The Rock N Roll Hall of Fame is a lot of fun and endelessly fascinating, but it's not the best thing about Cleveland. It's just one little part of the whole experience, and if you're going to run the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon as I did on May 19, 2013, you need to know these things about Cleveland.
It's all about the people of this town. The receptionist at the Comfort Inn a couple miles from the Start/Finish line is one of Cleveland's best-kept secrets. She told us about the early breakfast and automatic late checkout (and post-race drinks and snacks) that were all included. she clearly enjoyed her job and was damned good at it. You don't find a lot of that pride of ownership. Oh, and the parking guy who directed me in, who knew what he was doing and caused me no angst whatsoever. The maids who asked if everything was ok and didn't have to do that. I'd hire 'em all if I could.
The guy I know only from online runner's social media groups, Bill, who recognized me at the Expo and shouted out to me. AND shouted out again to me at the Finish line. Great to finally meet you, Bill! The Team VW folks who were an important sponsor of the marathon helped to add a bit of fun at the expo and at the finish line tent for those of us that were on Team VW.
I wish I had counted how many folks were set up with speakers blasting out tunes along the route of the marathon. Definitely more than I've seen in any other marathon ever. AND there were bands, quite a few live bands, and all good, and they played with enthusiasm. Loved the church choir singing on the church steps, everybody in their Sunday Best waving and smiling along. Fantastic.
The volunteers at the aid stations: at ALL aid stations (every one of them) the volunteers clearly and loudly yelled directions so you didn't have to guess which was water and which was energy drink. Awesome folks, attention to detail.
The cops along the route and around the finish area, and their dogs, unobtrusive but watchful and quick to react to traffic issues (didn't see any other kind of issues). Barely a month post-Boston, this was one helluva tough gig for them, and they handled it with a professionalism that merits admiration and respect. And as far as traffic issues go, this was one of few marathons I've run in where I saw no angry motorists.
The race organizers mapped out a scenic, flat, interesting route. It was clear that they didn't just go oh what the hell, out-and-back 'em and to hell with it. No, they made it a very fine run.
The spectators. Oh, sure, a lot of them were friends and family of runners, but those spectators tend to cluster near the start and finish areas. The spectators who came out of their houses and cheered themselves hoarse, made signs, cut up oranges and bananas for total strangers... god, those people deserve to have me spend my money in their city!! You are justifiably proud of your citizens, Cleveland!
The guy in line with me at the gas station downtown who gave me simple, clear directions when I got turned around on my way out of town. Good man.
There were others, of course. Other runners, both locals and out-of-towners. The pacers did a great job (the pacer I was with near the finish roused the crowd to cheer louder). So yes, of course I would run it again. And if you haven't... I think you should.