Friday, September 23, 2016

The Blue Line

There's a painted blue line that meanders through Akron. Every time I see it, it makes my heart race. This permanent decoration marks the course for the Akron Marathon, with a diversion for us half marathoners.

It's exciting, chasing that line around the city with almost 15,000 other runners. It feels like a high-speed party. Spectators line the streets with signs, cowbells, and encouragement. Live bands dot the course. The pace car lists everyone's name on it, like we're something special. It seems like all my friends are here.

And let's not forget the after-parties. There's  the official one, in the infield of Canal Park stadium as you cross the finish line. Another live band, medals, and awful beer. And the unofficial party, now in it's 4th year: a gathering of friends at a local bar (whichever one has the foresight to open by 10 AM), along the final mile of the course so we can drink the good stuff while we cheer in the longer-distance runners.

The blue line has led me to this very cool place in my athletic journey, where I've learned to love running (yes, I used to hate it).

Some Akron residents complain that the blue line is pollution, and should be removed between races. I say that the blue line is a sign, a taunt, a promise to challenge all takers, an invitation to try. The blue line tempts you to come along for the adventure, and then stays with you the whole way. It's a steadfast, unwavering running partner. And somewhere along the way, it might lead you to an annual autumn tradition.

Even the donuts are getting into the act!

Friday, August 19, 2016


It is dark when I arrive. The triathletes are waiting, ready to go. From the stairs down to the beach, the city is a silhouette in the first light of dawn.

The warm and humid air makes the water feel almost cool. The water is black and mysterious in the pale morning.  It has been years, literally, since I stepped into the lake to swim. Longer than that for when I did any 'real' swimming.

Throughout my childhood, summers were spent at the local pool. My brothers and I learned to swim before we could reach the bottom of the shallow end on tiptoes.

Being here feels natural to me, the slowed rhythm of my body through water, the silence underneath.  I feel the gentle current trying to instill its will on my intended direction. It's lovely, the power in the seeming stillness.

My rusty freestyle leaves me gasping for breath before the other girls are even warmed up. I watch their strong, silent motion between one pier and another. I rest, swim some more, rest, swim some more. How quickly my arms tire from the effort, how comforting the shore seems from out on the water. I swim toward sand, feet touching the bottom.

I'm spent from the exertion, but not quite ready to emerge from my watery cocoon. I want to stay here, let the world go about its dry-land business.  I wait as long as I can before reality beckons (stupid, insistent reality). 

Going back to the water feels like reclaiming something I lost years ago, and something I hope to find now that I know where to look.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016