This past weekend I had the opportunity to pace the Cleveland marathon. This would be the first time I’d run the full marathon (I did the half last year) and I was looking forward to helping out folks on the course. The course itself is relatively flat, but with a few hills thrown in throughout.
Got to the race start early, about 6am, as pacers are usually required to check in early to get ready. Met up with my fellow pacer, took the pacer team pics, and prepared for the day. It was already fairly warm (relative to the rest of the spring weather) and was humid. Temps would only climb from here. I talked strategy with my fellow pacer (it was his first time pacing) and talked with runners planning to stick with us, and we were off. The first few miles are all about dialing in our pace and enjoying the run. We communicated strategy to our group, run to the water stops and walk a few moments once there so folks could hydrate.
Miles 1-4 are run with the 10k and the half, with a few small hills throughout, but mostly uneventful. Right before the 10k splits off, there is a short bridge that is grated that can cause issues, if not careful. Right after, the 10k goes up a large hill, but the half and full only go up a short ways, before splitting off. The reprieve from the hill is short lived, however, as by about 6.5, the half and full go up the steepest hill on the course. While not exceptionally long, the steepest will wear folks out, so the plan was to ease up the hill by running slightly ahead of pace up to it. We got the group up the hill and everyone was looking strong.
By about mile 8, the sun and heat were in full force. My fellow pacer and I maintained our strategy by walking through the water stops. We had several runners come and go with the pace as the heat rose. It would be a tough day for many racers (and several pacers, too).
After mile 11, the half had split off to finish their race, and the full did an out and back section for the next few miles. The sun had come out from behind the clouds, and the heat continued to rise. We did our best to remind runners to hydrate as we hit the water stops, taking slightly longer walks to allow ample time to hydrate. The out and back was a good opportunity to motivate runners both in front of and behind us. The heat had started to wear me out, but I was still hydrating and pushing through.
The out and back last until about mile 20, and after that it’s back into the city to finish the race. The course is mostly flat, with a few steep hills I mentioned earlier. At mile 23 though, there was a small hill and my quads simply stopped wanting to climb hills. I had to tell my co pacer my legs were done. Nothing worse (in my opinion) when you’re a pacer and have to drop back. My legs simply couldn’t find the strength to climb. I have been working on my climbing this year, so I think it may have just been the heat that played a role, but couldn’t say for sure. Either way, I was walking up the hill. I was hopeful that hitting the top would allow me to run again and catch up, but the legs had had enough.
At mile 24, I had turned my pacer shirt around (that’s a common practice if a pacer falls off their pace) because I knew I wasn’t catching up. I was able to keep walking and running periodically, while still encouraging other runners. Miles 24 and 25 are flat again, but the sun was right over head. At mile 26 you hit the final bridge, which brings the last bit of elevation gain, which isn’t much, but a lot of folks were feeling it. I crossed the line about 5 minutes past my pace time. I did see my fellow pacer at the finish and he told me he came in on time and thanked me for helping him out for most of the race (it was his first time pacing and he was a bit nervous). I received my medal, grabbed a post race beer (side note: when dehydrated, as I was, post race beer may sound good, but it’s probably not the best idea), had about a quarter of it, and decided it was time to head out, as I was spent.
Overall, the race is very nice. The weather can’t be controlled, so one has to do what they can to prepare. Some say they feel there aren’t enough aid stations, but we passed one every 1.5 or so miles. Due to the heat, maybe more would have been better, but I am not sure where they’d put them. The crowd support isn’t as large as some races, but there is still a decent crowd out there. I’d give the race a solid B.