Downtown Akron was flooded with people on Sept. 26 and 27 as the 12th annual Akron Marathon and Runners Expo went underway.
Friday, the John S. Knight Center held the Runners Expo from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. for the competitors to get their racing bibs and along with other equipment they may need during the race.
The day began with the pinning ceremony. The marathon started 12 years ago and the pinning ceremony started two years ago when runners first became eligible for a 10-year pin commemorating longtime runners.
After the ceremony, competitors could make their way through the expo where 80 booths of vendors and organizations were lined up to sell gear, merchandise or market for other upcoming races. Some of the booths included gear such as shoes, sunglasses, fanny packs and more supplies for racers to get well equipped for the race the following day. Akron Marathon also had their own merchandise, but theirs was much larger than any other booth.
“This is the first year we’ve had our merchandising downstairs in the lobby. We tried to really make it a focal point of this event,” said Expo Co-Chair Allyson Boyd.
The event also had a pasta party for racers to enjoy endless amounts of pasta in order to load up on carbohydrates for the marathon the morning after. Along with the pasta party, they featured a Charity Village, where dozens of charities had booths. Major contributors such as Time Warner Cable were there to raise awareness of who was sponsoring the events.
The next morning, over 15,000 racers started their marathon, half marathon, relay marathon, and kids fun run at 7 a.m. on Broadway Street. The wheelchair marathoners started at 6:59 a.m. to get a headstart and avoid congestion at the start.
The runners were split into three different corrals based on expected finishing times. Once the race started, the runners made their way across the Y-Bridge before coming back into downtown on High Street. The course then took them around Firestone and Goodyear Park and eventually took them through UA campus. At this point in the race, runners had only completed 9.7 miles while the Towpath Trail, Sand Run Park and Market Street made up the last 16.5 miles of the course.
Runners could sign family and friends up for email alerts throughout the race. Tags on their bibs would register each time they reached a checkpoint and an automatic text would be sent out letting them know which mile marker they were at, their pace, and expected finish time throughout the race.
“There are 3,000 total volunteers, from start to finish, seven full-time employees, and dozens of chair members that make this race happen,” Race Director Brian Polen said .
The course of the half and full marathon then concluded at Canal Park through the outfield. From there, racers only had 60 yards left until the finish line where medical staff and volunteers were present to assist runners and give them water.
“The volunteers deserve a lot of credit. Those are the people that showed up and didn’t get any personal reward from helping out,” marathon runner Chelsea Langlois said.
According to Canal Park employee Elaine Surnegie, at Canal Park, “we expect about 160 on top of the volunteers at the finish line.”
Teklu Deneke and Birhanu Mekonnen from Ethiopia, finished first and second for the men’s division of the marathon and Akron’s own Aiman Scullion finished in third. In the women’s division, Tezata Dengersa and Waynishet Abebe, also from Ethiopia, finished first and second along with Devon Yanko, from California, who finished third.
Canal Park wasn’t only a finish line for the runners, but also a small festival as well. After finishing the race and receiving their medal, runners could enjoy live music along with free food and beer that were stationed in the outfield of the stadium.
Thousands of fans also filled Canal Park as they cheered for their friends and family to complete the race. The announcers at the race stated that about 50 percent of the marathon runners finish before the four hour and 20 minute mark, but many people were still finishing well towards the end of five hours after starting the race.
All of the results and finishing photos of racers can be found at AkronMarathon.org, along with registration for the 13th annual Akron Marathon.