This is the fourth of five installments that break the Akron Marathon course into its five Team Relay segments. Today: Everything you could possibly want to know about the 4 miles that make up Relay Leg No. 4.

Deputy Metro Editor Joe Thomas and I (reporter Paula Schleis) did a video driving tour of all the relay segments and chatted about what you might find, the history of the neighborhoods and some fun facts about the Akron Marathon. Here’s our trip through Relay Leg No. 4:


RACE DAY PARKING DIRECTIONS

You're entire leg takes place in West Akron, beginning at Firestone High School on Fairfax Road and ending at Hardesty Park.

You are free to find your own parking in that neighborhood if you like. Also, depending on the pace of your teammates, you can arrive at your relay exchange zone well after the bell signals the start of the race at 7 a.m. downtown. If you know the pace of the three teammates that come before you, you can make a pretty good guess at when you need to be in your Relay Exchange Zone 4 corral and awaiting No. 3's arrival. But don't cut this close. If you are trying to find your own parking, you may have to walk quite a bit. The last thing you want is for your teammate to cross the timing mat and be looking for you while you're still trying to park.

Also, keep in mind there are about 1,200 other people doing this leg of the relay (not to mention spectators and volunteers in the area) and if others are looking for parking, spots could be scarce.

One way to avoid all this risk is to park downtown with everyone else and take a shuttle to your relay zone. If you choose to do this, your recommended parking is at Opportunity Parking Deck, just south of downtown. Plan to be parked there by 7 a.m. as road closures will be taking place about this time.

To get to Opportunity Parking Deck, take I-77/-I76 to Main/Broadway/Downtown (If you are headed east, you will merge with one-way South Street. Follow South to the second light. At that point, all traffic MUST turn left onto Broadway, which is a one-way street. If you are headed west, this exit merges onto Broadway.) In either case, follow event parking signs for your bib color. Relay team bibs are pink.



SHUTTLE

When you leave Opportunity Parking Deck onto High Street, turn right and walk downtown. When you reach Exchange Street, turn left and go past Main Street to find the shuttle buses.

The shuttles will run to Firestone High School from 7:15 to 9:30 a.m. Since you have time, feel free to hang about and watch the start of the race and cheer the runners on as they pass through various downtown Akron points.

Just make sure you leave plenty of time for your shuttle to get you to Firestone High School and also to use the services of...

GEAR CHECK

Your gear bag (the clear plastic bag the Akron Marathon gave you during packet pickup Friday to hold unbreakable items you want available after your race) can be dropped off on Rampart right outside Firestone High School.

There will be FedEx truck waiting to transport the gear bags back downtown to the main Gear Check location at the corner of Main and Buchtel, right across the street from the main entrance of Canal Park. A truck will leave at 10:15 a.m. and another at 11 a.m. If you are checking a bag, make sure you drop it off before one of these times.

To find the Gear Check location downtown from your shuttle bus, walk along Exchange (where the bus drops you off) to Main, then turn left and walk to Buchtel. Look for the Gear Check flags.

RELAY HAND-OFF

Each member of your relay team has his or her own bib, but all the numbers are the same. Actually, you’ll have two bibs – one for the front of your shirt, and one for the back of your shirt. Know your number.

With some 1,200 Relay Leg 4 participants waiting in various corrals, you could be up to a tenth of a mile from the timing mat that your teammate will cross. There will be up to 40 volunteers trying to help your teammate find you quickly, and bib numbers will be announced as they approach. If you know your bib number, you will more likely recognize it when it is called.

When your teammate reaches you, they will hand you a slap bracelet. Put it on and get going!

As you finish your own relay segment near the exchange zone for Relay Leg 5, you will see color-coded signs separating you from the marathon runners. Follow the pink sign indicating the side of the road for relay team members.

This is important: When you cross the timing mat at the relay area, do NOT stop running. Again, your teammate may still be quite a distance from you. Keep jogging while looking for the sign with the range that includes your bib number. There will also be volunteers looking at your bib number and trying to match you up quickly. When you find your teammate, hand off the slap bracelet.

For competitive teams hoping to actually win the event, the slap bracelet is vital. But for those of us not expecting to stand in the winner’s circle, if for some reason you drop or lose your bracelet on the course, don’t panic. Just carry on!

Side note: The marathon doesn’t ask what relay leg you are running, so your team has the option of switching things around until the start of the race. The timing device on your bib will tell race officials which leg you ran.

SAG WAGON

The full marathon course is officially open for 6 hours. There is a “Support and Gear” vehicle that brings up the rear. When it passes, roads behind it are reopened and course support such as fluid stations are removed. This vehicle will follow the first half of the marathon course at a pace of about 16 minutes, but speeds up to a pace of under a 15-minute mile after Mile 12. If you and your team have averaged a pace faster than a 15-minute mile, you probably won’t even know it’s there.

If the wagon passes you up, however, and you are well enough to continue, just move to the sidewalk and keep going. From an official perspective, the race is over after 6 hours. But the Akron Marathon staff has an unofficial tradition of staying at the finish line as long as possible to give latecomers the chance to complete the race and collect their medal.

If you are injured or unable to continue, the vehicle will offer you a lift. In that case, if you have a way of communicating with your teammate on the next leg, notify them that you have withdrawn. That teammate should then leave their relay zone and continue the race. If you do not have a way of contacting your teammate, notify a race official so they can contact the next relay zone and try to get word to your teammate.

Note to our Blue Line Beginners: Our teams are comprised of runners as well as walkers below the 16-minute pace. It is conceivable that the SAG vehicle will pass a walking teammate on one leg, then be passed by a running teammate on the next leg. Regardless on what side of the wagon you find yourself on, just keep following the Blue Line. We are anticipating all of our BLB teams will take the full 6 hours to finish the full marathon course, so don’t let this discourage or stop you.

THE COURSE

Relay Leg No. 4 runs through the residential area of West Akron, from Firestone High school to Hawkins and then Thurmont, then through flat, shady neighborhoods that include Goodhue, Overwood and Wiltshire. The course then returns to Hawkins before turning toward Hardesty Park and ending there at Relay Exchange Zone 5.

This segment of the course is considered the easiest of all the relay legs, not only because it's the shortest, but because it has a mostly level surface.

FULL MAP TO RELAY LEG 4

COURSE SUPPORT AND HERO ZONES

* You’ll find mile markers at each mile. Clocks and kilometer markers are also located at every 5k to help you judge your pace, although remember those clocks started when the first runner crossed the starting line. If you didn’t cross the line for, say, another 10 minutes, you’ll need to deduct that from the time you see on the clock.

Relay Leg 4 begins at Mile 17.3.

* You’ll find a medical aid station near mile 17.5 and 20.

* There are fluid stations and portable restrooms at miles 18.5 and 20.4.

* Akron Children’s Hospital, which sponsors the Akron Marathon Race Series, will feature “super hero” patients at special Hero Zones along the course. For Relay Leg No. 4, you’ll encounter Madduz Maple at Mile 17.5 and Jack Lehman at Mile 21. Say hi to Maddux and Jack as you pass by!



COURSE ENTERTAINMENT

Watch for the following entertainment along the route:

* Residents on Fairfax have registered as a “Block Party”, so you should see t-shirt-coordinated spectators shaking cowbells and cheering on runners.

* The band Bound will be playing along Thurmont.

* The homeowners on Overwood are famed for the block parties they throw and the effort they make to motivate runners through this late-mile segment.

* On Wiltshire, you'll encounter the Bubble Man, known for his annual tradition of creating bubbles for participants to run through.

SHUTTLE AND FINISHER FESTIVAL

When you finish your 4-mile leg at Hardesty Park and the Relay Exchange Zone 5, grab some finisher fluids and take a moment to hydrate. Then, if you took the shuttle bus to Firestone High School, its time to take it back downtown. Find the shuttles at the corner of Alt and Dartmouth, one block past the exchange zone. They will be operating until 12:15 p.m.

The shuttle will take you back to the corner of Main and Exchange. Walk down Exchange and turn left onto Main. Don't forget to stop and pick up your gear bag at Main and Buchtel before entering Canal Park, which is right across the street.



Enter the stadium using the Diamond Boardwalk entrance. This is located just south of the main entrance. You must be wearing a bib to enter here, and you CANNOT get to the Finisher Festival from the main entrance, so for now you’ll need to stay separated from any supporters waiting for you.

At the Finisher Festival, your bib tickets will treat you to pizza, a snack bag and beverages.

You will not pick up your medal yet. All five medals will be given to your Relay Leg No. 5 teammate to pass out, so wait for him/her to arrive!

Come back tomorrow for everything you could possibly want to know about Relay Leg 5.