Race Review: Pro Football Hall of Fame Marathon

The 2017 Pro Football Hall of Fame Marathon was home on April 30, 2017 in Canton, Ohio. Weather conditions on race day were in the mid 50s at the start of the race and rose to near 80 by the time I had finished the marathon. Humidity was above 80%. 

When planning out my 2017 spring marathon schedule, I came across a race that was offering registration for $26.20. The race was the Pro football Hall of Fame marathon. I had heard of this marathon before however I never thought about running it, but who could turn down registering for a marathon for $26.20? So I took a chance and registered. As I was looking at past results and I thought that the age group record was within my reach. So this became my goal race for the spring of 2017.

Tina and I made the 5 Hour drive shortly after finishing the Maple syrup Festival 5K. Along the way we did stop for lunch at Buca Di Depo.  We ordered enough food that we would have enough for dinner later on that night.

Our first problem this weekend came in we arrived in Canton Ohio. The school that we entered into MapQuest where the expo was to be held was the wrong school. Directions took us to a elementary school instead of the high school. We typed in the school name again and it took us to another school. It was still the wrong school. Finally we found the right school for the expo. On the race website there was no mention of what the street address was for the school.

When we got to the right school parking was an issue. There was no clear indication on where you could park as well as where are you answer the school. After giving up on finding parking on the school property we parked on the street and had to pay the meter to park.

After parking and we walked a couple blocks back to the school and walked around the building trying to figure out where the entrance was. Walking into the school you were directed to packet pick up. You gave them your bib number and then they asked you what shirt size you wore. This with this despite the fact that they asked for your shirt size when you registered. I found this ad because they could possibly run out of shirt sizes for later arriving runners.  

After getting our bags we walked into the gym to the expo. First you came across the official race merchandise table. They offered for sale a lot nicer shirts than what we were given for registering. Both Tina and I end up buying ourselves a nicer shirt. We walked around and visited with the other vendors. The vendors were mainly local and not of much interest to us. Given the forecast for race day, I did stop and buy a thing 2Toms to help avoid chaffing. We walked out of the expo somewhat underwhelmed.  Earlier in the day former Boston Marathon champion Bill Rogers was there, however we arrive too late to meet him.

Following the expo Tina and I won’t to our hotel which was about a 10 to 15 minute drive from the expo. Since we’ve had drove so much that day we decide to go to the local mall just walk around. Following that, we went back to the hotel ate our dinner and went to sleep.

Emails from the race have warned us often that parking was going to be an issue. You have two options for parking. You could either pay extra to park as a VIP or park right next to the starting line, or you could park at the fairgrounds pay five dollars per Ronna to ride the shuttle bus to the starting line. We chose to pay the five dollars per runner and ride the shuttle bus. Not knowing how busy it would be we arrived early at around 5:30. It sounds like we arrived just in time because traffic really got backed up later on. Traffic was so much of a mess that they started the race 15 minutes late so I’ll runners to get to the starting line on time. From what I heard runners or still not there when you race started. 

Prior to the race I had the opportunity to meet up with a couple of BibRavePros, Nicole and Matt! 

 As mentioned earlier, the race did start 15 minutes late. I know 15 minutes is not long but when you are talking about the heat coming it was not very comforting. At this point we just want to get out there and run. Following the national anthem the race started approximately 715. 
My goals for this race were to come as close as possible break the previous age group record. This would require me to run somewhere around two hours and 58 minutes. From all indications from prerace emails and social media post, this course was supposed to be flatter than in previous years. If this was a flatter course I would hate to see what the course was the last three years.

In my pre-race discussions with my coach, we came up with the following strategy:

  • Miles 1-5 at 6:52 pace
  • Miles 6-10 at 6:51 pace
  • At the half way point, I wanted to be at 1:29:30-1:30:00
  • Next 5 mikes at 6:48 pace
  • Next 5 miles at 6:45 pace
  • Basically hold on and use what I had left the rest of the way 

The first 4 miles were a little fast, but nothing too serious. We are also running a net downhill at this point. First 4 miles were in 6:49, 6:50, 6:49, 6:45. Mile 5 was the first uphill climb. In the back of my mind I kept remembering what I told Derek last week during our half marathon paced him in.  Relax on the uphill and don’t put more effort into than you do in the flat sections.  The issues was, this hill was long and slowed me down to a 7:02 mile. 

After mile 5, I got back on pace even though the next mile was still mostly uphill. Miles 8-9 were stil at decent pace but I am starting to notice the pace is slowing as the heat starts to rise.  At this point, I am noticing how far apart the aid stations are (more on that later).  Miles 6-10 were run in 6:50, 6:47, 6:51, and 7:16. Yep, mile 10 and into mile 11 was probably the hardest hill on the course. The highest point on the course was at 10.5 and at 15.5 (remember, this was an out and back course). After cresting the hill, I was very relieved to see a girl handing out ice called water bottles at the top of the hill. I gladly took one and drink about half of it while dumping the rest over my head. With no clouds in the sky, and no shade provided by trees, but temperatures were starting to take effect on me.

After coming off the hill I attempted to get back on pace. But as I was running down the hill after my 11, I could tell this was not my day.  Now i was in survival mode way too early in the race.  Next three miles leading up to the half way point were 7:05, 7:00, and 6:59. There was a nice down hill section for those 3 miles which felt nice, but it was an awful sign that I wasn’t running faster.  I can acrossed the Half at 1:31:13, way off goal pace already. 

As a marathoner, you were given an option at this point. You could keep going and finished a marathon or you could finish with the half marathoners. Believe me, I thought about stopping at the half marathon. It was probably a good thing that you could not see the finish line where the marathon and half marathon separated. Instead of going straight I made my left hand turn and turn around and went back the way I came.

The next 3 miles or tough. It was right back up the hill that we had just ran down for 3 miles, and my pace was starting to show it.  Now I was calculating what it would take to run a BQ in 3:10. At this point, I thought if I could hold 7:30 pace, I might make it. I went to focusing on one mile at a time.  My splits for 14-16 were 7:13, 7:17, and 7:16 as I ran uphill. This is really starting to suck and I am getting very warm. Approximately mile 16 the three hour and five minute pacer came up from behind me. We talked for a second as he was all alone, and I tried to run with them for a little while. This lasted for about half a mile and I thought better of the idea.

Now I am falling apart. Even running down hill I am slowing down.  Next 2 miles were 7:24 and 7:34.  At this point I come across Tina as she is running the half.  I could tell, it was not going well for her. As I knew I would be crossing her path soon, I had it in my mind to warn her about the hills that were approaching her. When I finally saw her I forgot to tell her. 

After mile 18, it was back to running uphill again. And this time I had had enough. I was now walking. I knew that all my time goals were history and now it was just time to focus on finishing. And honestly at this point I did not care what my time was. One thing that I noticed, there were a lot of other runners in the same situation. At this time, temps were in the mid to upper 70s. At this point, I will stop listing my paces, but I never ran faster than a 8 minute mile the rest of the way.  

The only highlight of the last emails came out on the last mile of the race. Surprisingly for how warm it was, this is the first time we have had anyone standing outside their home with a garden hose ready to spray us down. Where was this the rest of the race? Unless that that lady was an angel.  

After being sprayed down, as I was running I could hear drivers be upset at police officer’s. I won’t “what one lady yelled at a police officer but I can tell you a couple F bombs were dropped, and complained that this is how her tax dollars are being spent. I actually thought that the police did a great Job of keeping runner safe.

However as I approached about a quarter-mile to go the vehicle did pull onto the course right behind me. As pissed off as I was about her marry someone and there was no way I was moving over for this car and ran in the middle of the road. I told people who were cheering along the road that there was no way I was moving over for this car. All they could do was laugh.

Soon after I finally crossed the finish line in 3:21:47. This is not my slowest marathon but it is probably my worst one. Considering how much I have trained for this race and how much focus I put on it, this was a big disappointment.

Race Review

Now that my race summary is all the way, let’s look at the race as a whole.

Expo:

First of all, race organizers did not put the street address of the high school on their website. Many people complained about this on Facebook. Race organizers replied stating that the address was given on their website for Friday schedule but not for Saturday schedule. It was also not listed on any of the prerace emails that were sent out. As I mentioned earlier we went to two other schools before finding the right school.  

They were also very unprepared for the amount of parking needed for the expo. There is no information on where you could park.  Once you arrive at the school and were able to go inside, the first thing you saw was tables full of previous years merchandise for sale. I understand wanting to sell old stuff and get out of your way but the first thing you should see his word and pick up your bibs. Have to get into the crowd looking at all the old stuff he finally came up to the tables to get your packet. Once again, as mentioned earlier, they did not have listed your shirt size and they asked you for what shirt size you wanted. This seemed very strange to both Tina and I.

After we got a bibs and our shirts, we went into the main expo area where there were about 15 to 20 vendors present. First thing you saw was official race merchandise. It’s sad that the official race merchandise T-shirts were a lot better than the official race shirt that you were given for registering. 

Race Day Parking

This was a mess.  You could choose either to pay $35 to park in the VIP parking garage or park at the fair ground for free but pay $5 per runner to take the bus to the start. We arrived real early so we didn’t have trouble, but people who arrived 15 to 20 minutes later had a lot of problems. For one, there was only one entrance into the fairgrounds. Traffic was backed up to the highway. All this to say because of the parking issues the race start 15 minutes late. The race blamed it on an accident on the highway but of all the complaints I have seen about the parking issue, no one has mentioned that there was an accident on the highway. 

After the race, we had to wait 45 minutes to get on another shuttle to go back to our car. It turned out that there were only three buses running for after the race. One was going to the Hall of Fame another was going to the relay exchange points in the last one was going to the fair grounds. We had planned on going to the Hall of Fame after the race but due to the wait to get to the parking lot, we had to pass. 

Leading up to the race organizers were stressing through email and Facebook that downtown parking was going to be very limited.  As it turned out there was plenty of free street parking on race day. 

Pre race

Let’s face it, the only thing that matters pre race is the bathroom situation.  They were prepared in this area as they had plenty of port a potties ready to go.  Probably waiting about 5-10 max in line. 

The Course

When we registered for the race that description of the course stated that the course was flatter and faster than you have passed. I would have hated to see what the course was like before they view flat sections on the scores. The elevation game was over 500 feet. In this part of Ohio, this may not be much. But this was the most elevation gain I’ve had in a marathon in a long time. I would not call this a flat course. Also parts of the course were on brick streets which were hard to run on and very uneven. 

Also, this was not a scenic course.  The only stretches that I would consider pleasant was when you were by the McKinley Presidential Library and sections of down town. Everything else was run down neighborhoods.  And maybe that’s all Canton is.  As far as the football Hall of Fame goes, we didn’t get that close to it because of construction to the stadium. 

Aid Station

The volunteers at the aid stations were great. The problem was there just were not enough eight stations. Eight stations were spread out a little over 2 miles apart. On a cool day this would have been fine, but as warm as it got race organizers should have seen this coming. Leading up to the race organizers put the forecast on their website. However they never took any action to make the experience better for the runners. There should have been more eight stations on the second half of the course. What I was also really surprised about was that there was no flag system to warn runners of the current conditions. At big races there is usually a way of telling runners to either be cautious slow down or to stop.

Post Race

This was the boring just post race party I have ever been to. There was music being played but there was no post race atmosphere. There was no one taking your picture with your metal following the finish, the food options or a bag of chips granola bar and a banana and a hotdog. I did not feel any need to stick around longer than I had to. For those who were looking for a post race beer there was none to be found. I believe this is primarily because the start and finish area was on the high school property. You would think with the Hall of Fame being down the road, that there would have been some interactive activities to do post race.

Swag

This was actually a bright side to this race, expect for the shirt. I like the design of the shirt, but hate the 50/50 Polly cotton blend. Where the swag got better was with the finishers medal in the finishers blanket. You received a fleece blanket upon finishing instead of a heat sheet. If it was a cooler day this will be very much appreciated. But as it was it was still a nice touch. You also received a large finishers medal that look like a football ticket. The race logo in the middle was also a spinner. This was one of the largest metals I have ever received.​ they also provided free race photos.  All race photos that look like football cards were provided free of charge. 



Recommendations

 It’s a rare thing, but I can not recommend this race. There is just way too much that needs to be fixed. I know you can not control the weather, but you can control how you react and plan for it.  You can tell, there was no plan for a warm day. Plus, it’s not a good course, there are very few bright spots to the course and the rest are throughrun down neighborhoods. 

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4 thoughts on “Race Review: Pro Football Hall of Fame Marathon

  1. I felt the same as you for a lot of the points you made. Had I known I had the option of finishing at the half I may have took it. Instead I pushed on and struggled on a hot and muggy day. I felt there could have been more aid stations along the course. Actually disappointed as I had high hopes of returning to redeem myself at a race I ran my first full at last year. I thought the course route last year was much better and crowd participation was larger.

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