My first relay is done!
This past weekend, I ran the Akron Marathon Relay. I ran with some of my fellow Cleveland Marathon Ambassadors. I’m not going to lie – going into the race, I was pretty nervous. I’d never done a relay before and all the logistics made me uneasy. Where did I start? Did I run with a baton? (a la track and field) What is this slap bracelet I run with? How would I find my other team members? Needless to say, we ROCKED it.
B and I decided last minute to spend Friday night in Akron so we wouldn’t have to drive back and forth twice to go to the Expo Friday and race Saturday morning. So Friday late after work, B and I headed down to Akron for the Expo. I love race expos and it was so great to see the famous Blue Line in real life and feel all the amazing energy at the show!
We had gotten Flaming Ice Cube for dinner and I had my standard pre-race or long-run meal before we headed to bed. I had a 5:15 a.m. wakeup to get ready for!
Saturday morning came quickly, as most people in the hotel were also going to the race. I heard doors opening and closing starting around 4:30 a.m. (the hotel had a shuttle to the start at 5:30 a.m.) and I was able to get up, get race ready, and drink some water and eat part of a bagel. My stomach was acting up, which is unusual for me. I rarely have actual stomach issues, but for some reason this morning my stomach was not liking food OR water.
Warning: if you’re not a runner, feel free to not read on. It’s just about running and involves multiple portapotty visits, which, if you’re not a runner (and even if you are a runner) may be TMI.
B and I got to the starting line around 6:30 a.m. so I could meet up with some of my fellow Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon Ambassadors. We parked near a McDonald’s and as B grabbed breakfast I had to make bathroom trip #2-3. I couldn’t finish my half of bagel and just really hoped that I would make it another few hours until I had to start.
We made it to the starting line and I had enough time to hit up the porta potty Then, we had just enough time to snap a few photos before it was time before it was 7 a.m. and the race began!
I was able to find Jill, Dan and Stephanie, but not Andrew, our first relay runner. I was hoping to find him before we started so I could see what he was wearing and we could discuss the bracelet handoff, but alas, he was nowhere to be found. After the start, it was time to make my way to my start.
We got to leg #2’s start, a few blocks away, and I knew I had like 35 minutes to kill before Andrew got there. I had enough time to hit up the porta potty line twice and decided that it was not worth it to drink any water. I knew I was dehydrated but figured it wasn’t worth it – I didn’t want to get sick during the race!
I waited for Andrew to come and soon they started to call Bib Numbers. Andrew is speedy, and sure enough, I was one of the first runners to be called. I made my way onto the street and grabbed the slap bracelet as Andrew ran up to me. It was go-time!
The 5.7 miles I ran are kind of a blur. I know that I wasn’t feeling my best. I was feeling slow, sluggish and slightly dehydrated and woozy (likely from so many bathroom trips). I was running with some of the faster marathoners (Andrew runs a 6:45 min/mile pace, so many of the runners were running about that speed too!) and I was getting passed nearly every second. I started the run on an incline and there were rarely any flat spots.
I passed a few water and gatorade spots but didn’t want to stop for water because I felt selfish – after all, I wasn’t a marathoner or even half-marathoner, so who was I to stop for water? Also, I worried that I’d feel sick again and I knew I couldn’t let my team down and slow down to stop for the bathroom! Around mile 3, I knew I had to take in some water, so I grabbed a cup and drank a few sips. Sure enough, I started to feel sick again. I knew I just had to make it to the finish. A few hills and miles later, and finally I saw the sign that we were ready for the relay handoff. I got to the point where I was supposed to meet Stephanie (leg #3), and she wasn’t there. I called her name, stopped for maybe half a second, and she appeared! Finally. I was done.
I made my way to through the crowd in a daze. I was tired, needed water, and felt discouraged. I felt like I had let my team down – I knew I had been going so much slower than I had expected. All of a sudden, Andrew appeared and gave me a high five and brought me a bottle of water. He was so encouraging and enthusiastic – I was so grateful to see him! I think I may have teared up from relief but also just out of feeling his support. And then I spotted B! He had been watching from across the street and also had water and a hug for me. Again, almost teared up – I felt so emotional for some reason.
Just then, Jamie ran by – I was so excited to see her! She is another marathon ambassador and was running the Akron full. She was one of the main reasons we were there as a relay team – to cheer her on!
After that, Andrew and I parted ways – B and I hung out and watched some of the finishers and then it was time to meet up with my fellow ambassadors and wait for the rest of our relay team and Jamie to finish! I made my way to the Finishers Festival on the Rubber Ducks stadium field. I felt much better and was able to enjoy a free beer, a few bites of pizza and had a great reunion with the rest of my ambassadors!
Here’s our time – I was Leg #2 (I circled my supposed pace), which was between miles 5.8 and 11.5 – so 5.7 mi. We finished just under 2 hours! (disclosure: not sure that our paces are completely accurate…my GPS had me at around 48 and I turned it on before it was my turn to run)
A few thoughts on the race and my experience:
- It is VERY well run. I mean, I got emails nearly every day the week of the race with every single detail that I may have wanted. This was my first relay so I was pretty nervous, but they pretty much spell it out for you from where to be, what your route is, the elevation profile, how do to the switch from runner #1 to runner #2, etc. There’s info for each leg and once I read through the Leg #2 info, I felt much better.
- The EXPO was great. Lots of booths, free samples, runners and great energy.
- The course had great energy! So much entertainment (I only ran 5.7 miles but I passed at least 4 bands/music stations), cheering (they have an official cheer crew too with blue shirts and cowbells all along the course) and fun crowd support at different points. The volunteers made such a difference!
- The after-race party. It was so fun to watch all the runners come into the stadium and cheer on the other members of our team. Plus, there was pizza, beer, and other food and refreshments for everyone.
- My stomach. I woke up in the morning early before the race and my stomach was not happy. Let’s just say that I used the porta potties multiple times before actually starting my leg. I felt a little dehydrated and weak at the start but was super thankful I was only running the relay. I don’t think my body would’ve kept up for much more miles.
- The hills. My leg started with a slow incline and then I encountered quite a few more hills along the course. Looking at the elevation profile, I may have had it easier than other legs, but it still was rough for me. Especially as I wasn’t feeling optimal to begin with. If I ever decided to run the race outside of the relay, I’d definitely have to do some hill training!
All in all, it was a good experience. I’m so glad I did it. I’m not going to lie – I had some reservations about signing up – I had need done a relay before and I didn’t want to let my team down. But they were all so encouraging and helpful! My phone was blowing up with texts the weeks and days leading up to the race, all with such motivating text messages.
Also, I ran faster than I expected. My goal was to do sub-9 minute miles, especially since I hadn’t done much training and my stomach wasn’t feeling great. But I got about 8:15 min/mile pace. This was thanks to a few things. First, our first runner, Andrew, ran 6:45 min/miles. Meaning, when I started, I was running with so many of the speedier runners. It sucked at first, because they were all passing me – but I’m sure it made me run faster. That, combined with the fact that my GPS wasn’t working (user error – I had set it on “inside run” mode), made me run faster than I expected, especially given the stomach troubles.
Some questions for you:
- Have you ever run a relay? How was it?
- What event or race should I sign up for next?
- Have you ever had stomach troubles the morning of a race? What do you do?