God love those people and their families. It was just around this time that I also saw someone on the opposite side of the road (who hadn’t gone all the way to the turnaround point yet), simply just turn around right in front of me and cut the course. I never quite understood this mentality. Why cut the course unless you feel you can’t do it?!? I mean you PAID to run this course, so run it and try hard. I just never understood cheaters – in any facet of life really. I don’t know who this lady was and if she was a marathoner or half-marathoner since she was in front of me, but nevertheless, I lost respect for her as a fellow runner. Well even if she gets a better time, SHE KNOWS she cheated. SHE has to live with HERSELF. What was a pisser too for the marathoners is they did not record your time at 13.1 miles! And it figures my stopwatch wasn’t set from the beginning because I have no idea what my time was. I figure it probably was just under 2 hours (subtracting the 3.5-4 minutes I lost), but I am not 100% certain. Thankfully the half marathoners took off from the marathoners at mile 11 or so, so that’s when you get a sense for “who’s left”. It is good to spread out a little bit and have some additional personal space. This course was definitely an annoying course as there were lots of out and backs and sometimes you passed by the front of the pack and sometimes you passed by the back of the pack. There were way too many turns on this course and it was confusing but I will give credit that they did have people at all of the side streets. It was a bummer to me that I had to stop for those minutes and then be somewhat cautious about how I ran and treated my body the rest of the way. I always carry “pepto pills” on me in my back zippered pocket. That’s where my medicine and memory cards of Mom & Don reside for EVERY RACE. So I took those along the way to ensure I was not going to be bothered again and sure enough it worked! In spite of this issue, I still felt pretty good and I was very strong beforehand and I was trying hard to make up for those 4 missed minutes but it’s kind of hard to do in a marathon. You just have to be patient. The marathon can be very unforgiving. It’s hard and long and for it to go right, well, so much HAS TO go right. It’s kind of like childbirth in a way. Each kid/marathon is different, but how you get through it varies. You have some problems with one more than another but you always find a way. Around mile 16, the 4:10 pacer caught up to me and I was trying hard to keep up. I kind of felt pissed, but then I just run my own race. I could have sworn I passed mile 18 twice because the damn course was so confusing but maybe I was hallucinating! Of course I was tiring, but I still felt strong (unlike in New Orleans), so I was continuing on. The headwinds were a little nasty on the long straightaway near the end of the race and there was some big ass hill at mile 24 (5.6% grade) but I kept going. I had to pee so I did not drink after mile 22!! Once I got to mile 25, I always say “1 more mile, that’s it”. The glory mile… time to soak in this whole experience knowing that in 10-11 minutes this race is over and I can rest and bask in the accomplishment of motoring my body 26.2 miles. Love that. Since we had been to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Stadium and museum in the days prior to the race, I knew exactly where it was so I was not wondering where the finish line was. Once we turned left and saw the stadium entrance, it was like “Yes, finally. I made it”. Inside the stadium, we had to run behind the seats and there was mile marker 26 with a sign that said “Welcome Home”. At that moment, I was psyched. I made it. I was almost inside the stadium and this race was almost over. The course was frustrating at times but yet, this moment was awesome. To run inside Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium where all of these famous football players spoke about their storied careers, is the thrill of a lifetime. Especially when you love football. It was so great. I turned left and looked up and Pat and the girls were right there videotaping me and then I got to run on the perimeter of the field to the finish line. It was so awesome!!! I loved those last couple of minutes so much. After the race, we took pictures on the field and it was incredible. Within 10 minutes of finishing the race, it suddenly felt cold and wrapped myself in this AWESOME fleece Pro Football Hall of Fame blanket!!! Another perk of this race – plus runners received free entry into the Pro Football Hall of Fame! Recovery from this race went well and fairly quickly. I have found that colder races lead to faster recoveries and less blisters (only 1 this time!)

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