Monday, September 24, 2012

Watching the Akron Marathon--Saturday, Sept. 29th

In the early morning hours, thousands of runners will be crossing the starting line on Broadway Street in downtown Akron this Saturday.
Being a Spectator at the Akron Marathon
by Joanna Wilson

Have you seen the blue line all over Akron?  Over 10,000 runners will be following that painted blue line along the streets of Akron this Saturday, September 29th.  You may already know a local runner that is participating in one of the several races going on that day.  These races include not only the marathon (26.2 mile race) but the half marathon (13.1 miles), the relay team race (five runners share the 26.2 distance between them) and even a children's race (1 mile non-competitive run).  Local residents should be aware of the road closures in enforcement for Saturday.  There's a downloadable pdf of the road closures available on the Akron Marathon website, under the RACE WEEKEND heading.

Akron Marathon runners crossing the All-American Bridge (or the Y-Bridge, if you're an Old School Akronite).
If you aren't racing that day, a fun way to participate is to be a spectator.  The Akron Marathon course is specifically designed to pass by several well-known local landmarks as well as easy viewing spots encouraging spectators to join in on the fun and excitement passing them by.  If you have children and the weather is cooperative, you could easily make a fun picnic brunch along the blue line with poster board signs and cowbells and whistle noisemakers. 

A little inspiration goes a long way.

As a runner myself, I know how valuable it is to the racers to receive shouts of encouragement from spectators.  It really does help an exhausted runner reach deep into themselves for more strength and energy when they hear and see people cheering for them.  Need inspiration for a good sign? Check out this website: Best Race Signs for some hilarious examples of inspirational messages from other races all over the country.

Sit in Canal Park Stadium to see the runners cross the finish line.

So WHERE are the best places to be a spectator?  There's always the starting line on Broadway St. in downtown Akron.  However, you'll need to be there before 7am and within just a few minutes of the start time, all the runners leave and there's nothing else to see.  I recommend a location much further into the 26 mile course to give the runners a chance to spread out.  An excellent location is the finish line: Canal Park Stadium.  The runners finish their race within the stadium so you can sit in the stadium chairs, see each of the runners dramatically cross the finish--and have access to restrooms and food/drink vendors.  Of course, if the race starts at 7am, runners won't arrive for a couple hours after that but runners will continue to cross the finish line until after noon.

Another choice spot for spectators is down in the valley where Akron Peninsula Rd. meets Portage Path.  This is the 16 mile mark for runners as they exit the Towpath and head south on N. Portage Path.  There is lots of parking in the retail stores along the plaza there.  Another recommended spot is Firestone High School.  This is at the 20.7 mile mark for the racers and a place within the marathon that they will need encouragement.  You've heard of runners "hitting the wall" during a marathon?  That's runners-speak for reaching the 18-20 mile point and feeling the inevitable exhaustion that comes from such an activity.  At Firestone High School, you'll see the runners who have hit the wall and you'll be in a prime location to encourage them to keep moving to the finish line. I have been camped out at Firestone High School before and I know what a great spot this is--it's also easy to reach on race morning.

Don't complain about road closures--join the fun and encourage the runners.  Photo courtesy of

If you live in the Highland Square area, you can easily watch the runners from Portage Country Club which is at the 23 mile point of the marathon race course, or you can camp out on W. Market Street in Highland Square itself (24 mile mark) and cheer the runners on to the finish line, only two more miles further.  If you'd like more prime spectator location suggestions, the Akron Marathon website and the race directors offer several additional locations.  Click HERE for more spectator locations.

If you do set up along the race course, please use common sense.  Don't interfere with the runners, stay off the race course itself, respect whoever's yard/property you may be near and pick up your own trash.  The only thing I want to know is who's going to invite me to their Blue Line party?

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  1. We often watch along the towpath trail at Memorial Parkway near the dog park. Not too crowded, the runners are spread out, and the last couple years there has been a DJ spinning tunes ("Eye of the Tiger" is a must).

  2. Thanks for the shout-out for my signs website! :)

    1. My pleasure. It's a GREAT idea for a blog. Keep up the good work :)