The Glass City Marathon was a very different race for me. As many of my friends and family know, I pretty much hate Toledo. Outside of a few staples (mainly food) there is very little I really like about the city. If my wife and my families didn’t live there, I would likely never go back.
But this race wasn’t about me. It was about my wife, Terri. And she chose her hometown as her first marathon. The Glass City Marathon course looked interesting enough on paper and it was relatively cheap for a marathon. It was also convenient that my in-laws could watch our daughter! I was looking forward to a run through Wildwood and Olander Parks. So I figured I might as well run it too.
For me, this was primarily a training run for the Playing Possum 50k. However, it was still a race, so I set some goals: a standard goal and a BHAG goal (Big Hair Audacious Goal). I was shooting to finish in under 4:30, with a BHAG goal of 4:20 – or at least under a 10 minute per mile pace.
The week leading up to the race was… interesting. Terri was pretty nervous most of the week. There was some last minute shuffling on race weekend plans and attendees from our group of running friends. I was really looking forward to finishing a marathon with Stuart, but he had to work on race day.
On race day, Terri was still a little scared. The freezing cold wind didn’t help. As we separated to go to our separate corals and start the race, all I could do was think about her as she embarked on this adventure. She worried about not being able to finish or coming in dead last. This was a big deal for her to finish with pride in the presence of her parents in her hometown.
The race started abruptly after our National Anthem was played. No gun or phased coral rollout, just a start and stop push to the starting line. Fortunately no one was trampled to death. My thoughts were fixated on my wife and hoping she had a great marathon.
The first few miles were smooth and scenic with a run through the University of Toledo, into Old Orchard, and then through Ottawa Hills. Beautiful neighborhoods and houses with lots of spectators cheering on the crowd. I was feeling great – my pace was good and was having a great time. Through my first 10 miles, I was thinking I would blow my goals out of the water.
Winding through Wildwood Metropark was awesome. Beautiful scenery by the Wildwood Manor House and into the trails. I plan on running there again in a future trip back to Toledo. At this point, I was really impressed with the course and was excited to see more…
But this scenery was short-lived. After Wildwood, the nightmare straight-aways started. The run to Sylvania was on the University Park Trail – a converted train track trail with miles of straight, boring, seemingly never ending stretches with not much to look at. It was the first run in a long time where I actually wanted to put on headphones. It was that boring.
To make matters worse, the air temperature dropped about 10 degrees, the wind picked up, and the sun went behind the clouds. It was damn cold. My pace went over 10 miles per minute for the first time in the run.
For some reason, I was excited for the run into Olander Park. I’m not sure why though. I remember this place being much bigger when I was younger. Not nearly as exciting as I had hoped. On a happy note, I actually saw some geese and remember thinking I hadn’t seen much wild life on this run – not even a squirrel.
While, running down Sylvania Avenue, the wind picked up again and my core temperature dropped. My muscles began to tighten and my pace slowed. It got worse when a minivan pulled out in front of me and I thought I was going to run into it. Then the idiot driver looked at me like I did something wrong and the cop at the corner just kinda stared blindly.
At mile 19, I made my first stop to stretch. My calves were solid and heavy like bricks. It was getting really hard to pick up my feet. Spent a few minutes trying to stretch them out, but it wasn’t incredibly successful. Rigor mortis was setting in. Up until this point, I thought my BHAG was in reach.
I was unable to recover my pace after this. I was incredibly stiff and I was forced to stop and stretch at least every mile. At this point I was a little grumpy and disappointed. As I made my way back down Central Avenue I realized we were head back into Wildwood. I was hoping another trip through the park would cheer me up, but running the same trail for a second time didn’t help.
Stretching wasn’t helping much. My legs weren’t bending much at the knee anymore and my stride was getting shorter. As I pulled out of the park with less than 5 miles to go, the shouts of “Almost there” and “In the home stretch” just became annoying.
As I turned out of the park, I didn’t know yet that I would be entering into what I would later label the “Hell Trail.” Five miles of a straight, flat, boring trail with nothing to look at but train tracks, back yard privacy fences, and power lines. It felt as though it was never ending down the other end of the University Park Trail. It was really frustrating to watch relay runners in the first mile of their leg fly by me. I had to keep reminding myself that I was on mile 21 and they were on their first mile.
Making my way down the “Hell Trail,” I finally stopped to check on Terri. The map on my phone made it look like she was very close to me. This made me very excited for her and the thought pushed me on for a mile or so.
Around the 23rd mile, I ran along side of a Toledo firefighter who was running in full gear. (Story on 13abc.com) He was running for a fellow firefighter and friend who passed away on the job this past year. Seeing him gave me a little boost through the 23 mile mark.
Mile 24 was brutal and it seemed clear that everyone along this stretch couldn’t count and kept trying to tell me that there was just “one more mile to go.” Clearly there was 2.2 more miles to go. As I made my way over Secor Road and back into campus, there were some idiots handing out cups of warm, stinky Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. The smell made me absolutely sick.
At this point I was done with this damn race and ready to get back to wait for Terri. I just wanted it to end. I stopped for another break and then I run into Kevin, an old friend and University of Toledo Police officer, gave me some shit and got everyone to yell at me for stopping to walk. It was a good boost and picked up my pace by a mile a minute for that last mile.
As I made my way down and around Savage Hall the area was a ghost town and there were no people around for encouragement. That last 1/2 mile seemed like an eternity and really killed the excitement at the end of the race. It took forever to make it to the Glass Bowl stadium.
Fortunately the last bend into the Glass Bowl provided a huge push to get it over with. Keri, Joan, and Caitlin were outside and cheered me on as I made my way up the incline into the stadium entrance.
I was hoping to take it all in as I entered the stadium, but was completely out of it when running through to the finish line. I barely remember slapping hands with my daughter (Zoe) and nephew (Rylie) as I came in at the finish. It was exciting to see my mom at then end of the race. I have been wanting her to come to watch a run. I thought it was really cool that my cousin Stacey presented me with my medal. I gave her a big hug and nearly fell over!
My mind quickly went to tracking down Terri. I was very worried about her. She was much farther behind than I had realized. I was very worried that she was hurt. When we recognized she was making progress, I felt better knowing she was probably just not moving as quickly as she had hoped. I then worried how she was going to feel at the end.
I continued tracking her on her phone and was very relieved to see her come in sight of campus. I jogged/hobbled/gimped/whatever to meet up with her and bring her a bottle of water and to check on her. Fortunately, she befriended another runner on the course who ran/walked with her over half way that gave her some encouragement to get her there in time before the course was completely closed.
When I asked her if she needed anything – water or her hoodie – all Terri asked for was her flip flops for the finish line! I was really happy that she was in very good spirits and was proud of her accomplishment.
Watching Terri enter the stadium was awesome. I was very proud of her and her determination to finish! It was an amazing honor to present her with her marathon medal…. and her flip flops.
Overall, the race wasn’t horrible, but I definitely won’t do it again unless I have someone to run it with. The course wasn’t exciting enough to do on my own. However, the water stops with oranges every other mile was very nice. Ending on the 50 yard line of the Glass Bowl was also pretty cool. The shirt, finisher’s mug, and medal were all very nice. The most outstanding part of the event was the army of volunteers and police officers, who were all amazing! But it really was all over shadowed by a rather boring course.
My personal goals for the race were not met, but still achieved a personal record. I beat my previous marathon time by almost 14 minutes. I officially finished in 4:36:44 with an average pace of 10:33/minute (Official Results/RunKeeper Stats). But the most important part of the experience was my wife crossing the finish line and receiving her medal! I am so very proud of her!