I've gotta be honest. With marathon #22 on deck and one that follows a heavy ultra-marathon year, I feared that I'd get to Akron with it just being "another day" of running. I remember back, like it was yesterday, in 1997 out in Scranton, PA at the Steamtown Marathon. It was Columbus Day weekend, the air was cool and crisp, leaves changing, and a seemingly insurmountable distance in front of me. The marathon. A truly life-changing experience. I still remember the firing of the Civil War cannon over the hillside for the race start...which they still do today. I also remember the elementary school kids greeting us at the start with purple "good luck" ribbons as we stepped off the bus after our bus ride from downtown Scranton. (I think I have that ribbon somewhere!) A point-to-point course through 13 small towns, all with phenomenal crowd support, made Steamtown a perfect first marathon. The finish line was equally as good as it was on a fast downhill into downtown Scranton. Space blankets flew around, medals were draped over worn-out sweaty runners, free massages were plentiful, and thoughts floated around aimlessly about the #1 question on so many runners' minds: "What next?"
Jump ahead 11 years, almost to the day. I've got the pre-race jitters this morning as if it were years ago. I am SO thankful for this!!! Why, you ask? It's because the excitement of the marathon, the expo, the packet pickup, the pasta load, the starting line, the FINISH line, the medal...I've been very afraid that it would get "old" as the numbers got racked up. Guess what: it doesn't. Just because some training runs eclipse the 26.2 mile distance, the "experience" of the marathon is special every single time. With Akron, it's even more exciting. With a running community alive and well, I'll know more people at the starting line than at any other marathon I've ever done. That's just the icing on the cake. How awesome is it to combine friends and family in such an awesome experience?
Best of luck to all running Akron tomorrow. It is a finely done event and should be a blast. Personally, I can't wait to read all the funny/encouraging signs along the course. I also look forward to the neighborhood parties from miles 21-23. Soak it all in!
Happy "Akron Marathon," everyone! (I'll make just this one exception away from the trails...just this one!)