Now in its 11th year, the Akron Marathon has taken its rightful place as one of the city’s signature events. Saturday’s running will draw 15,000 participants, from children in a Kids Fun Run to world-class athletes able to cover 26.2 miles in just over two hours.
Over the years, the vision of founder Steve Marks has remained constant, the race known for meticulous organization and careful planning. Those in charge also have recognized and adapted well to changing circumstances, the course altered and events added or dropped.
Early on, the emphasis shifted from elite runners toward attracting competitive nonprofessionals from the region. A popular half-marathon was added, and a two-person relay dropped. Meanwhile, the five-person relay has become the nation’s largest team event.
It’s all working, a full field offering proof. Another sign of success can be found along the route, volunteers and spectators adding the human touch. From the opening ceremonies near the National Inventors Hall of Fame School all the way to the finish line in Canal Park, more than 120,000 people are expected to offer encouragement through cheers, holding signs, ringing cow bells. Aid stations will be staffed with some 3,000 volunteers.
Even the weather once again is cooperating. This year, the forecast calls for clear skies, light winds and temperatures in the 50s for the 7 a.m. start. Around 5 a.m., Akron will see a rush hour of rare intensity as the start nears.
Besides highlighting the city’s downtown attractions, the course will bring runners through parks, along golf courses and through the grounds of Stan Hywet. The blue line of the marathon course connects the city in other ways, bringing participants and spectators together, neighborhoods rallying along the way, adding much to Akron’s sense of place and quality of life.