The Akron Half Marathon went pretty well. The weather was just about perfect for racing -- cloudy, cool and NOT rainy. The temperature was in the mid-50s.
This year's race had 13,000 participants -- their biggest race ever. Yet, when lining up at the starting line, things were organized and spaced out very well. They try to get runners in the "corrals" 20-30 minutes prior to starting, so it can really get claustrophobic in there before the start.
Not so, this time. Like some races, the faster your projected finishing time, the closer to the starting line you line up. Since the Akron race has a big relay component, a good portion of the runners are there just for fun or because they're part of a family or a group from work that has formed a relay team. There are also not as many "elite" runners as in some of the bigger races (e.g., Boston Marathon, New York City Marathon), so the area near the starting line isn't usually very crowded.
I lined up with the 3:05 marathon pace group. There are pacers in these races that run with signs listing the predicted finish time for that group. These people have to be in great shape to hold a sign while running a marathon and finish at a designated time. It helps those running to stay on pace.
Our pacer was a young guy who was sporting a running "skort" -- a short skirt newly fashionable worn usually by women -- with blue and red polka dots!! He was able to keep a lively monologue going during the race with advice and stories for those around him while running.
The pace group's 3:05 finish time computed to a 1:32:30 half marathon or about a 7:04 mile pace. I trained at a 7:00 mile pace, but have never raced that fast before. This was an aggressive move up in pace for me, having managed a 7:11 mile pace for a half marathon last fall as my best time.
It was not to be. I stayed with the pace group for about the 5 first miles, then started to fall off the pace. The Akron course is very hilly and there are some hills at mile 6 and 7 that slowed me down. I hung in there, though and manged the really nasty hill at around mile 11 just fine.
I turned the corner at the entrance to the Akron Aeros' ballpark and turned up the speed, finishing the race with a time of 1:34:21, my best time for this course and my second-best half marathon time ever.
Akron's mayor was at the finish line to shake everyone's hand. I guess he's up for re-election this fall!
Next race is the Towpath Half Marathon in two weeks. A really beautiful, FLAT, race course along the old Erie and Ohio Canal Towpath between Cleveland and Akron. I have run my best times there in the past, so maybe I'll best my time from Saturday.