The 10th running of the Akron Marathon — a sold-out event for the first time — brought 15,000 participants to downtown Akron just before dawn Saturday morning, plus spectators, officials and volunteers. Along the marathon route, the city embraced the horde of runners. There were shouts of encouragement, signs and banners and high school marching bands. Even the weather cooperated — cool, sunny and calm.
The annual race has firmly secured its place as one of the city’s signature events, carefully organized and meticulously executed, all the way from registration to relay exchanges to the end of the run. Founder Steve Marks stood near the finish line at Canal Park, thanking runners as they came in, asking questions, even seeking suggestions about making next year better.
The ability to create a traffic jam on a Saturday morning in downtown Akron is a signal of how successful the race has become, drawing not just elite marathoners, but a strong contingent of amateurs from across the region and adjacent states. The five-person relay teams, the largest marathon relays in the country, attracted 6,500 runners, many local, judging from the shouts of encouragement along the way, the event providing an inspiration to get fit and join the spectacle.
Through the decade, the course layout has changed. A half-marathon has been added, and a two-person relay team cut. The philosophy, too, shifted in the early years, with more emphasis on attracting competitive amateurs from the region.
What has been a constant is the thorough planning and high level of community involvement, the race helping bring the city and region together and showcase Akron’s downtown. In that way, the thin blue line that marks the 26.2-mile course highlights what is possible, not just for the runners, but for the city as a whole, the Akron Marathon providing many avenues for participation.