Race Review – Akron Half Marathon

It’s been a while since I’ve gotten to do a race review! At least its not another recap, right? The Akron Marathon/Half Marathon/Team relay is held every year at the end of September. Usually the last weekend of the month. This year was the Akron Marathon 10 year anniversary.

This race will sell out, so don’t wait to long to register!

The Expo

The expo at the Akron Marathon is always really good. There is always a long list of vendors and plenty of shopping. You could pick up your race packets at the expo on the Friday before the race. There is no race day packet pick up.

I am never disappointed with this expo. I did think that some of the race gear with the event name on it was a little expensive this year, but I guess demand drives price, and Akron gear is worth it. I got a Brooks fleece the first year I ran and a long sleeve tech-t last year. I like to collect race memorabilia for some reason.

The expo is marked with the blue line which I love. Its just like being on the course only its guiding you to your swag bag. At the expo you get your race bib, long sleeve technical tshirt, and if you are running the full marathon, you would pick up your Brooks jacket here as well. Probably the best race swag ever.

It is quite possible to spend many hours in this expo. Fleet Feet, Vertical Runner, and Second Sole, all the major running stores were attending. I spent some time sampling different flavored organic juices and got talked into signing up for the Pittsburgh Marathon in May 2013. If you don’t want to buy anything or sign up for any races, I suggest having a friend get your race packet for you, because I promise you will be consumed with excitement upon entering and buy something. No doubt.

The Start

Race starts at 7:00am. Being late in September it can be chilly at the start, which was the case this year for sure. It was low 40s at most. There is a tent where runners can get water, sports drinks, course maps at other information before the race begins and runners tend to huddle in that area for warmth.

Parking is ample for this race. How far from the start you get depends on what time you get to the race. I have arrived about an hour early every year I have run this race and have always found a parking garage pretty close to the starting line. For the best parking options, race organizers hand out a parking map that specifically identifies what garages are open when and when the roads around them close. So as long as you equip yourself with a map and plenty of time, parking is a breeze.

There are plenty of bathrooms and I have never found it a problem to get in and get out. As with every large race, it’s your best bet to go early so you don’t get stuck in line when the race begins, but if you plan it right, this shouldn’t be a problem.

The start is pretty timely. This year they did a wave start with the increase of runners for the 10th year. All you have to do to enter the corrals is to find the pace group you want to be near and wait. It only took me a few minutes to move through the corral and across the starting line, maybe 5 minutes. For the big 10 year anniversary there were even fireworks. And then you’re off.

The Course

The course was a little different this year. In order to accommodate the increase of participants, they cut out a final hill of the half marathon that was on a very narrow path. I didn’t think this change broke the course at all. It is still a pretty exciting course.

Like I said before, the course is marked with the blue line. The course is marked year round and I think it’s pretty cool to have that help guide you. Plus it has made for some great t-shirts. I think Akron is one of the only races that does something like this.

The course takes you through downtown Akron and there are plenty of spectators cheering runners on. Once your cross the Y bridge, which you do twice, the crowd thins some and the only spectators to be seen are families waving from their windows. It’s not boring, but there’s not a lot to look at.

After you pass through downtown again you run on the outskirts of Akron for a bit and through Firestone park and some of the neighborhoods. Plenty of people come to out to spectate and a lot of local high school marching bands come out to play. After you leave the neighborhood streets you re-enter downtown and head toward campus.

The run through campus is really fun and a surprising number of students come out. Once you leave the Akron campus you head back in town to loop part of the first half of the course again. Some might find this annoying, but your back in the mix of busy streets and cheering families. Then you have to cross the Y bridge again. Which kind of sucks, but from there, you are only a mile or so away from an amazing finish at Canal Park.

The Finish

The end of the course turns you out at the back of Canal Park where you get to come running into your triumphant finish at the baseball stadium. It’s a pretty cool finish. You run right up from the outfield, you run toward the front of the field almost to home plate where the finish line waits.

Once you cross the finish line, Race Direct Jim Barnett personally shakes your hand. He shakes every runners hand that comes through that finish line. He is just about the coolest guy. From there you begin your walk around the bases.

First you are handed water as you continue walking around the field, then you get your medal and continue through the corral. You are handed a blanket, sports drink, and then you head to the food tent. Here you are given a bag of goodies and munchies and it makes carrying the bananas, chocolate milk, and whatever else you can grab as you make your way through the que, super easy. This keeps people from grabbing multiples of anything and they never run out of food. At least not in my experience.

From the refreshments tent, the corral dumps you out the beer garden where you can claim your two Michelob Ultras. There are massage tents out there as well and runners usually sit down on the field and enjoy their success… and beers. Once you’re ready to find your family, you can head up the concourse and walk around. I really like the finish, its easy to maneuver and I got to my meet up section with the running club really easy.

In Summary

From start to finish I think the Akron Marathon is easy. It’s easy to get your registration, there are no hassles getting your bib or badass Brooks jacket. If you want to just get in and get out, you can do that too.

Some roads close early on race morning and unless you are aware of them you could get shut out. But race directors do an awesome job of keeping everyone informed of where they need to be and when. The start is super easy, you are never hanging out in a corral for a really long time, and its a big race, so I think thats a success. The finish line flows just as nicely and they never run out of post race refreshments (I’m looking at you, Capital City).

The course is fun and challenging. But not to challenging. You have a wide range of flat and hills, you go through city and neighborhood, and there is usually something to look at. The course support is great, water stops are stocked and bathrooms along the way.

How does the Akron Marathon achieve such awesomeness? Race Directors  Jim Barnett and Jim Chany actually participate in other races in the area. They ask for and value the feedback from runners. They take notes and are aware of what worked at other races and what didn’t. They really do their homework, and it pays off.

Akron is probably my favorite race. Out of 12 half marathons and 3 fulls, I still like this one the best.

Therefore, I give the Akron Half Marathon a 5 out of 5. 

Oh yeah, I went there. A perfect score. So what does that tell you?

That tells you to go to the Akron Marathon website and sign up for 2013 right now. You won’t regret it.

Ever been to the “perfect race?” If not, try Akron, it’s pretty close to being spot on. What was the best run race you’ve been to? The worst? Please share!

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2 Responses to Race Review – Akron Half Marathon

  1. Jina says:

    Wow! An impressive 5 out of 5!
    Best race: Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in St. Pete, Florida. (Yes, I know this isn’t how most people feel about this series, but I LOVED this race.)
    Worst race: Major League Baseball All-Star 5K in Kansas City, Missouri. (Finish line backup, hot water and Gatorade at finish, unable to get out of finish corral – bad, just bad.)

    • Julie @ Am I There Yet says:

      Im signed up for a RnR race, no judgement here! A finish line clog would be the worst! what is you were trying to PR! Good to know, I will stay away!

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