2017 Cleveland Half Marathon Race Report

My most recent pacing gig was on Sunday at the Cleveland Marathon, where I paced the 3:00 group for the half marathon. This was my first time running this race, but probably not my last. I had a great time and would be interested in pacing again next year, and/or running the full marathon.

Medal selfie

I drove up to Cleveland on Saturday afternoon and checked into the Hilton, which was walking distance to everything I needed in downtown Cleveland. The Hilton was connected to the Convention Center where the race expo was held, so I went there first to collect my race packet and pacer gear. After a quick tour of the expo, I headed a few blocks away to taste some local brews at Masthead Brewing Company. I enjoyed the beer (good stuff) and wanted to try their pizza, but I saved my appetite. As a pacer, I got a free ticket to the marathon's official pasta dinner held at the Hyatt. I sat with fellow pacers Tom, Kim and Chase. Then we all went back to the Hilton for pre-race pacer party.

Panoramic view from hotel room
Seen on the sidewalk on my walk to the brewery
Pace team leader Kara did a great job with the beer exchange/milk & cookies party. Several members of the large pace team showed up to socialize before the race. Some ate cookies, others drank beer. We were encouraged to bring a six-pack from our home city to trade, and not necessarily drink it all at the party.

Kara speaking at the pacer party

Pacers at the party

On race morning my roommate Heather and I woke up at 5:00 AM. We had to meet the other pacers at the starting line between 6:00-6:15 AM for a photo. The forecast had been for storms, but it was dry on our walk to the start, though quite windy. In the start corrals we had some sun, so we were hoping that it would stay dry, at least for the half marathon. The start was alongside the "Q" (Quicken Loans Arena), where the Cleveland Cavaliers play. I was the last official pacer at the 3:00 half, with no counterparts doing the 6:00 marathon. I seeded myself behind the other pace teams, which put me starting in the walkers corral. Unfortunately, that meant that I'd be dodging walkers for quite a while. I took several pre-race pics since I wouldn't be able to take them during the race as a pacer.

Pre-race with pacers getting ready
Pre-race with Chase
Pre-race with Kara, our fearless pace team leader
Pre-race with Heather
The direction we ran at the start
Pre-race with Karen before her full marathon

I crossed the starting mat about eight minutes after gun time. The pack was pretty crowded, especially with walkers. I began my 2.5 minute run/1 minute walk intervals from the beginning. I had several half marathon runners and some 10K runners with me. We settled into a consistent pace. The first few miles were in the downtown area and we ran past or close to landmarks such as the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and FirstEnergy Stadium where the Cleveland Browns play. We had a couple short hills early on, and then a big one on Columbus Road, which included a bridge over the river. This was a tough hill for my runners, so I switched to a strategy of running 30 seconds, walking 30 seconds, repeat. They needed to walk more, but I couldn't afford to walk the entire hill or I'd be way behind pace. Most of my crew made it up the hill just fine, but then they were zapped and I lost a few of them. And shortly thereafter, the 10K runners split off. The hill did put me a little behind on pace, but not much, so it was possible to regain the loss gradually over the second half of the race.

Here I am starting out, bright yellow shirt on the left

In the second half I picked up some new runners, and we were passing a lot of other runners who had started too fast and then slowed down. The weather was still good, or at least it felt good to me. We went from partial sun to overcast, and there was some humidity, of course, but not that I really noticed running at my pace. The full marathoners split off just before Mile 11, and that's about when the rain came. At first, it was just a light sprinkle. We had one last bridge in the final half mile of the race, but it wasn't as long as the hill on Columbus. The rain picked up a little more, but it wasn't very heavy. My sole survivor in the 3:00 pace group was Julie, a first-timer who did a great job sticking with me the entire race. I told her that if she had the energy, she should feel free to have a good finish, and she did. Julie pulled ahead of me on the hill, ran faster down it, and probably finished about a minute before me. I had to slow down because I had gained my lost time back, and then some. I walked it in to the finish.

Kara captured this pic of my finish

Kara was there waiting for me to turn in my pacing sign. Julie was there too, and I gave her a big hug and congratulated her on her first half marathon finish. The rain picked up a little more as I collected my medal and post race refreshments. There were bottles of water, cups of Powerade, bananas, cereal bars, pretzels and chocolate milk. More important to me was the beer garden, so I headed over there to get my post-race beer from Great Lakes; there were three to choose from. There were also Bloody Marys with Tito's vodka. The sky opened up and it started pouring as I grabbed my beer. I took shelter under an awning in the beer garden.

Beer and medal pic while taking cover under the Tito's Vodka trailer awning 

After the rain lightened up I decided to head back to the hotel to shower and check out. I said goodbye to my roommate Heather and then headed out to meet up with Karen at Willoughby Brewing Company. Karen ran the marathon and got rained on for 10 miles. We half marathoners lucked out.

This was a good race. Well-organized, good course, nice swag, and great community support. On the half marathon course there were at least two unofficial water stations, several spectators handing out food, and one big unofficial beer station, though someone said there were at least two. Most official aid stations had both water and Powerade. One aid station on the half marathon course had Honey Stinger gels.

As a pacer, this was a good race to run. Kara took care of everything for us. Great pre-race communications, fun pre-race party, and she took lots of great pics. The Cleveland Marathon and Hyland Software did a great job sponsoring us. We got the usual pacer shirt, and also hats and calf compression sleeves. There were pace wrist bands for us and for our runners. The pace signs had nice handles that were easy to hold. We were invited to the pasta party, and out-of-towners got to stay at the Hilton. Locals got parking passes. Absolutely nothing was overlooked in making this a hassle-free and fun experience for the pacers. Thank you, Cleveland Marathon, and thank you Kara Kelly!


  1. Looks like a nice event. Maybe I need to get into pacing. 😊

    1. Pacing is very rewarding. But whether or not you pace, do consider running Cleveland.


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