After several recent trips out west, Bill and I decided on a nice low-key trip to Ohio for the 21st annual Towpath Marathon, which takes place on the Towpath Trail in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
A little history lesson for you: The Towpath Trail is the path that was used by horses and mules to pull boats through the Ohio and Erie Canal. The canal and path were constructed between 1825 and 1832, and were originally 309 miles long, connecting Lake Erie and the Ohio river. The canal was hand dug by Irish and German immigrants who were paid $0.30 per day. The canal was in use from 1827 to 1913. The posted speeds for the canal boats was 4 mph... which is about a brisk walk.
The Towpath Trail is now a recreational path for bikes, runners and walkers. It is 81 miles and growing. About 12.5 miles of it are used for the marathon. Old locks are still visible along the trail.
We had a chilly start to the marathon, with temperatures in the 40s.
We have about 1 mile on the road before we make the turn onto the Towpath Trail, allowing the field to thin out just enough.
My goal for today is to just finish comfortably. I had a very busy September, with 7 marathons and one 50 miler. My legs are not terribly interested in pushing hard today. I am just going to listen to some tunes, enjoy the scenery, and get a nice 26.2 training run in.
The field was small enough that I never really ran with anyone, but large enough that I could always see other runners. The trail is a bit narrow, has some paved sections and some crushed gravel sections, very few road crossing, and follows along the Cuyahoga River.
So I dialed in a comfortable pace, and chugged along. I got about to the half way mark, looked at my watch, and figured I'd be finishing just under 3:30.
Then something occurred to me. That first half went by pretty quick. I started to think about all the marathoners today, not just here, but all over. There are 19 marathons in the US today. I have friends running in the Chicago Marathon today, and Milwaukee's Lakefront Marathon also. I started to think about those that run only 1 or 2 marathons a year. They train for months, focused on 1 marathon. Most folks will be completing their marathons in 4 hours, give or take an hour. For many, this will be the farthest they run. I started to realize just how fast 4 hours goes by.
After all the weeks of preparation, and hours of running leading up to this day, it will all be done in about 4 hours. That is just so fast! I wanted to tell those folks that don't do many of these, "Hey, take it all in, enjoy it, this will be over before you know it!"
And then I got to about mile 20. Now time sorta seems to stand still. My pace had slowed a bit, as expected, and I had gotten in all the scenery I needed, and I was getting understandably tired. I watched the last few miles go by, really ready to be done, and kinda wishing marathons were just a tad shorter.
As I approached the finish, a sign really made me chuckle. "Runners Prepare To Finish". OK, I am WAY ahead of you on this one.
I finished with a 3:27. We only stuck around after the finish for a short time, to get a bit of food, and chat a bit with other runners and their spectators.
It was a nice calm road trip. No excitement, just a relaxing run. Well organized event, nice finisher medal. The race shirt fits, but I have to admit, the picture on it... its a guy's face that is made to look like a shoe... it creeps me out a bit.
Ok - the score is now
marathon states under 4 hours = 23
marathon states = 27
total marathons or longer = 73