This year I was lucky enough to be picked as a race ambassador for the Rite Aid Cleveland Half Marathon. Although my race entry was free for this race, all thoughts and opinions are my own. You know I always #keepitreal!
Whoa! I’m back from a whirlwind weekend in Cleveland and still trying to catch up on sleep. It was such a FUN weekend and I got to meet a bunch of people, including Rachel! Here’s a rundown of my weekend!
Friday, May 18th
Well the day started off crappy. We missed our 6:40am flight from LaGuardia to Cleveland because the TSA security line was utterly ridiculous (even though we were arrived at the airport early). So many people missed their flights that morning as we were all in line for over an hour. I still don’t know exactly what the hold up was to be honest. I’m not gonna lie, I was nervous that the whole weekend was ruined because I had non-refundable tickets. Luckily Delta was able to re-book us on the 9:10am flight, with no additional fee, so it all ended up okay in the end, thank goodness!
The flight was short and sweet (a little over an hour) and we were able to check into our hotel early. We dropped off our luggage and then made the 10 minute walk to the Expo.
When I arrived to the Expo I picked up my bib and shirts before reporting in for my volunteer shift. It literally took me less than 5 minutes. Everything was so well organized. Since this race weekend had MANY races (Kids Race, 1 mile, 5K, 8K, 10K, half marathon and marathon), all of the t-shirt pick up booths were clearly marked. It was so easy to find the booths for my Challenge hoodies, 8K shirt and half marathon shirt. after I picked up my items, I reported in for my volunteer shift. I was signed up to do t-shirt distribution for the Kids Race. I was able to interact with a few parents as they picked up the bibs, shirts and goodie bags for their kids. It was a lot of fun and I was glad I was able to help volunteer at the Expo!
After my volunteer shift I had about 2 hours to rest a little and get ready for the VIP Dinner Reception. Luckily it was held in my hotel so I didn’t have to travel far! The food was so good. They had salads, rolls, chicken, pasta and plenty of sweet treats! I also got to meet the lovely Rachel (aka @running_onhappy)! We’ve been blogging/Instagram friends for a while so it was awesome to meet her in person. I also got to speak with some of the other race ambassadors too!
When I got back to my hotel room I noticed that my left ankle was really swollen. Maybe I was on my feet too much? I’m not sure but I iced it for about an hour and it looked better. Luckily it was fine when I woke up on Saturday morning.
Saturday, May 19
It was time for the Cleveland 8K! The race start was within walking distance of the hotel (yay)! It was supposed to rain later on in the day, but of course it started raining as soon as we left the hotel, so I went back up to my room to get a lightweight hoodie to tie around my waist. I didn’t even have to do that because it stopped raining rather quickly! Although it was humid, it wasn’t too warm which was great! The race started right on time at 8:00am!
We all started in Public Square (we started with the 5K runners). The course was a little tight and bottlenecked in some places, but the course thinned out once we split from the 5K runners. The roads weren’t that great (lots of potholes) but I kept my head down most of the time to make sure I didn’t trip or fall. We ran a few miles through an industrial part of the city, but we also ran past the Great Lakes Science Center, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Convention Center. Unfortunately I didn’t get the 8K PR I was hoping for (due to the course not being as flat as anticipated), but I ran the whole race and didn’t stop for a walk break so I’m proud of that! After I finished I felt a tap on my shoulder and it was my best friend and her mom. They live about 20 minutes from Cleveland and came down to surprise my mom and I at the race finish. We were planning on meeting them for lunch later on in the day, so seeing them at the finish was a great surprise! When we got back to the hotel I looked up the results and saw that my mom won 3rd in her age group!
Later that afternoon we went to lunch with my best friend and her mom at Zanzibar Soul Fusion. It’s a really great soul food restaurant in Downtown Cleveland and the food was amazing!
after lunch we walked around for a little while before going back to the hotel. Once we got back I picked up my free breakfast bag from the hotel lobby. They had pre-made breakfast bags for any guest running on Sunday and the bags included a bottle of water, bagel and banana. It was a really nice gesture from the hotel!
I watched some TV, scrolled on social media and then it was lights out for an early morning wake up on Sunday!
Sunday, May 20
It was finally race day! Unfortunately I woke up to rain (whomp whomp). It was unexpected since it was supposed to rain in the afternoon and not in the morning. It sucked because I had this super cute shirt I wanted to wear, but I had to run with a lightweight hoodie due to the rain and temperature (it was a little cold at the start).
The race started outside Quicken Loans Arena which was pretty cool! On the course, we ran by Playhouse Square, Progressive Field and a few other places in downtown Cleveland. We also ran over a few bridges which were cool, but we had to run on grids which was a little awkward. The race started off fine and I was in a good groove, but I was constantly looking down at the ground. The potholes on the course were pretty large and now filled with water which was freaking me out. I didn’t want to slip and fall, but I also didn’t want to get my sneakers soaked by stepping right into a pothole. My legs were a little tired (I logged 22,000 steps the day prior – yikes!) but I was still doing well until around mile 5. I hopped over a pothole and I must have landed weird because I felt a twinge in my hamstring. While it wasn’t excruciating pain, it was uncomfortable and my leg felt tight and sore. I had to change my stride to compensate so I ran when I could, and walked/jogged/hobbled when I needed to. I was thinking of downgrading and just going on the 10k route, but I really wanted to finish what I originally started. Thankfully I’m happy to report that I finished! 🙂
After the race I grabbed my extra medal for completing the Challenge Series and headed over to the VIP Brunch to meet up with Rachel. I didn’t eat anything (I wasn’t hungry yet), but it was good to catch up with Rachel and see her one last time before leaving Cleveland.
After lunch at Wahlburgers (so good by the way!), we headed over to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The race offered discounted tickets to runners so I had to take advantage. I am obsessed with music so this was like a dream come true for me. I probably took close to 100 photos, but here are just a few:
After exploring the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame I treated myself to an Oreo Cheesecake cupcake from Colossal Cupcakes. It was SO good and the perfect end to the weekend!
As with every race, I always list my pros and cons:
Course Support – Due to the weather, the course support was a little scarce 🙁
Race Course – To be honest, the roads in Cleveland are pretty bad. Lots of uneven pavement and tons of potholes. These potholes were filled with water which definitely didn’t help make the run any easier. I spent a lot of time with my head down making sure I didn’t trip and fall. Also the course measured way long. My watch showed 13.6 miles and other runners I talked to had around the same distance. I’m not great at running tangents but I’m also not that bad either!
Race Shirts – The sizing of the shirts was a little off. For doing the challenge, I received a lightweight hoodie. I had to get a bigger size because they ran so small. The tech shirts for the 10K, Half Marathon and Marathon also ran small. On the flip side, the shirts for the 5K/8K were cotton and those ran big. So basically, neither race shirt fits that great, lol. It’s not a huge deal as I have TONS of race shirts, but it might matter more to someone else.
Expo – I felt like the expo was the perfect size – not too small or too large. I was able to walk around the expo after my volunteer shift and it was very easy to find everything. The lines weren’t outrageous at any of the booths either. There were some awesome clothes that I really wanted to buy, but since I’m ballin’ on a budget, I didn’t purchase anything. My mom ended up buy a really cool RUN CLE shirt and now I’m kicking myself for not buying one!
Post Race Food – Although I wasn’t that hungry upon finishing either race, I was happy with the food options. They had bottled water, chocolate milk, bananas, CLIF bars, pretzels and chips available to us after crossing the finish line. I also found a new flavor of CLIF bars that I really like!
Race Course – Yes, it’s under both the pros and cons sections. While the roads weren’t great, I did enjoy starting at the Quicken Loans Arena (where the Cavs play) and running by landmarks, through parts of Downtown Cleveland and near Lake Erie.
Race Medals – The medals were pretty big! Also the medal for the 8K was super unique.
Things to Do – I was pleasantly surprised that there was SO much to do in Cleveland! I actually need to plan another trip there since I didn’t get to see everything. Our hotel was centrally located in downtown so we were able to walk to a lot of places. I enjoyed all the food that I had there (we ate at Wahlburgers, The Chocolate Bar, Zanzibar Soul Fusion and 1890 Restaurant). Also the sports arenas are downtown as well (Cavs, Indians and Browns). I really enjoyed my visit to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame after the race on Sunday.
Overall it was an awesome race weekend. While it was super busy, I’m really glad I got to experience both the 8K and the Half Marathon and cross another state off my list for my 25 State Half Marathon Challenge. Thank you to the Ambassador program for giving me the opportunity to meet new runners and race over the weekend!