Goodyear ½ Marathon and 10 km Race Report from the Ground and High Above
As Christa and I were on our drive up to the Creemore Vertical Challenge (25 and 50km race near our home in Toronto), last weekend we got the word from Run It Fast #1 that we could go to Akron and ride in the Goodyear Blimp while the Goodyear ½ Marathon was going on. As the week progressed we found out that due to additional video equipment onboard only one of us would be able to go up. Christa pitched the idea of her running the race, while I was high above in the blimp. The race organizers went for the idea and the following article is our race review from the ground and high above! Below is our views on this fun race from high above and running on the ground.
Given the 6:30 am start, we left our home in Toronto Canada after work at 5:15 pm on Friday night and arrived in Akron at about 11 pm. We were barely able to put our heads down, when our 3:45 am wakeup call came. Christa had to meet race organizers before 5 am at the start, while I had to drive out to Goodyear Launch facilities 20 minutes from the race course before 5:15 am.
We arrived at the race start so I could pick up my race kit before 5am. Getting to the start was quite easy since there were roads still open and the race start was in the parking garage so you just drove in and parked. I went to pick up my race kit which included a t-shirt, bag, towel and Goodyear blimp magnet. The bag drop was just a few feet away where they were ready to take my stuff. They already had clear plastic bags to put your stuff in – you didn’t even have to worry about this part. So far I was really impressed. Did I mention how easy it was – I guess that’s what happens when you are the first runner to arrive! Since I had a couple hours to kill I decided to walk around and familiarize myself with the start line and all that was available to the runners.
First off to make every runner happy there were tones of port-a-potties set up in different locations around the start line. This made it very easy when the crowds started to arrive as you never really had to wait that long. The finish line was already all set up with ice, water and Gatorade which was great but I also notice there was a band setting up, 3 food trucks and a beer tent not to mention a few other vendors setting up. I could tell there would be a good party going on at the finish.
Twenty minutes before the start I met up with another RIF member – always nice to meet new friends! We chatted for a bit and then I lined up in my corral which was easy to find because they had tons of signs. The pacers had already started lining up in their timing slots. That’s when I noticed that the blimp had started to circle the start line. It was exciting to see because I knew Chris was up there – what an opportunity. I asked one of the ladies beside me to take my picture with the blimp in the background, I wanted a picture of Chris and I at the start – when I told them that my husband was up in the blimp they instantly knew why I was so excited. It was about at this point that the announcer came on saying that the race start would be delayed by 15 minutes due to heavy traffic arriving for the race. Then we were off!! Time to burn some rubber!
Arriving at the Goodyear Airship facilities I could see the Blimp in the distance. Once signed in, I met the other 3 gentlemen that had been invited to report on the race. Also on the Blimp were our pilot and a video technician from Goodyear. We took off about 6:10 am and we were over the Goodyear facilities where the start finish line was in about 10 minutes. Having run in many races, I am usually part of the masses lining up behind the start line. I was able to look down and see the nearly 3000 people in the Half and 10 km taking their positions. One problem, cars were still trying to come off the highway and make it to the parking lot. One of the race committee members was onboard the blimp and radioed down to ground that these people would not make it to the start by 6:30 am. There was a 15 minute delay to the start of the race. Traffic cleared quickly and at about 6:45 am the race was on.
Christa During the Race
There was a bottle neck right at the start line because they forgot to move the Goodyear race car off the course before the race; but we got passed it pretty quick which was good. I quickly started following the 2:05 pacer who introduced himself as Dave. He was from Akron and seemed like he knew what he was doing telling us that we were going a bit fast off the get go and needed to take it easy as we settled into our pace. He also seemed to know the course pretty well telling us about the next hill coming up. He was friendly and knowledgeable just what you need in a pacer. I felt like we were in good hands.
Since the race started at 6:45am the heat wasn’t a factor until later on near to the finish which was great. A lot of the course was shaded because of the time of day, but it did end up getting pretty warm near the end of the race. The course went out and came back past the start finish where I stopped to take a picture of the Goodyear race car. How often do you get to be this close to a race car? We then went into the Goodyear training ground where they do all the testing and training for the Goodyear blimps. Normally this is closed to the public so this was a lot of fun to be behind the scenes. We went headed down by the derby track where they hold the derby races in Akron.
The aid stations, provided water and Gatorade, where well staffed with friendly volunteers and approximately 3k apart. Some of the aid stations offered gels and they even had a spray station where runners got sprayed down with water as they ran by. We went through various parts of the city ranging from subdivisions to busier main streets; traffic was not an issue since all the main streets were closed off to traffic with police monitoring so no one would get hurt.
The rest of the race flew by with many parts of the course lined with people eager to cheer us on to the finish. The last part of the race took us around the Goodyear race track where you looped around to the finish line. During the whole race the Goodyear blimp was circling the course which gave us the feel that we were competing at a major sporting event.
Chris During the Race
It was quite the site to see runners quickly spread out and a lead pack formed immediately. Our pilot followed the race leaders and we snapped quite a few pictures from high above in the Goodyear Blimp. Since I am not from the area it was hard for me to keep track of who the leaders were, since I didn’t know the course route. Even though we were only 1000 feet off the ground, the trees lining the streets made it hard to see runners at all times. Given that there was a 10 km race along with a ½ marathon, it didn’t take long to see the lead 10 km runner enter the Goodyear Test Track (about 1.5 miles from the finish) and see that he had a commanding lead. As he ran the last mile, he was gaining a bigger margin between him and the second place runner. Up in the blimp we estimated that the winner finished in about 33 minutes. It was hard to track the lead ½ marathon runner as they would have encountered traffic from the slower 10 km runners when they merged. We finally found him and estimate he finished in about 1:09.
As we were in the blimp, I was wondering what I would write about. Anyone who has read any of my previous race reports knows I don’t like to focus on me and I want to provide the reader with information they will be able to use when deciding if they want to run this race in the future. I know it would be hard, 1000 feet up in the air, but as the morning went on I got some great (at least I think they are great) ideas to cover.
First of all, the roads looked very wide and I don’t think crowding on the course was an issue. There is nothing worse than a race, with skinny narrow roads where hundreds of runners bottleneck up. That can really impact your pace and race. Given the size of the roads, the runners spread out quickly.
Second of all, I saw a couple of the water stations and they seemed long. This is great, as runners can go further down the water station where it isn’t crowded to grab their drink. Given the heat and humidity that was expected Saturday, a 6:30 start was a great idea. The course seemed to be shaded in a lot of spots so for much of the race I thought this would offer relief to the runners. From above, the course looked fairly flat too. No major hills that I could see. I loved the idea of running 1.5 miles around the Goodyear test track. It looked hot and open, but having the ability to run in what is normally a restricted area has always been a positive in a race for me. (Being a big sports fan, I have always remembered my finish on Ford Field in Detroit, finishing at center ice at Copps Coliseum, where an AHL Pro team plays and running on the Formula One track in Montreal).
With the ease of parking in the Goodyear parking lot right at the start line, from above it looked like a great race. I know Christa’s report will echo the same opinion from the ground!
Christa Post Race
The finish was very well organized with cold water and Gatorade being handed out by volunteers as well as ice cold towels. They were so refreshing and a major perk because of the heat. All race participants had 2 food tickets and got one free beer. They had 3 food trucks at the finish, offering half pints of Stricklands chocolate and vanilla ice cream, Eddies Famous Cheesesteak sandwiches and Galley Boys from Swenson’s which has been featured on the food network. Beer was free for all runners and they had a variety of Bud, Shock top and a local IPA which was a nice surprise. They also offered live music the whole time during the post-race party which ended at 11am. This gave all participants an opportunity take part in the festivities. All in all I really have no complaints about this race. The organizers did a fantastic job and put on an amazing event. I would highly recommend this race or any other race in the series to anyone who wants to enjoy a great race and be well taken care of from the start to beyond the finish.
Chris Post Race
We continued to circle the start/finish area until about 9:20 am. This gave finishers a chance for photo ops with the blimp and I understand the award ceremonies wanted to have photo ops with the blimp. We could see some of the slower runners still out on the course, while some of the 10 km and faster ½ marathon finishers were already in their cars and leaving the race site. It was very relaxing in the blimp, comfortable seats and open windows to take some pictures. It really was perfect area to view a race from. The pilot was extremely friendly and gave us a lot of information about the Goodyear Blimp program. The blimp is fairly quiet and we could hear the announcer below us. If you ever get the opportunity to ride in the blimp then you should. It is an amazing experience. We landed back at the launch site, with some Boy Scouts looking on. The pilot showed off some of the blimps capabilities (the new one can do a complete 360 while hovering in the same spot, something the older models could not do). I jumped in my car after a few more photos and drove back to the race site to meet Christa. I found her right beside the finish line. It was a unique feeling, to see the same finish area from the ground, where only 45 minutes before I had seen it from the air. It was a lively atmosphere, with a band still playing, beer being given out (yes Christa saved me a beer ticket) and food being handed out. I was a little jealous of the medal she received as it was quite cool. I wish I could have been up in the blimp and then ran the race. Maybe next year, I will come back to Akron and run the ½. If it wasn’t for the 5 hour drive it would be on my list in 2016. I will have to see if I can make it fit my schedule.
From the time Chris was put in contact with the organizers to getting my feet back on the ground, communication was excellent and all the little details were taken care of. From what we both experienced, our opinion is that this race series is going to continue to grow as the attention to detail is not an accident. The runners are taken care of and for the price of the entry fee, it’s a great value. Thanks again to Run It Fast, Goodyear and The Rubber Running Series for a once in a lifetime experience.
– Chris and Christa Baker (August 2015)