The Casual Runner

Medina (Ohio) Half Marathon

Event: 2015 Medina Half Marathon
Event Date: May 30, 2015
Event Location: Medina, Ohio

Why I decided to run this race

I stumbled upon the Medina Half Marathon out a sense of self-imposed urgency.  I had fallen behind the pace for satisfying my New Years Runsolution of completing a half dozen half marathons in 2015 due to my unfortunate hibernation habit.  I had thought that, given the additional day off, Memorial Day weekend might have provided me with an opportunity to complete another half marathon.  Much to my chagrin, that was not to be; apparently, more people find grilling, nice weather, and rest and relaxation to be more fun than running 13.1 miles.  Undeterred, I checked the following weekend for an event in Northeast Ohio.  And sure enough, I found a great option in my backyard.

This was more than just a race of convenience, however.  The race’s theme of bees drew my attention.  This past year, my parents started beekeeping and have been obsessed with all things Apis mellifera.  Well, bees are a particularly big deal in Medina too.  The A.I. Root Company has been in the business of selling beekeeping equipment and beeswax candles in Medina since 1869.  Medina High School’s mascot is the Battling Bees.  One of the many reasons I love participating in local and regional races is because I love to learn about and experience small taste of the community in which the race is held.  Medina’s love affair with the honey bee certainly fits this description, and when I shared with my parents the bee connection, they were almost more excited that I chose to run the race than I was!

Getting there/the lead-up to the race

I have been staying in half marathon shape since the Canton Hall of Fame Half Marathon and Gold Jacket 5k at the end of April, so this race did not have any special training regimen.  All it took was getting out 3-4 times a week to maintain the shape that I was already in.

(Let that be a takeaway for any reader who is on the fence about starting up a training regimen: in my opinion, it is far easier to stay in shape than it is to get in shape.  Your First Mile is the most challenging, yet most rewarding and important one you will run—and of course (shameless plug), Casual Runner would love to celebrate your steps by featuring your First Mile story if you wanted to share it with us).

The race was only an hour away by car, so it did not require any overnight stays.  While being spared the cost of a hotel is wonderful for my wallet, my eyes were less than pleased with the wakeup time needed to make the 6:45 a.m. start time—at least until I had a cup of coffee.

The gear

Earlier in the week, the forecast had shown a temperature  in the high 40’s for the race’s start time.  Nonetheless, I thought it would be best to err on the side of underdressed rather than overdressed, as I’d rather be a little too cold than a little too warm when I run.  The weather vindicated my decision to just wear a tech shirt (my Green Cathedral shirt from my first ever half marathon—it’s become my lucky race shirt) and shorts, as the temperature eventually climbed to the seventies.

I had two new gadgets added to my running repertoire for this race that I was excited to try out.  First, I had purchased a new arm band for my smartphone so I can log my miles.  Prior to this race, I had used a pocket in my rain jacket to stash it, but as the weather continues to improve and heat up, that option becomes increasingly unpalatable.  The other welcome addition was an iPod shuffle that I received as a Christmas present.  I have not done a lot of solo running during 2015, so the opportunity to try it out had not presented itself.

Swag

Un-bee-lievable swag (come on, I had to make that pun once!).

(And to preempt the next question: yes I know that I can play music through my smartphone.  I prefer not to as a way to save battery life).

The race Expo / Swag review

I was unable to attend the race expo because it was scheduled for the day before the race—a Friday—from noon until 7 p.m.  I am torn a little on this arrangement.  On the one hand, a Saturday race day is a nice change of pace of the typical half marathon consuming weekend routine; whereas I usually spend the Saturday before a Sunday race unproductively in anticipation for the event, I was able to spend the Sunday following a Saturday race doing other things unrelated to running (and yes, there are such things!).  So, in order to accomplish that, the Expo either needs to be completed the day of the race (which further limits the start time to later in the day), or needs to be done the Friday before.

On the other hand, I imagine doing the expo on a weekday, primarily during business hours, and tying bib pickup to attending the expo, poses a challenge to local race entrants and makes it all but impossible for out of town entrants to run the race without getting a hotel.  Which may be a shame for people interested in running this race but unable to do anything aside from day-of bib pick up.  The event sold out pretty quickly, so it certainly doesn’t struggle to fill up, but permitting day-of bib pickup would allow a great regional race to even further expand its entrant footprint.

The race offered good swag for an event this size, and played strongly into the bee motif.  The draw string bag and tech shirt both prominently feature bees on the front.

Start

View from the starting line

In addition to a number of coupons and advertisements for local events and businesses, the swag bag had a Root Company candle (mine was seaside surf scented), a cow bell (excellently used by the course support throughout the race), and a 13.1 mile sticker.

The pre-race

Because of the early race time and related even earlier wake up, I arrived at Medina approximately 30 minutes ahead of the start.  This gave me enough time to do a brief warm up run, hit the bathroom one last time, and settle into a proper spot in the starting line.  A rendition of the National Anthem and remarks from the mayor preceded the starting gun, and away the field went!

Along the course

The course itself would be familiar to any runner who has done what I would call a “community race.”  It primarily featured neighborhood running, with segments through a local park and along Lake Medina (pictured at the top of this article).  Although a community race is likely to be a known commodity for people who train in their neighborhoods, the Medina Half did not lack for distinct race icons.  The view along Lake Medina was spectacular for the half mile or so the course followed it.

A unique support from race volunteers served as the second race icon: chalk messages written directly onto the course, spread pretty much throughout the whole race.  This feature really added to the community feel of the race, and offered some clever messages.  Funniest: “Pain is temporary.  Internet results are forever.”  Snarkiest/Most Motivational: “You’re NOT almost finished (appeared sometime after mile nine), followed by a gap long enough to get a rise out of you, followed by “So you better not think of quitting!”

The people of Medina really brought the support out for the race.  The race offered a large number of pace runners (“worker bees” as their shirts read) for about ten different finish times spread out in ten minute increments.  This really reduced the congestion during the race start.  Also, spectators could be found on each block, and of the many water stations spread every 1.5 miles, two had dedicated themes: superheroes at one, zombies at the other.  I also saw a bumblebee mascot during the race too.

Hill

The view up the final hill towards the finish line.  That rectangle just beneath the further traffic light pole?  Yep that’s the finish line.

The race advertises itself as hilly, and it certainly had its share of hills.  Two larger ones come to mind: one during the sixth mile, and one that was the final stretch of the race.

Aside from these two hills, however, I would describe the course’s hilliness as wavy rather than hilly.  (Or, as I cynically thought during the race—death by a thousand paper cuts…).  The promise of a hilly course is definitely there.

At the same time, the race organizers boast that race participants mention setting personal records on the course despite the challenge of the hills.  I can proudly add myself to that list.  I had an excellent sense of how well the race went for me around the twelfth mile marker and, gauging my splits, I knew the record was falling.  (Anybody who can vividly recall smashing a record knows the race magic in the moment of the race when the question goes from, “will this be a P.R.” to “by how much will my P.R. improve.”  Not even that hill could stop it!

The SMOpinion

Given Medina’s affinity for honey bees, it is not too surprising to see the insect prominently featured on the finisher’s medal.

SMO

Finisher’s medal for the Medina Half Marathon

Continuing with the bee theme, this race has a medal shaped like a beehive, with about a half dozen bees flitting around the race name and year.  Very cool medal.

The post-race experience

Greeting the runners after crossing a finish line packed with loud cheering and support from spectators and finished runners alike was the typical post-run fare—plenty of supporters to award runners with a finisher’s medal and snacks.  The venue of finishing near the village square smartly provided a shaded area for relaxation after the race.  After catching my breath, I strolled through the Farmer’s Market that had set up on the same block, and made my way over to the post-race party: a pizza, water, and adult beverage party sponsored by Stand Up for Downs.

Playlist Peak

As mentioned above, this race was the maiden voyage of my iPod shuffle.  So in some respects, the whole playlist was a peak during this race.  Cop-out answer aside, two opportune moments jumped out to me.  First, Eminem’s “Til I Collapse” came on between mile 10 and 11.  If there is a better anthem for attacking the late-race wall (“Cause sometimes you just feel tired//Feel weak, and when you feel weak, you feel like you wanna just give up//But you gotta search within you, you gotta find that inner strength…” with drill sergeant chanting “left-right-left” in the background), I have not heard it yet.  And, like I always do, I had Nelly’s “Heart of a Champion queued up for the final push—a necessary boost for the hill that made up the final 3 or 4 tenths of a mile of the race.

Looking back now

My good luck streak of picking high caliber races in Northeast Ohio continued with the Medina Half Marathon.  Obviously, setting a P.R. will affect how one views the race.  Even controlling for that, however, the Medina Half is a great option for anyone that wants to schedule a race before the summer months truly set in.  The organizers incorporated an original theme into their race that serves to show what is really great about local races: the chance to experience a community’s unique personality.

And the course offers a nice challenge without being overly difficulty.  Sure there are hills, but not enough to break your spirits.  Or, to paraphrase a familiar, and honey related, expression: not too steep…not too flat…

Just right.

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Neither Steve nor Casual Runner received any compensation for this review.  The entry for the race reviewed herein was provided by the event organizer for purposes of this review and the opinions are solely those of the author.

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