Not Your Average Race
The 2016 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon
Forty thousand running shoes collectively hit the ground running for the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon May 14-15, 2016. That's a whole lotta huffing, puffing, blood, sweat and tears in one place at one time. And, we here in Cleveland couldn't be more psyched.
Anywhere from 16,000 to 18,000 people are expected to converge on Cleveland for a weekend featuring a full marathon, half marathon, 10K, 5K and kid's fun run.
"If you're a runner who's looking for a good spring race, the Cleveland Marathon is right up there as one of the best," Clevelander Brian Whittaker said. "It stands out as my favorite among other spring races offered."
And, Whittaker knows a little something about running marathons. After all, he's run 24 marathons - including the Cleveland Marathon, which he's run five times.
Now in its 39th year, the Cleveland Marathon is often recognized as a very attractive race for runners seeking courses offering great scenery, flatter elevations, professionally run operations, good weather conditions and tons of stuff to do when not racing. It's also a qualifying race for the Boston Marathon.
And, let's be honest, you don't qualify for Boston sitting around petting kitty cats. This is the real deal.
The Cleveland Marathon is one of the 50 oldest marathons in the country. That doesn't mean you'll see swaths of senior citizens running (although there are some!). It means the city is pretty much an expert on operating a properly organized marathon.
"Race organizers have consistently made tweaks to the course based on runner feedback," Whittaker said. "They do a really nice job of listening to runners who are always looking for a more scenic course."
So, what will runners see along the way?
"As a visitor, running the Cleveland Half/Marathon is the ultimate tour of the city," April Ingle, who ran Cleveland's half marathon, said. "Along the route, you get sweeping views of Lake Erie, go through charming neighborhoods and run past major institutions like the West Side Market, the Guardians of Traffic and the Cleveland Museum of Art in University Circle."
The views are also one of the very best parts of the Cleveland Marathon for local runner Melissa Carney, who ran Cleveland's half marathon.
"The course is great! While there are some hills, it's relatively flat and offers a variety of scenes. Whether you're downtown or by the lake, or in the nearby Ohio City neighborhood or near west side suburban areas of Lakewood and Rocky River, there are different things to see so you don't get bored," she said.
The Cleveland Marathon offers downloads of course maps and elevation details on their website at ClevelandMarathon.com.
Beyond the course, the race boasts a rather boisterous group of CLE supporters - ahem - if we do say so ourselves.
"Around almost ever corner there are supportive fans, marching bands, cheerleading squads and, my personal favorite, a group of houses in Tremont that always hands out beer in a make-shift hydration station," Ingle said.
Whittaker agrees. "It's a course that's very accommodating to spectators. One year, my family watched me at three different points on the course, which helped me get through some rough patches."
And, the excitement doesn't just end at the finish line.
"The after party is fun with music, food, drinks and even popsicles," Carney says.
The 26.3 Mile Finish Line Rock Party kicks off at the Great Lakes Brewing Company at 8:30am. Free and open to the public, you can enjoy tons of live music, food and (duh) beer. It's also a great place for kids with activities and inflatables.
"Runners want destination races, so that they can catch all the cool things happening in the city. That's a big theme for runners these days," Joan Freese, Cleveland Marathon race coordinator, said.
Therefore, marathon officials work closely with neighborhood development corporations and Cleveland's major attractions to ensure travelers have a well-rounded vacation experience.
Registered participants get discounts to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, are able to access lists of restaurants and attractions and can attend the pre-race spaghetti party.
So, whether you're a lawn-chair-in-hand spectator or someone who studies your pace religiously, the Cleveland Marathon is more than just a great race - it's a total visitor experience.
"I ran my personal best time at Cleveland (2:54)," said Whittaker. "I look forward to the third weekend in May each and every year, even if I'm not running."
Online and mail-in registration for the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon is now open. Visit www.ClevelandMarathon.com for more information.