I ran the inaugural running of this event last year and that was my last marathon, actually. I've been sticking to only one official marathon per year, although sometimes I'll be known to just run one on the weekend "just because." Last year was awesome and the race management of this race took the results of it and learned from it, made some tweaks, and brought us a fantastic race this year. The course, from what I could tell, had only one super minor tweak in it around Mile 21 where the last relay hand-off takes place. Outside of that, it appeared to be the same course.
Logistics: At the Pro Football Hall of Fame, there isn't enough parking to host all the runners (marathon, half marathon, and relay runners) without disrupting regular attenders of the Hall itself. Last year, they had everyone park at the Stark County Fairgrounds and shuttle them over. I didn't use that but this year, they moved the parking spot to the huge open parking lot of Belden Village Mall...one short exit down I-77 from the Hall. We arrived at 6:15am (7am race start) and didn't wait a moment for a bus. The Stark County transit was lined up to take us to the Fawcett Stadium and the start. Easy parking and super quick ride to the start...perfect and it couldn't be better. After the race, it was just as flawless. There were a plethora of buses lined up again so no wait at all. The drivers even had a great attitude, too. :) Upon arrival at the stadium, we walked on in to this view of the finish line and field...and a brilliant sunrise. The curve around the end zone at the bottom left is the sprint to the finish at the 50 yard line.
The Course: This course is most easily described in two parts...the first half and the second half. All runners are together for the full and half marathon all the way until right before the half marathoners head back into Fawcett Stadium for their finish. This is pretty great, especially for those who are running with another runner of the opposing distance as I was. It's an easy break-off and easily understood. As for elevation, below is the elevation profile for the entire 26.2. "Rolling gently" is how I'd sum up this course. No big hills as I define them but certainly some rises and falls here and there.
|First Half - click on it to enlarge|
The second half is almost entirely residential and takes place west of the southwest of the Hall. If you like turns and having the road all to yourself, this is your cup-o-tea. Now before you think I'm hating on the second half, please understand that I knew this before running it this year...not last year, though. I don't typically like to complain without offering a suggestion for improvement. In this case, I have no idea what I'd suggest. #1: the bulk of runners are finishing the half marathon...way more registrants. You can't do much about that and that's the trend nationwide. #2: Residential is...boring. Unless the residents come out to cheer us on, it's going to be painfully quiet except for the regular water stop and running families waiting for their runner to pass...and cheering others on while they wait. So while the second half is what it is, you just need to be prepared for it. For some, it may be music and if that's you, bring it! Here's the zig-zag second half:
|2nd Half - click on it to enlarge|
One of my favorite (if not my favorite) parts of the course happens in the 20th mile just like last year. The Flags of Freedom put an incredible 1,000 3x5 flags on poles in the ground, one at a time along the course. With the clear blue skies and breeze, every Old Glory waved in a majestic way. This was a great distraction from the sucktastic Mile 20.