Yesterday was a beautiful day. A perfect day for a marathon. Mom and I left for Akron at 5am and made one short stop before arriving at our final destination. Upon arrival in Akron we found the exit that we were to take was closed. Uh oh. So we continued on and got off at the next exit. Since we knew the race started near the University of Akron we followed the signs and surprisingly found it within minutes. In addition, free parking was easy to acquire. We got out of the car, got organized, walked out of the parking garage and were at the start of the race. Our arrival couldn't have been more perfect. As the National Athem was being sung we searched the corrals for Erika, with no luck. But considering it was still dark outside that wasn't a surprise. After the National Anthem finished, all of the sudden you hear, "Clang! Clang! Clang!" You feel the energy of the crowd rise, the huge bell continues to ring as the runners shuffle to the start, and take off. Oooh, goosebumps. After seeing everyone leave it was time to head to our destination at mile 3.
We staked out our position and readied our signs. It was then that I realized, "It's kind of cool out." With it being in the lower 50's my hands were quite chilly. Mom offered her earwarmer to keep my head warm, which definitely helped. Not long after we got to our first destination you could see lights in the distance. Then a high school band started up with "Eye Of The Tiger". You could then see the leaders of the pack coming into view. We had fun dancing around with our signs, hollering at the runners. Every so often we'd get some smiles and even a "thank you!" or thumbs up. At one point we even received and "O! H!" Of course we replied with a hearty "I! O!" We kept our eye out for the pacesetters with their signs. Knowing that Erika was more than likely around the 4:30 sign we kept our eye out for her. She unexpectedly came into view as the 4:15 sign passed and all I could do was quickly click a picture (which ended up blurry), yell, and give her a hug. I more than likely messed up her momentum but I didn't know what to do. I was so ecstatic to see her! We stayed in our location for a bit longer then it was time to move to our next destination, which meant it was our "possible first position" on KD's map.
While we were heading to the next destination at mile 9.5 I received a call from KD. I gave him an update and he said that they were on their way. Since the course looped back and forth at the beginning we ended up walking the opposite direction of the runners. While walking to our next place the leaders once again came into view. Goodness, they're fast! We staked out our area and readied our signs again. Not too much later KD called to notify us that they (KD, Erika's parents, and the kids) arrived and they immediately came into view as we were still talking on the phone. We kept our eyes open. This time I was able to see Erika from a distance and her cheering section broke out into our shenanigans. (Oh what fun that is!) She continued on and it was once again time to get moving. At this point we split up. KD and his crew had to head up to mile 19 and 24. Since mom and I were unsure of the area and didn't want to get stuck in traffic and run the risk of missing everything, we decided to go to the Canal Park Stadium, where the finish line was located.
By the time we got to the stadium the sun was shining down making a comfortable and beautiful day. The half-marathoners were steadily arriving. The runners entered from the outfield, continued around, down the 1st baseline, and finished near homeplate. After 2 hours and 27 minutes the men's leader in the marathon entered the stadium. He effortlessly finished the race. A few minutes later the men's second place entered the stadium. They continued to roll in. Then it was the women's turn. The woman's runner arrived at 2 hours 52 minutes. At that point we enjoyed everyone's arrival. There were signs with inspirational quotes leading the runners down to the stadium. One of the runners grabbed a sign and carried it into the stadium. It said, "Finish what you start." You had people high-fiving the crowd as they entered the stadium. A woman acted as though she was a plane and was coming in for a landing. There was also a wheelchair racer who had entered the race. You could tell he was trying with everyone ounce of his body to get to that finish line. Shoot! Arms aren't made for that. So amazing. Then a couple who was pushing their mentally handicapped son in a wheelchair. They had walked the entire half-marathon. The entire crowd would erupt in cheers now and again. And you'd have moments where sections would cheer for their specific person they were there to cheer on. So many emotions. Time continued on and we knew we were on the countdown for Erika's arrival. I didn't know what to expect from myself. My adrenaline was so high. All I could do was send positive thoughts and energy her way. I finally received a call from KD notifying me that they made it to the stadium and she's running on time. At that point they stayed where they were and we moved down to a new position so that we'd be right on the rail to encourage her. My camera was ready. Mom had the sign ready. Keep looking for the turquoise shirt....There she is! Erika! Oh my gosh. She's here. The moment was a blur. I don't even know what I was doing or saying. I just kept yelling and taking pictures. She finished. Just amazing. What an experience it was. I wouldn't have missed it for the world. You go through so many emotions throughout the day that it's something you can't even put into words.
Thank you Erika for your inspiration. It's because of you that I now run.
You finished what you started.