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The 2017 Glass City Marathon

We went to Toledo, Ohio for one reason: So I could race the Glass City Marathon and have another shot at qualifying for the Boston Marathon (this time, by enough of a margin that I can actually run it). Two previous failed attempts had turned the whole endeavor into a thing of urgency, so this time I choose my qualifying marathon very carefully (with Mr. P’s tutelage). In addition to finding a course with relative flatness (unlike hilly San Diego) and usually great weather (unlike windy/freezing Hyannis), other considerations included the exact weekend (Glass City is the weekend after Mr P would be doing the Boston Marathon, plus it was during the tail end of Little Boy’s Spring Break so we could take an extra day for traveling) and the location (we’d never go to Toledo without a specific reason, but there was enough diversion to make it interesting).


We left Boston early Friday morning and landed in Detroit around 9am. When we originally planned the trip, we vaguely talked about visiting on the Great Lakes and doing some walking, but the weather around the entire region was in the 50s and overcast/windy, so we headed to Ann Arbor to spend the day before going to Toledo.

In Ann Arbor, we visited the Hands-On Museum, a fantastic kid’s science museum. I worried that it might be too babyish for Little Boy, but after the initial tentativeness he was all about the Hands-On Museum (as was Mr. P, a perennial geek).

Hands On Museum, Water Works

Hands On Museum, Water Works

Hands On Museum, giving the weather

Hands On Museum, giving the weather

Hands On Museum -- dancing in the media room

Hands On Museum — dancing in the media room

After the museum, we headed into the streets of Ann Arbor to find some lunch and serendipitously happened upon an Ethiopian restaurant. How could we not go in? The Ethiopian food was pretty good (although the experience did not feel as “authentic” as the restaurants in Boston.) We stuffed ourselves and then resolved to go walking in the nearby Nichols Arboretum, a little bit of urban nature near the Univ. of Michigan campus with surprising stout hills.

Blossoms in Nichols Arboretum

Blossoms in Nichols Arboretum

After an hour of unseasonably cold walking, we drove 45 minutes to our hotel in Toledo. While Little Boy and I relaxed, Mr. P headed out to find some beer. I didn’t ask him to buy any wine, but he bought me a bottle anyway:

No, but what do you really think of me?

No, but what do you really think of me?

(He claimed it was one of the few bottles over $8 that did not require a corkscrew).

We finished the day at the Maumee Bay Brew Pub, where we discovered that Chicago-style pizza with egregiously thick crust is in fact a regional thing.


I slept to 7am, which is rare. Like, twice-a-year rare.

We headed to the race expo to pick up my bib and to gently pressure Little Boy to partake in the Kid’s race. Distance choices for the kid’s race were 1/4 mile, 1/2 mile, or 1 mile. We wavered between the latter two before reasoning that he regularly raced 2 miles in XC last fall and could handle one mile, no matter how hard he complained.

The University of Toledo football team came to help the kids warm-up with totally ineffective and possibly damaging static stretching before the run (but at least it was cute).

Before the kid's race

Before the kid’s race

After the 1/4 mile race and the 1/2 mile race took place around the track, we walked a small distance for the start of the 1 mile race, which was around the campus. There were plenty of big kids and the start was chaotic, with at least three kids falling and getting partially trampled.

Still, Little Boy managed to come in the top ten (out of about 70? 80 kids?) He came into the track next to a Univ. of Toledo football player (who after came over to us to give Little Boy a fist bump and told me that Little Boy was pacing him!)

Smooth finish!

Smooth finish!

Smooth and steady

Smooth and steady with a strong finish

After the race and the expo, we headed to a pizza place for lunch (although only Little Boy had a pizza).


And then we headed to the Toledo Museum of Art, which is apparently so internationally renown that we would have been negligent not to have visited it while in Toledo. Even better: Free Admission, as museums should be.

The Toledo Museum of Art featured an exhibition by Kehinde Wiley, an African-American artist who creates vivid portraits of black people in classical art scenes.





The Toledo Art Museum had a photo booth that allowed us to pose on a Kehinde Wiley background.


We then headed over to the Glass Pavillon to learn why Toledo is nicknamed the “Glass City.” Actually, we didn’t specifically learn that (I believe they just manufactured a lot of glass), but we did get a demonstration on how to blow glass and then toured the collection.

Looks like my recycling bin, ha (no really it doesn't)

Looks like my recycling bin, ha (no really it doesn’t)

By then, I really needed to chill out for my marathon the next day so we headed back to the hotel and I propped my feet up for the evening.


I slept surprisingly well and woke up about 10 minutes before my 5AM alarm. I tip-toed into the bathroom to fuel myself with coffee and Honey Stinger waffles while doing the usual pre-race prep: Changing, applying glide, fixing my hair, etc.  Although I was fully prepared to walk the 2 miles to the starting line, Mr. P and Little Boy roused themselves to drive me. It was perfectly cold — 40 degrees. I could not fault the weather at all, because it would be ideal (if not a wee bit hot and sunny at the end).

The week leading up to the marathon, I fretted over my goal time and pacing. I officially need 3:45 to qualify for Boston, but to safely make the cut-off, I realistically need 3:42. My PR is 3:39 (in San Diego), but that was a hilly and warm course, so I was tempted to follow the 3:35 pace group. The smart time to aim for was 3:40, and I told Mr. P that’s what I would do, but of course within one minute of the start I found myself following the 3:35 pacer (unfortunately there was no 3:40 or 3:45 pacer). It was a large pace group composed mainly of younger women and older men who need 3:35 to BQ. We were hitting 8-minute miles consistently; obviously the pacer was trying to “bank” time, a strategy that rarely works but is soooo tempting to follow.

The race course was nice enough, with long stretches through well-to-do neighborhoods and paved trails in parks. It did not inspire me as much as some of the big city marathons I have run, but I appreciated the crowd support. I kept the 3:35 pace group within sight until about mile 16. Although I felt fine, I could tell my body would not be able to sustain another 10 miles, so I decided to fall to an 8:15 pace. Nausea started kicking in and my calf were slightly cramping. There were already people walking. I hit mile 20 (seeing Mr. P and Little Boy!) and did some quick math in my head: I could drop to a 9-minute mile and still go under 3:40. This seemed a much wiser choice than trying to sustain 8:15 and exploding.

Even a 9-minute mile took a tremendous amount of effort. By mile 22, my body was willing me to stop. The sun was starting to get hot and I knew I was dehydrated and bonking from lack of calories. I kept thinking about Mr. P and Little Boy, who came to Toledo with me to see me succeed. I kept thinking about how I just needed to qualify for Boston and get this over with. Then, I told myself to stop thinking and just do it.

The race ended in the University of Toledo stadium at the 50 yard line. Oh how I struggled through the last 1.2 miles, just willing for it to be over. As I approached the football field, I could see the clock at 3:39:30, and I managed a good pace to cross under 3:40 (my final official time was 3:39:19, owing to the gun differential — a 20 second PR).

I was a bit of a mess after finishing. I just wanted to sit down but Mr. P forced me to walk over to the food tent to get a plate (which I couldn’t eat) and then the beer tent (I was going to give Mr. P my beer but I got two free beers, so I decided why not).

So my odyssey to qualify for Boston is over, and I can now safely consider myself an entrant for Boston Marathon 2018. I think Boston may be my last road marathon; these events are grueling and not particularly enjoyable to me. There is a big difference between running 26.2 miles on concrete and running an ultra on a trail in the woods.

Mile 20ish?

Mile 20ish?

On our way to Detroit, we stopped at a pier to visit Lake Erie. We walked a little (slowly) and enjoyed the tail end of our journey.

Walking along the shore of Lake Erie

Walking along the shore of Lake Erie



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