Running is like living with a four-year old: you just never know the mood you’ll face on any given day. Or hour, frankly. Heck, sometimes you are just hanging on minute by minute. What mood would the Akron half marathon serve up?

For example, my last half: it was in June in Rhode Island. It was also one billion percent humidity on a course that had zero breeze coming off of the ocean. I was prepared, mostly, but it was also my first half back after the long covid break and doing anything with that many other people was deeply unnerving. While it was great to check another state off in my quest for all 50, the race itself was a trial.

Akron Half Marathon

Forgive the blurriness but this selfie is the one that truly captures how I felt before the gun went off for the Akron half marathon.

(Yes, any race you are alive for is a good one. It’s just that the actual running in Rhode Island bit the big banana. Never before have I so keenly felt the need to lay down on someone’s lawn and wait for the cops.)

I’m a goldfish (shout out to Ted Lasso) about races, mostly, in that I don’t dwell on them once they hang a medal around my neck. But my last one left me more demoralized than I’d thought, which is a thing I realized in the wee hours before September’s Akron race. Why these sorts of discoveries can’t come at a time when I am a) awake and b) ready to process them is a mystery that will never be solved. 

A miserable race is exactly what you want your brain to be fixated on at 3 a.m. WHY AM I DOING THIS? For some totally self-imposed challenge? What the heck is wrong with me? Which is why, when my alarm really went off and I started the whole breakfast/coffee/pooping procedure, I felt nothing but deep, existential dread. I mean, more than usual, anyway.

My mood had zero to do with the city or the company. BAMR Heather (who’d offered up her charming house) and BAMR Lisa (who’d flown in from the Live Free or Die state) could not have been better wing women. We bonded years ago while running the Seneca Seven — and we hope to do it again in 2022. And I certainly can’t blame Akron. The city took me by surprise by how welcoming, quirky, and pretty it is. Nope. This mood was 100% mine. 

You know where this is going, yes? When you hit the starting line with your own little gray raincloud over your head, one of two things will happen: you will fall into the arms of a self-fulfilling prophecy or you will have a run so pleasant you are legitimately shocked to your core. Spoiler alert: my Akron half was that second one.

Akron Half Marathon

Akron is full of murals, too.

It was far from my fastest run, which was never my goal going in, but it was my loveliest one. After I slowed to a manageable pace around mile 2, I felt something I’d not felt on a run in quite some time: joy. Not like “all is right with the world and here’s a puppy” joy but something simpler. I was moving my body on a crisp fall day in a delightful city with some friends. As cliched as it sounds, my well was refilled.

akron half marathon

Post-race, we went to a local institution for milkshakes because we are grown women who do what we want.

Sure, there were a few grumpy moments, including the volunteer who told me it was “all downhill” for the last quarter-mile. But anything you are doing for two+ hours won’t always be a thrill. Mostly, it was great to focus on getting to the end eventually and taking in the sights along the way. Which is exactly what I did.

The Akron half marathon was the perfect way close the books on long races in 2021. Next up will be Nevada in April, unless another race flashes a pretty ankle at me before then. And if I wake up at 3 a.m., I hope my thoughts are of Akron.