Run, cheer, eat: Ultimate 2012 Cleveland Marathon Preview
With five Cleveland runners/bloggers on staff, we at Salty Running love our unmiserable city! And I am super stoked to kick off Marathon Week in CLE by helping you enjoy the most unmiserable of marathons — whether you’re running the full, half, 5K or cheering wildly from the sidelines.
Check out the before, during and after of how to rock this year’s 26.2 in 216:
If you’re reading this it probably means you (or someone you love) are about to embark on the experience of a lifetime, running one of the 35th Annual Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon races on May 20. But first things first: you have to visit the expo.
Downtown Medical Mart construction has pushed packet pickup to the I-X Center (6200 Riverside Drive), where you can nab bibs, shirts and swag from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. on Friday, May 18, and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on Saturday May, 19. Racers and non-racers can stroll dozens of vendor booths, collecting freebies, food samples and bargains (who doesn’t love free stuff?). Time it right and you might catch the Salty Runners’ icon, Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first-ever women’s marathon Olympic gold medalist, who gives three talks at the expo this weekend. You can also take bus tours of the marathon route, beginning at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
Visiting? Catch a cab from Cleveland-Hopkins Airport to the expo or stash your suitcase and catch the complimentary shuttle service from downtown’s Hyatt Regency Hotel (420 Superior Avenue East), which leaves every 30 minutes before 1:45-7 p.m. Friday, 9:45 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday. Local runners might also want to take the shuttle from downtown (or carpool) — I-X Center charges for parking. Plan accordingly.
Carb-load? Well, your options are plenty. First, you can explore the city of Berea, which is not only smack-dab next to the I-X Center, but home of the Cleveland Browns training facility and Baldwin-Wallace College. Some of our favorite places to pasta:
Other things to check out while you’re in the neighborhood: cross-training potential at Berea Bicycle & Scooters (300 N. Rocky River Dr) or Mountain Road Cycles (109 Front St). Comics and collectible enthusiasts will love Kid Force Collectibles (50 Front St.) and thrifty moms/dads should stop by Smartie Pants children’s resale shop (404 W. Bagley Rd). You can also log a couple warm-up miles at the north end of Cleveland MetroParks Mill Stream Run Reservation, whose bridle trails and paved all-purpose path are perfect for your pre-race shake-out run.
The Cleveland Marathon — full and half — starts promptly at 7 a.m., Sunday, May 20 at the Northwest corner of Cleveland Browns Stadium (1085 W. 3rd). 10K kicks off 15 minutes later.
For the Racer
Get downtown at least one hour before race-time: roads start closing within that hour and you don’t want to get lost in the million detours. Our favorite spot is the Muni Lot.
Just take your time. Sip your water or sports drink, relax and take it easy as you make it to the starting line, at least 15 minutes early to claim your spot. Do strides or any last-minute warming-up near the start. Cleveland Browns Stadium is littered with bathrooms — so there’s bound to be one without a forever-long line. When the gun goes off, take it all in and enjoy your tour de CLE. You’ll run along the Shoreway to Edgewater, wind through Gordon Square, Ohio City and Tremont, salute the traffic guardians on Lorain-Carnegie bridge, criss-cross downtown, tour the Cultural Gardens of Rockefeller Park, touch the lakeshore and run the homestretch through St. Clair-Superior’s renaissance (not to mention the Cleveland Asian Festival!).
For the Spectator
Since Salty‘s in the family way, I’m not racing this year. Instead I’m heading out to cheer on dozens of friends on their way to marathon (and half!) glory. But I’m a cheering veteran. Best spectating tip: arrive early (again to avoid road closures), know the course and plot out a few spots to station yourself.
Tip #2: Walk, bike or jog backward along the course until you find a spot that doesn’t have large crowds. Max your cheering impact! If no one is cheering near you, don’t be shy. Let it all out and give those runners some love! They need it and really appreciate it. Make signs, do coordinated cheers, yell encouraging things very loudly. I also suggest finding a spot along the second half of the marathon course because that’s where runners need you most.
You can also study the course map to find spots where the race crosses near itself for multiple vantage points. Cheer the Shoreway runners as they pass under West 49th Street, and then skip over two blocks to the Detroit straightaway. Or you can root marathoners into their second-half on Superior and East 13th, and then cross over to mile 25.5 on St. Clair. Setting up camp in Rockefeller Park (where the phenomenal Shaker Heights cheerleaders put those Wellesley ladies to shame!) for the late teens will make you a spectating superstar.
Tip #3: Bring refreshments. Cheering is no easy job. Granted, you won’t be burning the 1,000+ calories of full- and half-marathoners, but you still need to hydrate. It’s an early race, and nearby stores might not open until you’re too-far parched.
Each year the finish line to this 26.3-Mile Rock Party gets wilder and wilder, featuring live bands, DJs, snacks and a beer garden (so remember to leave your ID in your gear check!). Runners: just let the roar of cheers (not to mention the likes of Cleveland Indians drummer John Adams lining the streets) carry you to the tape. Take your medal, shake your groove-thang and head out for some real food. The second half of the marathon steers east, so we’ve picked some near-Westside spots for ease of access:
Salty Running wishes every runner fleet feet, as well as a wonderful expo and race experience! Good luck! Have fun and see you at the finish!
Correction: We initially recommended the Great Lakes Brewing Company for post race celebrating. However, the brewpub is closed on Sundays.