Who could have made it this far without the love and support of friends and family? I know I couldn’t have. I still smile when I think of the times my sister and brother would just randomly show up on the trail during one of my long runs holding out a bottle of cold water. Or the warm “Atta girl!” that cousins, nieces and nephews would throw my way after a race. Or the amazing friends that believe in me without reserve.

So no doubt you’ve got one or more folks in your own circle who either want to be with you Saturday in person, or in spirit.

This post is for them.

IN SPIRIT

Want to track how your loved one is doing in the Akron Marathon Saturday from the comfort of your bed? I've got a few ideas.

** If they are running the half marathon or marathon, download the Akron Marathon app onto your smartphone. Choose the “live tracking” option from the home page and type in their name. Make sure you activate the “Notify Me” option. You’ll get an alert when they start the race, finish the race, and if they cross any mid-course timing mats along the way.

This option does not work with relay team members because all 5 team members use the same bib number and there is no way to advise you as to which leg your runner is doing.

** If you want to see how your runner or walker fared in any of the races, you can go to this link where you’ll see their final results.

** There is another option, though it requires both parties' approval. There are apps that track your phone. On my iPhone, I use an app called Find My Friends. On race day, I approve for my siblings to track my phone, and as long as my phone is on me, they can follow my little dot moving on the city streets and know exactly where I’m at. After the race, you can turn off access to your phone’s whereabouts.

IN PERSON

If those pre-dawn hours don't scare you, come on downtown and join us! That's the best place to be if you are following someone doing the half marathon, the marathon, or Team Relay legs 1, 2, 3 or 5. As long as you can walk a block or two every hour or so, you can catch the action several times during the race. Here's how (with a helpful map below):

1) The race will begin at 7 a.m. at High Street in front of the Akron Police Department and county courthouse, so find a spot on the sidewalk along High Street in the direction of the Y Bridge to watch the runners take off.

2) It will take 15 minutes or so for all the runners to pass the starting line. At that time, walk one block east to Broadway, keeping north of University.

If your relay runner is ending Leg 1, walk down to the John S Knight center. They will be finishing on Broadway just behind the buildings.

If your runner is a marathon, half marathon or relay Leg 2 runner, no need to walk that way. You'll see them coming down Broadway before turning onto University.

3) After they pass you on Broadway, return to High Street. The runners will take a spin through Firestone Park before returning here and crossing the starting line for a second time.

If your runner is doing Leg 2 or 3, when you get back to High, head south to the intersection with Selle (a block past the Beacon Journal.) That’s the relay exchange zone. You can greet your runner when they end Leg 2, or cheer them on as the start Leg 3.

4) After your marathon, half marathon or Leg 3 runner speeds by and leaves your sight on High Street, walk one block west to Main Street and make your way to Canal Park. Enter the main entrance. Admission is free. There is a “Family Reunion” area in sections 1-5, which also provides a great view of the finish line. Wait for your runner to rejoin you, as they will need to collect their medals and their post-race food and beverage.

Supporters of Leg 3 runners have another option to being downtown. Their route begins at High and Selle, but ends at Firestone High School in West Akron. You can pull up some sidewalk anywhere along West Market Street, Merriman Road or Garman Road to cheer them on, or stay close to the high school and meet them as they finish on Fairfax.

If you're following someone doing Leg 4, that's the only route that doesn't touch downtown. It takes place entirely in West Akron, beginning at Firestone High School and ending at Hardesty Park. Look for a cheering spot along North Hawkins, Thurmont, Overwood or Wiltshire, to name a few streets on the course. You shouldn't have too much trouble finding parking on the residential streets nearby, but be prepared to walk a few blocks to get to the Blue Line.

Leg 5, begins at Hardesty Park, but ideally you’ll want to be at the finish line when your runner comes into Canal Park. No need to hurry. Ask your runner to estimate when they’ll be arriving. It could be up to 6 hours after the race starts!

Doing the Downtown Shuffle:

PARKING

As to parking, if you want to be downtown when the race begins, you’ll want to at least be driving into town by 6 a.m. so you can get to a parking spot before the roads start closing.

You can park at the University of Akron South Campus Parking Deck on Exchange Street, Opportunity Park Parking Deck on South Main, or the Akron Children’s Hospital parking deck on Bowery Street. That hospital deck is the one you want to aim for if you are coming for Leg 5's arrival, as there are fewer closed roads to skirt in that area.

GEAR BAG

If you're going to be at the finish line, offer to bring some things your runner would like to have after the race that they aren't going to want to carry. A towel. A fresh shirt. Flip flops. Special dietary needs. Runners who need to retrieve a checked gear bag have to leave the stadium and cross the street to get it after the race, so you could be saving them a trip - and right at a time that they'd prefer not to have to walk any farther!

-- Paula