Sunday, October 02, 2016

Toe to Tow Marathon, October, 1996

Twenty years ago, I drove from Michigan to Ohio, stayed with family, and toed the line at the 1996 Toe to Tow Marathon, now known  as the Towpath Marathon. I remember it well.

The course was not unlike the one they've had at various times. We took the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad from Boston to Howe Meadow, then ran south a couple miles before turning north on the towpath. I think the other turnaround was around Pleasant Valley Road. We finished back at Boston Mills.

At the time, I was active on the Dead Runners Society and Michigan Runners lists. Here is my relatively brief description of the race:

Subject: Toe to Tow Marathon

  There are several races which are well known for their spectacular
  scenery. The Toe to Tow should definitely be one of them. With autumn
  colors at their peak, this was one of the most beautiful runs I've
  ever done. The setting is the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation
  Area, and the race is held on a canal towpath. The entire valley was
  aflame with bright reds, oranges, golds and yellows. I could go on
  and on....

  Oh yes. The race. After parking at a ski resort, we hopped on the
  Cuyahoga Scenic Railroad for a slow but (you guessed it) scenic ride
  to the start. Kind of unique. The first two miles were on a road to
  accommodate the 700 runners. About 350 of them were running the entire
  marathon, the rest were doing the relay.

  Once we got on the towpath, we stayed on it for the rest of the race.
  Although there are lots of little twists and a few tiny hills, the
  towpath makes for a great running surface. Most of it is hard packed
  dirt, with some tiny gravel. A few paved areas and wooden bridges.

  I ran a steady pace, completing the first half in a bit over 89 minutes.
  At the 18 mile turnaround I counted 20 runners ahead of me. Although
  I did slow a bit, I was able to pass 12 of them to finish 9th (I
  think). 2:59:32. 1st in the 40-44 age group. Not a bad day all around.


Not a bad day indeed. I remember how much I enjoyed the scenery in our wonderful national park. And I also remember how relatively easy it seemed for me to break three hours in a marathon. This was the seventh time I'd done it, and it was even the second time that year. After trying and failing from 1978 until 1989, when I finally succeeded, going sub-three now appeared pretty-darn doable.

After this race, I repeatedly tried and failed to break three hours some more. I came close a few times, but never got there. Maybe it wasn't so easy after all. The 1996 Toe to Tow marathon wound up as my final run in 2:xx:xx territory.

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