The sound of a bluesy guitar riff drifted down the block from Highland Square Saturday morning as the Viper Family walked up to watch the Akron Marathon. At first I wondered if it might be Mike Lenz playing for the runners, as he has a regular gig at one of the nearby bars. Boy, was I wrong.
Lenz is an encyclopedia of American blues and folk music. He taught Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys how to play guitar. This guy playing, he knew four songs that all sounded the same and couldn't teach roadkill how to rot. His mournful dirges highlighted the inner demons that plague a marathoner at the 24th mile. Those of us within earshot of his moaning all wanted to die.
A police officer at the intersection where we camped out to feed Baby Viper conspired with the spectators to get the lone guitarist to stop. He even consulted a fellow officer if there were a provision within the Homeland Security Act to allow him to classify the musician as a terrorist.
One of the four songs this guy played included a lyric about "wounded knees," I shit you not. However, one man's proliferation of suffering did not impede the record 14,856 runners of this year's race, including the marathon, half marathon and five-person relay.
This was the first time in six years that I haven't participated in the Akron Marathon. I'd be lying if I told you I didn't tear up a bit seeing all the runners go by without me. It was a beautiful day, though maybe a bit warm for someone of my pace. Otherwise, the day was ripe for new records.
We just missed the male leaders, who made it a tight race. The winner, Ethiopian Getachew Asfaw, broke the course record with a 2:15:59 finish, just three seconds ahead of the second place finisher.
However, we were there to cheer on our good friend Martini, who was shooting for a sub-three finish. He ran past looking good and working hard, though he missed his goal by three and half minutes. Instead, he had to settle for a new PR, a BQ, third place AG, 39th place Gender and Top 50 overall.
Martini has turned himself into a monster runner. He finished his first 100-miler earlier this year and then turned his attention to training hard for this race. We used to run together a lot, but not much anymore. Our final Summer Solstice Challenge is an allegory for our running relationship. He left me in the dust, and I settled down with my woman. I have no regrets, but his recent performances leave me a bit in awe.
From the time I started running marathons until a couple years ago, Martini's best marathon time was only 30 minutes faster than mine. Now, he's got an hour on my personal best. I have a lot of catching up to do. Next year, I plan to return, and hopefully I'll do more than establish a parenthood PR.
2014 OR BUST!