Thursday, September 20, 2007

Akron Marathon Preview: The Why

It's a little less than a year from the day I decided I wanted to run a marathon. I had run only one long distance race before, and I was hurt from trying to run too far too fast in the months since. But it was on the sidelines of last year's Akron Marathon where I felt the tug.

It's not like it was a beautiful day. Autumn was in full gloom. It was in the 40s and drizzling rain. Non-elites and sane runners were dressed in long sleeves or long pants, wind breakers or trash bags and with gloves or hats. Martini and his ex-girlfriend's aunt were running, and the ex-girlfriend, who was a neighbor of mine, was throwing a marathon-watching party. She had a tent set up and Bloody Mary fixings. I brought two sixers of Yuengling Porter, which I had brought back from a business trip in Pittsburgh.

Despite the dreary weather, we had a blast, getting drunk at 9 a.m. and cheering on the runners until we were hoarse. Which was the only way for us to stay warm. We set up a small stand as if it were a fluid station--only with Bloody Marys. Attached to the stand was a sign, a warning of what was in the cups. It got a good laugh from many runners, but one runner actually took one. He was tall and lithe. When he approached, he asked, "Are these for real?" When we said yes, he picked one up and guzzled it down, giving us a thumbs up as he trotted away.

A columnist from the local newspaper chronicled the race by following the very last finisher in a van. He wrote about the ultimate un-winner who came from behind to beat the city bus that marked the official end of the race. He wrote about the scenery through downtown Akron, two parks and a few historic neighborhoods. He wrote about the crowds, reputably some of the best of any marathon, with a specific mention of our group of drunkards.

The best moment, however, was when a short, elderly woman--I'd guess mid-70s--ran past and stopped to turnaround. She walked right up to me and pointed to my beer. "Can I have a sip of that?" I handed her the bottle and she took a long pull before she gave it back. She said thanks and took off again. That memory puts a smile on my face every time I think of it. I hope I see her again this year. And if she out-kicks me to the finish, so be it.

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