Sunday, May 18, 2008

Love or hate it. It don't matter.

Official time: 01:47.41

I peeled 57 seconds off my personal best. Suck on that! AY-YI-YI-YI-YI-YI!

Parked in my regular lot, off 17th and Chester - I have a parking pass! Hiked to the Galleria. It was raining.

Two things I forgot - nipple band-aids and a bottle of water. The and-aids turned out to be a non-issue - but the water ... see, when I did NYC two years ago, I knew I would be standing around for four hours. I brought an oversized bottle of water, and carried it around like a dope while everyone was washing down as much free water and sports drink as they could, there were tables loaded with it.

In Akron, ditto, lots of free stuff at the start, water, drinks, bagels, bananas, lots and lots. Cleveland? Nothing. Absolutely nothing at the start of the race. Just rain, and lots of it. I was seriously second-guessing my dress decision, I really wished I had worn long sleeves.

The start was five minutes late, and to add insult to injury they were playing Cleveland Rocks over the loudspeaker as we crossed to start line ... as performed by the Presidents of the United States of America. I am trying to imagine the reaction if they were playing New York, New York at the foot of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge ... you know, the version recorded by Steve & Eydie.

I was a little bummed the route goes west first, because that's the least exciting part of the route. But then, that means the Full Marathoners get a big finish, which they deserve. But it's not really the "Cleveland Marathon" it's more like the "Shoreway" Marathon or the "Route 2" Marathon.

As we were headed down Lake Avenue, I had my only conversation of the morning.

"Is that the turnaround up there?" asked a professional-looking fellow.

"Yeah," someone else replied.

"Are we in Lakewood?" he asked, confused.

"No," I said, "the whole race is in Cleveland, we turn around at W. 117th which is the border with Lakewood."

"Wow," he said. "This is a very nice looking neighborhood." And then added, "I'm surprised."

I should have known that was coming, and yet I was surprised. I let out a bemused laugh. "Thanks," I said, "I guess."

"Where are you from?" asked the woman on his left.

"I'm from New York," he said, "We moved here a year ago."

"I think that's why they send us down this way," I said, "to show off the ridiculously large, lakefront houses."

Which I realized was one of the things that was dreary and dull about this race. You go down the Shoreway, with little to look at, a brief stint through white, affluent residential property, back into the town center, and then (for the Full Marathoners) miles and miles of Chester Avenue and again, little or nothing to see and no one around. As I drove past the Full Marathon runners on my way home, I was very glad I wasn't one of them. I live here and it would have put my teeth on edge.

The professional-looking guy (who nows lives in North Royalton, no surprise there) went on. "There's so much great stuff here, but no one knows it. The Metroparks are fantastic, and no one uses it. The Botanical garden is outstanding, but it's no one goes there."

"That's our new ad campaign," I said. "Cleveland - It's Not Crowded."

"And it's cheap," he said.

I went on. "Cleveland - Cheap ... and It's Not Crowded."

And then I noticed the woman on his left. "Hey!" I said, "Martha!" And Martha said hey and I added, "And you see, you always run into someone you know!"

Heading back into town, I hadn't realized we would be heading down Detroit, which was the best part of the morning. The rain had stopped, and as we passed CPT I ran out of line, placed a kiss on Calvin's brick, and kept going. That was right at nine miles. With four more to go it was dawning on me that I had an awful lot of energy left, and began speeding up, just a little.

By the time I was entering downtown I had thoughts of finishing the race ahead of my last time, which I did not expect to do because of my sparse training and the awful weather. My shoes were entirely soggy. But I was not chilly, nothing was aching, I had taken all of my GU, hit most of the water stops, I was not dehydrated, hungry, weak or anything. I was, as they say, going strong.

It felt great to finish - I was concerned I had poured on too much, too soon, but the results were satisfying. And I feel great no and it's just a few hours later.

I wish the Cleveland Marathon had a more interesting route, into the neighborhoods - you know, the other neighborhoods. Where people who don't look like all the runners live. It would be an eye-opening experience, and possibly encourage citizens of the city to be part of the celebration - which is to say, to create a celebration, a real celebration.

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