2019 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon Weekend Recap

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It’s taken me much longer to write this recap post for a variety of reasons. It’s hard to put into words how extremely happy Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon weekend made me this year. I’ve been an ambassador for 7 years and participated in RACM races for 9 years, and this one, by far, was the best. With this happiness bring guilt and sadness for the unfortunate passing of Taylor Ceepo, a bright young lady whose life was just starting and whose fire was extinguished too quickly. This incident reaffirmed that life is short, and tomorrow is promised to no one. I’m not religious, so I instead of thoughts and prayers, I’m sending love to Taylor’s family and friends. May her memory live on in the lives of all who knew her. However, I do feel I am able to celebrate the accomplishments of the weekend while still paying respect to Taylor, and I know she will continue to be on my mind and the minds of others when they race in Cleveland in the future.

If you’ve followed my journey this training cycle, you’ll know this wasn’t a typical race for me. From the start, I was running with a greater sense of purpose – helping my dad, Steve, cross the finish line of his very first half marathon. Undertaking a half at any age is an accomplishment, but deciding to start running and selecting such a lofty distance goal at 60+ is a whole different level. What most people didn’t know is I was not only going to run the race with my dad. Brian, the man who loves me and makes me a better person, was joining us from Seattle.

Race weekend kicked off in its usual fashion. I had the opportunity to work the information booth again this year at the Expo and got to visit with Melissa, who has been an ambassador with me for the past few years, and Katie, who was a new ambassador this year. On top of chatting and helping people there for the race, we had a chance to visit, which is always fun. I was also thrilled I got to see Jill, a friend and former ambassador who is fierce as hell and I think the world of!

One of my race weekend highlights is the VIP Reception. I always laugh because it’s hilarious to see everyone dressed up when I’m used to seeing them in running clothes. And, goodness sake, did we clean up well! For the second year, my dad was my date, and we enjoyed good food, good drinks, and good company. Thanks, RACM, for the fabulous evening!

Saturday morning, Dad and I woke up extra early to pick up Brian from the airport. The man is such a good sport that he took a red eye to be there for the 8K with us. We had some time to chill back at the room (AKA I fell back asleep) before getting race ready. I love that my friend and fellow ambassador Andrew always got a kick out my dad’s race outfits. Before he became a “serious” runner, Dad would run/walk the Saturday event with me as a prep for my race on Sunday, and he was clad in khakis, a belt, cotton beer shirt, and carried jingling keys in his pocket. We couldn’t let Andrew down this year, so Team Khaki was out in full force! After having run a race in khakis in the rain, I can safely say I have no freaking idea how my dad did that in past years! Regardless of the weather and rain, Team Khaki successfully ran the entire 8K and had a great time on top of looking stylish AF.

The rest of Saturday was not spent resting as would be customary on race weekend. My mom, Susie, joined us downtown, and we visited the Expo and lunched at Southern Tier, one of my absolute faves! Also, I am proud to say we kept beer consumption to a minimum. My mom even got to hit the casino, which made her extremely happy. Brian and I capped off the night with a drink with Andrew and his absolutely fabulous wife Brittany before standing on the 4th floor of the Hyatt people-watching the wedding taking place below.

Finally, it was Sunday morning! The day we have waited and trained for for months!!!! Thankfully, Team Khaki morphed to Team Lesco, wearing much more appropriate attire for running any significant distance but staying true to our hydration roots. Thanks, Brian, for getting these great shirts!

Before the start of the race, I got to do a quick Facebook Live video for the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon (again, thank you for the opportunity!), and the other ambassadors and I got our starting line photo. It always pumps me up to see my friends before a big race! After that, Brian, Dad, and I slowly made our way to the corral where we prepared ourselves to run 13.1 miles in the heat and humidity. I knew it would be a challenge, but we were ready.

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It took about 2 miles before we were able to comfortably run next to one another and not dodge people. It was also about that time that I said, “Screw it!” to the shirt and tucked it in like a cape. Sun’s out, muffin top’s out! Honestly, I couldn’t have cared less. It was hot, and I had more important things to worry about. We were clipping along at a steady pace, and I kept looking at my dad. He looked strong and calm, which didn’t surprise me because he trained his ass off. I loved that he had his music in and was in the zone while Brian and I chatted. He didn’t say much with his earbuds in, but I loved his response to that steep hill around mile 6.5 – “Oh fuck!” Yep, my thoughts exactly. Instead of burning a ton of energy running the whole thing, we took a short walk break halfway up the hill and started running again when we hit the top. Still consistent. Still strong.

The miles went fairly quickly, and with the heat and lack of shade, we slowed our speed a little. Better to slow down than burn out. Brian keep encouraging us. “Anyone can run 3 miles.” “Anyone can run 2 miles.” And he was right. Dad, although looking a little fatigued, never stopped, and before I knew it, we were at the Detroit-Superior Bridge, ready to make our way into the downtown. That’s when I got a little emotional. I kept looking over at my dad and then over at Brian thinking I get to do something I absolutely love – running RACM races – with two of the three men I love most (all that was missing was my brother, Steve). After we crested the bridge, I tapped my dad and told him to take out his earbuds, so he could fully experience the finish line and all the spectators’ cheers. We made our way to the finish were we first saw my Aunt Teresa, who also caught us at another spot in the race, and then my mom, sister Sarah, brother-in-law Rhett, and their kids. The look on my mom’s face was priceless. You could tell she was one proud wife.

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Then…we did it! The three of us crossed the finish line of my dad’s first ever half marathon and Brian’s first official half race. I grabbed both of them and hugged them so tightly, feeling a sense of pride and love. That race was, by far, my most favorite Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon experience, and I don’t think there is anything that could top it. Dad and Brian, I love you. Thank you for running with me and know it was so much more than that.

This post is getting lengthy enough, but before I close, I want to say thank you to my fellow RACM ambassadors. You have become family to me, and I appreciate your support and motivation. I love that each of us brings something different to the table, which is exactly how it is in the running community. Thank you, Jack, Ralph, Joan, Teresa, and the rest of the amazing RACM staff. For seven years you’ve allowed me to represent your race, and each year I am appreciative and humbled. You have also become family to me, seeing me at soaring highs and devastating lows, and your support has not wavered. To say I am grateful is an understatement. Thank you for another amazing year.

Love,

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