Down Howard Street. The Towpath. Sand Run. The Bastard Garman Hill. Shredded quads. Loneliness and lost confidence. Terrible cramping. Brutality to the 21st mile marker.
This will be my third attempt at the Akron Marathon. I know the course, which only means I know where I've struggled before.
Just before the halfway mark, I will turn right onto Howard Street and run down a steep hill into the Cuyahoga River Valley before entering the Towpath Trail. This 105-foot drop is notorious for making me run too fast, shredding my quads and causing me to blow up later in the race. I consider this hill the source of all failures to come.
Once on the Towpath, racers becomes more spread out, and there is no place for spectators to watch and cheer you on. It can be a lonely place, a place where my confidence has faded after a bad mile or two.
Last year, Sand Run was where I experienced my first ever bout of muscle cramps during a race. Until this point, I was on pace for a 3:55:xx finish. However, the park is where the course starts its long climb out of the valley.
The Bastard Garman Hill. I drove down it last night. It seems so piddly. But this quarter-mile, 50-foot climb is a rude end cap to 21 miles. You can see for yourself by clicking on the elevation profile, below.
I have struggled at these points in the race, but I won't let these previous failings scare me. These are my demons, this is my exorcism.
This will be third attempt at the Akron Marathon. The third time is the charm.