With more than 18 miles into his seventh Akron Marathon on Saturday, wheelchair racer Joe Booth Jr. thought about giving up.
The climb up the hill on Sand Run Parkway in West Akron was proving especially difficult.
“For some reason, I had started to cramp up” much earlier in the race, the 54-year-old Akron racer said.
Then the two bicyclists — “support riders” — in front of Booth offered more words of encouragement and Booth kept on.
“They were so wonderful and I didn’t want to disappoint them,” Booth said shortly after crossing the finish line at Canal Park stadium downtown.
“They were like, ‘You can do it. You can do it,’?” Booth said of the bicyclists.
“I was going so slow my speedometer was reading zero.”
Booth was the lone wheelchair racer in Saturday’s marathon. He began the race at 6:59, a minute before the 7 a.m. start time. He was joined at the front by Team Andre and Zeke, believed to be the first “push-chair” partnership in the Akron marathon. Zeke Petrie, 40, pushed Andre Travis, 32, who has severe cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair.
Booth finished Saturday with a time of 3:46:29, besting his finish of 3:50:56 last year.
Booth was 18 years old when an accident sent 12,000 volts of electricity through his right leg. It was so severely burned it had to be amputated. His right hand was partially paralyzed.
At the time, he was a budding motocross and super-cross racer. After the accident, he continued to race, but the 2007 marathon was a new experience in a new vehicle.
Akron police Capt. Dan Zampelli said there were “no arrests whatsoever” amid the tens of thousands who attended the marathon.
“Everything went very smoothly,” Zampelli said.
In addition to having the Summit County bomb squad and its explosives-trained police dog on site, a private security firm, Hall Entertainment Security of Akron, was present at the marathon’s main venue, Canal Park, checking bags and purses and using the metal-detecting wands.
“The marathon [officials] felt that we should bring them in this year, just as a precaution. This is all in response to Boston,” the captain said.
There also were no major medical emergencies, he said.
To the victors go the cash.
The Akron Marathon winners in several divisions won cash on top of the accolades and the Brouse Cup trophy.
The men’s and women’s open division full marathon winners took home $2,500 each. The top finishers in the masters division won $1,000. Cash was also given for second- to fifth-place finishers.
Winning the half-marathon brought $500 to the open division winners and $250 to the masters division winners. Cash prizes were given to second- and third-place winners.
When you gotta go
Before the start of the race, lines were 25 deep in some places at dozens of portable toilets set up for the race.
Pumped to push
Andre Travis — in a wheelchair and part of the marathon’s first push-chair team — was pumped for the start of the race.
“I figured I was built for this,” he said.
Travis was pushed by runner, Zeke Petrie, and let out a big cheer as crossed the starting line shortly before the race’s 7 a.m. start. Marathon officials let the team start a minute before the crush of runners at the start time.
Twinsburg resident Tim Jackson, who was waiting in the elite “A” corral with other fast runners, used his phone to take a photo of the starting line.
Jackson, 51, has run in seven of the 11 Akron races and only runs in this race because it is the “best one” out there. This year, he ran in the half-marathon.
“I just do this for stress relief,” he said.
Amid the hustle and bustle, Glen Zipay of Parma was an oasis of calm.
Zipay said it was “too early in the morning” to be too stressed.
Zipay, who was running the fourth leg of the relay race, joked that his only concern was a sore knee and Achilles and the fact that he is “obese.”
This year’s team is dubbed “Cobra Kai” for the bad guys in the movie The Karate Kid. The front of team’s shirt reminds the members to “Strike First,” “Strike Hard” and to show “No Mercy.”
Zipay said they pick a different movie every year for the team’s name — from I Love You, Man to Top Gun.
Thanks, Mom and Dad
Pat and Peggy Ailes of Kent cheered for their daughter, Shanna Ailes Istnick, who was defending her first-place title.
It was the first time that the parents had joined their daughter at the starting line of the Akron Marathon.
“This is exciting,” Pat Ailes said.
After the last of the runners — including a juggler — crossed the starting line, volunteers scrambled to clean up and remove fences and barricades.
Gary Nowrocki, a volunteer with the Salvation Army, helped pick up clothes left behind by runners. The clothing is donated to local charities.
Nowrocki estimates the runners left behind five or six carts full of clothing.
“We’ve picked up some real good stuff,” he said.
Compiled by Beacon Journal staff writers Katie Byard and Ed Meyer.