The reasons for running in Saturday’s Akron Marathon are often selfless.
Relay teams are passed down among generations and siblings like a baton. Racers run for family and friends or the memories of them. Others endure miles to help strangers.
“I stared running about, oh, goodness,” said Diana Morris, needing a moment to think about it. “I did a half marathon for a friend in Mogadore who had cancer.”
A recreational runner at the time, Morris ran her first marathon in 2009 for Melana Matson, a friend's daughter who had glioma cancer. “That’s when I got serious about it,” Morris said. “And I wouldn’t have finished if I didn’t know that she was waiting for me in a wheelchair at the finish line.”
Matson died a month later. And Morris, who grew up in Garrettsville, moved to Mogadore, where she now coaches cross country.
Most of her children did the Fun Run on the eve of an Akron Marathon. Her oldest, Brandon, now 23 and back from a tour in Kuwait with the National Guard, started an Akron relay team while in high school. His brother, Luke, who is now 20 and taking a job as a firefighter and paramedic outside Washington, D.C., led the team for six more years, finishing second one year.
Diana had to sign a waiver when her daughter Amber ran her first Akron race at 11. Now 14, Amber leads one of two Mogadore cross-country teams in the relay.
“It’s fun. Obviously, our whole family runs,” she said. “I guess I run for the people who can’t run or be active or walk.”
At 86, Irene Theodore had the most years to run on Saturday.
As the fourth in a female relay team that included a 20-year-old followed by a pharmacist, the wife of the group’s church deacon and a social worker, Theodore called her “gals” the “Blue Line Babes.” She ran the 4-mile leg from Firestone High School to Fairlawn Country Club and back to Hardesty Park.
Before she took her first step, Theodore had raised $3,790 for the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC). “They’re a humanitarian group and they don’t pick and choose. They help everybody get back on their feet rather than handing out money," she said.
She and Ted, her husband of 66 years, launched IOCC's Cleveland Chapter 26 years ago around the time Irene retired from public teaching. Ted, who served in the Army, taught and coached track before becoming an administrator at the couple's alma mater, Baldwin Wallace University. They moved to Akron six years ago to be closer to one of their four children — all in their 50s and 60s — and a few of their 12 grandchildren. They joined Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, which has about 100 people active in the Akron race.
The youngest to race Saturday was 11-year-old Emme, daughter of Jane Weisenburger, one of the founders of the 16th annual race. Emme and her mom started the race together. Emme headed into Canal Park early at the end of the half marathon. Her mom has run 26 marathons and every main event in Akron except for the first, which was scheduled too close to the Towpath Trail Marathon.
Emme, a student at Holy Family in Stow, is used to getting up early, just not on a Saturday, she said, bouncing in the chilly air to stay warm before the race start.
Reach Doug Livingston at 330-996-3792 or email@example.com. Follow him @ABJDoug on Twitter or www.facebook.com/doug.livingston.92 on Facebook.