Thursday, May 22, 2008

What Makes a Good Marathon? Part III

I just got off the phone with the race director of the Cleveland Marathon. We had a very nice chat and I look forward to more in the future. I can definitely say he is committed to making the Cleveland Marathon a great race and I hope to work with him to do so.

Because the future looks bright, I'd like to make this post about the sunny side of the Cleveland Marathon: the good things about the race as is and the things about Cleveland that lay the foundation for a world class event.

1. History. In 1991 I ran the 10k portion of the Revco as it was called back then. It was my first road race. I ran in fifty some minutes. I don't really even remember. But I still have the t-shirt and I treasure it in all it's threadbare glory. I ran it because one of my aunt's was running the full Revco Cleveland Marathon and my other was running the 10k. So I tagged along. And right then I always knew that was something I wanted to do. Sure, it would take me 13 years to get to a place in life where I could put in the consistent training to become a marathoner. But the Revco planted the seed way back when. And I know I'm not alone. So many people in this city have run this race at some point or know someone close who has. It's Cleveland's race. For those people that let their running shoes collect dust for a few years, it's the goal that gets them to dust them off and get back out there. It's Cleveland.

2. The Course. While I still maintain having miles 19-24 headed Westbound along the lake is not the best idea, the course is generally flat and has some wonderful scenery, particularly on the more desolate second half of the course. Once it hits University Circle, the course winds through the beautiful cultural gardens of Roosevelt Park along MLK Boulevard and then jogs along the lake front. The photo above is of my friend E last year. Put photos like that on the first page of the website! That would sell some entries! Looks so pleasant, doesn't it? It's just too bad about the headwinds.

3. Accessibility. Who doesn't love walking to the starting line from your hotel 5 minutes before the gun? And the price is much cheaper than the big city marathons. I believe the full was at most $65 to enter. That's $40 cheaper than Chicago! Also, it's small enough that friends and family can come to cheer you on virtually anywhere along the course. Many people, like roots, bring their bikes and check out many spots. You can even run someone in and it's not a big deal. I like that very much about the race.

4. Running Community. As I've said before, Cleveland has a thriving running community for a post-industrial city with a long winter. It always amazes me. There are several well-established running clubs in the area: Northeast Running Club, Southeast Running Club (who has a gorgeous president by the way!), Cleveland West Road Runners, and two Second Sole running groups. There are a variety of running stores and many of these have racing teams attached: Vertical Runner, Second Sole with a few locations, Achilles Running Shop, Fleet Feet. Our runners run the gambit. We have some of the country's top marathoners as well as the guy who just dusted his shoes off this morning. There's a huge group of people ready to run sitting right outside the race's front door!

5. Everybody Loves a Comeback. You've all heard it. Say it with me now, "Cleveland's the Mistake on the Lake." Or you've asked the question, "Wasn't that the place where the river caught on fire?" Yeah, we've got a bad reputation. And honestly, the people here kind of take it to heart letting pessimism wash over them. The rampant ho-hum fatalism is striking, truly. But with expectations so low, how can we not succeed?! People are curious about this place and whether it's possible for anything (especially sports related) to go right here. Let's show them it can happen! Let's make a great race on the lake. I, for one, am very hopeful.


Miss Adventurous said...

I wonder who ratted you out to the Marathon staff? What a jerk. (:

Sounds like you all had a great chat. See? You CAN be pregnant and still focus on running most of the time! I knew there was a way...

Adeel said...

The river caught on fire? Tell me about it.

GP said...

Drats that I can't find it, but there was a scoop on NPR last year about how far-more-common-than-we-realize river fires were during the 1960s and 1970s, but that Cuyahoga got the "best" press out of it. So there the reputation stuck.

I applaud your effort and everything you've said re: Cleveland. The Cleveland race, like the city, bustles with great qualities that few realize and even fewer recognize.

My decisions to stay in NEOhio and to buy my house were based on my desire to be in a city with so many hidden treasures and what I think is a bright future. But these revolutions take a village... so here we are!

This was my first year at the Cleveland races, and I couldn't have been happier. Sure, I only ran the half, but I loved the crowd (in and out of the race), the volunteers, the course, starting line and finish. Even the weather made it an event.

I popped over in less than 15 minutes from Euclid and could have had a cool-down run home if I wanted!

The race has gotten such horrendous press in the past several years that I was, admittedly, a little apprehensive about registering. So, they have some building up on the PR end to do.

And speaking of marketing: they have to settle on a name. I can't tell you how many people over the past couple months were confused whether Cleveland marathon was the same as Rite Aid... and how many more people (including myself) call it everything from Cleveland to Revco, CVS to Walgreens to Rite Aid.

I know, I know, I know there are sponsorships, but NYC (that's ING, right?) manages their branding/identity without dorking up the name recognition. Sure, I'm oversimplifying, but you get it.

Thanks for being a leader. We need more people willing to do SOMETHING! (Sorry for the novella.)