Cheering at the Cleveland Marathon

This past Sunday was the Cleveland Marathon, and while Mark was not running it, we knew several people who were – including my friend Vin and twitter friends Jenna and Michelle. This was going to be the first time Mark would be on the spectator side of things since he started running, which was interesting. As I said before, this isn’t my first rodeo. I’ve cheered at several marathons in many cities.

The entire week before I kept saying “We need to make our plans for Sunday” and he’d kind of shrug and say, “we will”. Ha. He’s never done this before so I didn’t push. On Saturday I dug out a couple of my laminated signs and got poster board to make a few more.

FINALLY, on Saturday night after the kids were in bed we started to plan our cheer attack. We pulled up the course map, Google maps, a list of road closings, and cheering stations. Of course each one of these bits of information were on different webpages – the Cleveland Marathon site wasn’t much help. We did find that Cleveland.com had a good resource page with links for everything we needed.

photo 1-3

Race-spectator planning, more complicated than you’d think it would be.

By the time we had it done (nearly 2 hours later) Mark was tired and a bit shocked at how much effort it took. But, before we went to bed we had our bags packed, signs made and route plotted.

Bright and early on Sunday morning we loaded up the kids and headed to Tremont. We easily parked behind Sokolowski’s and set up at the corner of W 13th and Abbey just before the 10-mile marker. This was a GREAT spot to see both full and half runners. Easy to get to, there were other people cheering nearby and shade was plentiful if you wanted it. It was also pretty easy to see they runners as the came around the corner from W 11th.

photo 2-3

One of my favorite cheer signs ever – always gets laughs

We saw Vin who was in great spirits and gave us high fives and a very sweaty hug. Having not ever met Jenna in real life, every woman with a green tank top on got a good look over. When we saw her she was on the other side of the road so we burst into shouts of “Go Jenna” and I waved her sign around above my head.

photo 3-1

Once we saw Jenna and Vin and Mark got to see some of his running mates, we packed up our things and headed to our next spot at E 40th and Chester at mile 16. Again, having planned our route the night before, it was easy to get to this spot. We found street parking on 40th and walked 2 blocks to a shaded cheering spot. This was a pretty good place to cheer with easy access to parking just a couple of blocks away. The kids were hungry so we set them up with snacks, mounted a sign on the stroller and started cheering.

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The stroller hasn’t been used in a year, but came in handy on Sunday

I must say that it was here that I started to feel sad about how my city appeared during this marathon. There was a pile of rubble in the road right in front of us and a half a block down there was tire debris strewn near the curb. We were near a cross street that had weak traffic control so people were zooming across in front of runners even though the intersection was closed. Those that did stop to turn around weren’t given good instructions about how to get around and often ended up back at the stop sign confused and angry about being stuck. The lack of thought about things like sweeping the streets and providing clear directional signage just makes Cleveland look amateurish compared to other marathons.

photo 1-4Vin, looking good just over halfway through his first marathon

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Random rubble pile, in the running lane of the street – not cool, Cleveland! 

After Vin and the others went by we carted our stuff back to the car to head to our final destination: E 33rd and St. Clair at 24.5 miles. After getting stuck in a parking lot-like traffic on E 55th (I couldn’t see but I don’t think they had any alternative route for traffic where St. Clair was closed – nothing was moving at all except for cars turning around to head back north. It was a mess), we finally got to Hamilton which runs parallel to St. Clair and parked in a lot facing the course at the corner of 33rd. This was an AWESOME spot. You can literally tailgate from your car here. This should be an “official cheering station” next year.

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I made this sign after Mark lost his first toenail. Runners are gross.

It was brutally hot and there wasn’t anyone else cheering nearby and I felt awful for the runners. They were coming up a long, hot stretch of nothingness – mostly empty storefronts and warehouses with no shade anywhere. I also couldn’t believe that there were large box trucks parked on the street here that the runners had to run around. Again – couldn’t the Marathon Organization do something to clear the side of the street the runners were on? This intersection did have a more forceful guy directing traffic (“Get off your phone and get the hell off my street!”) but there were still some close calls as idiots played chicken with the runners. It wasn’t until a cop showed up that the cars stopped going across the course.

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Outtake of photo above, but it shows people being stupid

About 70% of the runners were walking through here. We were cheering and reminding them they were less than 2 miles to the finish, trying to keep them going. Lots of them had cramps… lots of them were complaining about the heat, the many potholes and the boring route. “I hate this course!” was heard often. I felt so bad for them – we kept reminding them a water station was just ahead.

I finally saw Vin walking and I walked out to meet him. He was cramping pretty badly and was drenched in sweat. I walked with him for a block then Mark ran/walked with him for the next mile. On his way back to us Mark saw his friend Michelle, also walking, so he joined her for a bit.

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Michelle aka “RunnerMommy” – drove up from Cincinnati and ran a marathon with bronchitis. BAD. ASS. 

By the time he got back the kids were D.O.N.E. and were waiting in the car. It was close to noon so we took off for home, getting the finish results via text on our phones.

It was a fun day and I’m thrilled to have been able to cheer on our friends, and make a few other runners smile with our signs. But, overall, I was kind of disappointed in my city. I was dismayed to hear of injuries due to un-marked potholes or broken concrete. I was sad to see the debris on the road and trash on the sidewalks where we cheered. And disheartened to see so few cheering on the sidelines (compared to what I’ve seen in Columbus, Cincinnati and other towns). No, Cleveland will never be Chicago, Baltimore or the Twin Cities – all known for their scenery or great crowds – but we can at least send the street sweepers through the course and do more to encourage a crowd.

We’re better than this, Cleveland! There are 360 days until the 2014 Cleveland Marathon…. Put May 18, 2014 on your calendar now and join me on the sidelines to cheer!

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5 thoughts on “Cheering at the Cleveland Marathon

  1. I love your signs! I’ve lost toenails, so that one made me laugh.
    I saw another funny one one time: Run Now. Poop Later. NEVER TRUST A FART.
    Haaaaa.

  2. Katy – thank you so much to you and your family for making an effort to get out and cheer on our participants! They are always so thankful for people like you – and we’d love to have more fans around the city, too. We do work with the city on potholes, street clean up and road closures. As you can imagine – 26.2 miles includes A LOT of cars, intersections, people and more. We appreciate your suggestions and will pass them along. Again, thank you very much! Have a great summer.

    • @Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon: Thanks for commenting – I’m glad you read the post! I just think it’s kind of funny that your FAQs state “Entry fees are used to ensure that the course is free of cars and safe for all participants” when that’s clearly not the case. I’m also kind of confused as to how an event that’s been around for 35 years doesn’t have a better relationship with the city.

      This COULD be a premier event to introduce people to the area. Cincinnati, Columbus and Akron all have managed, through thoughtful consideration of feedback, to turn their marathons in to major city-wide events, with very little to complain about. I’m sad that I’ve heard from runners who came to Cleveland for the first time for this race saying they wouldn’t return. I love CLE and don’t like to say anything bad about it, but it makes me sad that our Marathon is so lack-luster.

      • Katy – we’re sorry to hear you feel that way. We receive thousands of comments from people who say they had no idea how great the City of Cleveland is until they participate in the event and they look forward to coming back to explore it further! Everyone has their own perspective – but we’re thrilled by the great feedback we receive from participants about the organization of the event, which features many changes and upgrades at the suggestion of previous participants. Safety and security of participants is always of utmost importance and a great deal of time and resources are invested into this. Runner and spectator input means so much to us and we take everything possible into consideration throughout our planning process each year, as we will do with your post as well. Again, we appreciate your feedback. Getting more involvement from the city is only possible if our residents and local businesses get on board. So, we hope to see you out cheering again next year with your friends and family!

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