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40 for the 40th

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With the 40th Anniversary of the Cleveland Marathon approaching this May, I wanted to pay my own tribute to my favorite city and race with my own ‘40th’ story. When you are raised by a pair of running nuts, it’s no surprise this story is all about how this silly sport of ours has shaped my life.

One of my earliest memories of ‘running’ I can think of is heading down my street after the sun had set, strapped into a purple running stroller. The stroller was simple and had that satisfying plastic covering the foot plate. The kind that covers appliances and the like. This unfortunately only lasted all of about a day before we {my two older brothers and myself} had completely wrecked the smoothness of it. There weren’t any shocks or front wheel swivel but it was still surprisingly comfortable as the wheels ate up bump after bump along the sidewalks of Lakewood. This was just one of the many runs my dad took me on and is a memory I hope to give to my own kids someday.

The point of this nostalgic intro is that my dad loves to run. Friends of the family may remember him for his basketball days at Bay High and then onto Baldwin Wallace. Even last week I had met one of his high school teammates who talked about, “playing ball with Kevin at Bradley Park”. This fit in perfectly with a lot of the stories I had heard of him growing up where if the activity didn’t include basketball, it wasn’t worth doing. Fast forward to his graduation from college and he had to find a new passion and running filled that void perfectly. He was hooked immediately and literally never looked back.
After finding running he went from 5ks, to 5 milers, and then onto the almighty marathon. For your enjoyment, I even found one of his most impressive times!

This is a man who doesn’t do anything half-assed {and is a role model I TRY to keep up with}. Fast forward his running career to his 40th birthday and a new, interesting challenge presented itself. This included running 40 miles on his 40th birthday. By this time he already had 7 kids (or at least 6 with the 7th on the way. I can’t be troubled with the math.). With a solid group of running buddies, and the support of my mom and the second pillar of my running life, Steph, he set out for the all day excursion of traveling 40 miles on foot with friends and family joining him for mile after mile.

The run itself it was actually drama free. My mom would ferry runners along the 40 mile route so there was always fresh legs and faces to keep my dad going. As your typical moody teenager, I begrudgingly joined for a few miles on a bike while he wove his way through the metro parks. If memory serves, he used the ‘8-2 tactic’. This involved running for 8 minutes and then walking for 2 and I highly recommend to any newbies or first-timers out there. This simple yet stupidly long run is what inspired me to {eventually} do the same.

My dad by no means invented the ‘Birthday Run’ but introduced me to it all the same. Since my 22nd birthday {because who wants to wake up after their 21st?}, I have dedicated my birthday to this goal. The run always starts the same- at the base of Eddy’s Boat Dock Hill with my youngest sibling ready to join me for the first leg.

The best part about the run isn’t enjoying a few hours in the metro parks, or burning a few extra hundred calories, or even knowing there’ll be some cold beverages waiting at the end. The best part about the whole damn run is the people who joined me. I’ve been blessed with a tight-knit family and amazing friends that will be at specific spots at specific times to run a leg or two, a future wife who may not love running but will bike along with a backpack full of energy gels, granola bars, and water, and two amazing parents who will leave work early or rework their schedules so that can be a part of the festivities.

If you take up the “Birthday Run”, you’ll find that the best damn gift that anyone will every give you is simply joining you on that run. No words can express the thankfulness when they are right alongside you at mile 17 and they are the only thing keeping your legs churning one after the other.

So in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Cleveland Marathon, here is the Runiversity’s tribute to C-L-E.