when my brother ran the 2015 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon

Maybe it’s the energy of 20,000 plus people. Maybe it’s the memory of participating in the past. Maybe it’s the rush of knowing someone is accomplishing something epic. Whatever it is, I know one thing — you can’t beat race morning. That fact remained true this past Sunday at the 2015 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon. My brother signed up to run the full marathon again this year and I enthusiastically agreed to follow him along Cleveland’s West side.

Two years ago, Drew ran his first half marathon in 1:46:36. Last year, he ran his first full marathon, finishing in 3:51:29 — truly an  amazing time for his first 26.2-er. Going in to this year’s race, knowing the weather situation and how the last few weeks of his training went, Drew was hoping to match his time from last year — even though his original stretch goal was something closer to that 3:30-3:45 range. But with high humidity and warm temperatures, Drew knew he had to be smart and pace himself. And knowing the history of wonky knees in our family, I agreed with his plan.

My race crewing plan for 2015 remained the same from 2014: meet up with Drew every seven miles with Powerade and extra energy chews. Since the race course changed slightly, I hunkered down at Mile 7 near the corner of W. 58th and Lorain.

I have to admit — my interest in race crewing is for many (selfish even!) reasons, those being the many people I have the honor of cheering on along the course including @WestParkRunner who was pacing the 3:25 marathon group…

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Ryan in the middle wearing the blue tank and holding the pacing sign.

…Drew’s friend (and weight loss success story!) Ian (@andersiw on IG)…

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…and fellow Cleveland bloggers Jessica and Pam at mile 14, at the corner of Lake and Nicholson (near West 117th-ish).

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As for Drew, this is pretty much how he looked at each of those mile markers I met him at that morning:

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Looking strong, smile on his face — and ready for some Powerade. The entire race, Drew was pacing way faster than planned. Once I saw him at mile seven, I knew he was going to blow his previous personal best out of the water — so we had to stay on the move at a quick pace ourselves! After seeing Drew at mile 21 (here in this picture), Hans, my mom and I buzzed along East on I-90, overshooting downtown by getting off at Superior, then cutting back through Public Square to get to our tip top secret parking spots. (Sorry, not sharing — gotta protect my spot for 2016!)

We got downtown with just enough time to see Drew run down and to the finish line, finishing the race in 3:36:56 — a 14 and a half minute PR from last year’s Cleveland Marathon. Nice work, bro! Sweaty and tremendously tired, he even obliged me for a few family pics to commemorate the morning.
cle marathon 2015 collage

LONG STORY SHORT: He may be younger, but I find myself always looking up to my little brother – figuratively & literally.

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Drew sets realistic goals, and then chases the heck out of them until he can say he’s accomplished them. He recognizes when things aren’t going as planned, and then adjusts as needed. But most importantly, he knows to not take life too seriously and to enjoy the ride. Bro, I love ya and I’m proud to be your big sister — marathon medal or not.

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event recap: 2014 Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis

As I continue to let go of my event planning days, I’m  enjoying being a guest, attendee and participant at local functions again. No longer do I walk into a room and ask “I wonder where they rented their linens from” or “I hope there’s enough space for that restaurant vendor in that corner”. It’s hard to turn off the event-logistics monkey mind!

But in an attending the Arthritis Foundation’s Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis here in Cleveland this past weekend, I would find myself with my biggest post-event-planning-career challenge to date. But as I planned this race in 2012 and in 2013 as a former employee of the organization, I knew it would be easy to fall into the fun.

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 {Grady’s excitement just could not be reigned in.}

Our team — Team Grinch Paws — came together in full force: my husband, my brother, my friends and I joined together on Sunday, December 14th at Legacy Village. We of course started with a pre-race Starbucks pit stop.

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I was so happy that Jen from WhyCLE? and her family signed up to walk the one-mile Family Fun Run option. Baby J seemed to love every moment of his first 5K experience. He’ll be running the full 3.1 miles in no time!

As the rest of our team ventured out for the full 5K, Grady and I made up our own two mile version of the course. Grady’s excitement for the day had us power walking at a good clip! As we went along, it was a joy to come across friendly faces, even crossing paths with the event photographer, Orville from Orville McEachron Photography:

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{Photo ℅ Orville McEachron Photography — check out all 400+ of the race photos over at his Facebook page.}

Confession: In planning this event twice, Sunday was the first time I actually walked the course. (We drove it several times each year, don’t worry.) I know understand what the runners meant by this being a more challenging 5K than others in the Northeast Ohio area — there are a few rolling hills through the old TRW campus that make for a good hike!

LONG STORY SHORT: Team Grinch Paws did wonderfully at this year’s Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis! My brother Drew finished second in his age group with a 20:15 — such a speed demon!  Lisa — @lisasands1 over on the Twitter — rocked her first 5K after taking time to train this Fall.  My non-runner husband Hans “enjoyed” his last minute decision to run the 3.1 miles. (We’re working on our post-run stretch routine for next year!)

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As for Grady and I, we walked our two mile course in a little over a half an hour, making time to stop and say hi to some old friends and work colleagues along the way. It felt great to be out in the brisk December air supporting an important cause working towards eliminating a disease that effects more than 1.3 million Northeastern Ohioans. Supporting a local non-profit, getting in some exercise and having a highly enjoyable time? What a great start to our Sunday!

Want to donate to the Arthritis Foundation? You can click over to our team page and still give through this month. Thank you in advance!

Want to stay in the know for 2015?  Keep up to date with all the CLE Jingle Bell Run/Walk happenings by following its Twitter handle at @JingleBellCLE.

Disclosure: I am a former employee of the Arthritis Foundation, Great Lakes Region, Northeastern Ohio. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

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when my brother ran the 2014 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon

I will never run a marathon. It’s not that I couldn’t — I’m just making the active choice not too. My run/walk tendencies plus having heavier bones just doesn’t lend well to uber long distances.  Plus, I’m much better suited at being on a yoga mat for 6 hours than pounding the pavement.

My brother, on the other hand, got the genes that made him tall, lean and fast. Drew’s always run to stay in shape, but only started dabbling in races in the past few years. You may remember he ran his first half marathon last year at the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, pushing himself to a 1:45 finish with not a whole lot of training.  So when he said he was signing up for the full 26.2 miles this year, I cleared all plans for the morning of May 18, 2014 in plans to be there for nearly every step.

Agreeing to be his race fuel crew, he dropped off his Powerade the night before and we made our plan where I would first meet Drew at mile 7 on his epic trek around the West side of Greater Cleveland. I arrived at West 65th and Franklin just in time to watch the lead runners blow by, then saw Ryan (@CLECraftBeerRun) ran by pacing the 3:25 runners. As Drew was shooting to run his first marathon under four hours, I waited patiently as the crowd thickened. It was exciting to see so many speedy Northeastern Ohioans breeze by!

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My brother coming and going at mile 7.

I’ve come to recognize my brother’s gait from a distance so could easily spot him as he approached. He stopped only to take off his blue hoodie, recognize he had pinned his bib to his long sleeve tshirt (and not the short sleeve he had under it), take a few slips of his Powerade before he was off and running. Then then, so was I — to Rocky River I went!

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With a quick pit stop at Starbucks (I have my fuel as he has his), I made it to the water stop just past mile 14 with plenty of time to spare. I missed the lead runners, but again got to see Ryan (looking strong) and another social media friend, Pam (@pam_mcgowan - who was looking FIERCE) before Drew ran up again. He slowed down to a trot so I could jog along side him as he again took some Powerade. He said he was still feeling good and that his knee wasn’t bothering him too badly. (He had dislocated it a few years back playing rec basketball and that was my biggest concern for him that morning.)  He took one last quick swig, handed me the bottle and was again on his way. I yelled “see you in another seven – you’ve got this!”  Back to me, he fist pumped the air and was on his merry way.

For mile 21, Hans, my mom, her boyfriend and his kids all joined me in time to meet up with Drew before the final stretch. At the intersection at Lake and Nicholson, I realized I was a bit ahead of our game plan, but it turns out it worked out for the best as Drew really appreciated seeing all of us before the mile marker.  My mom had a made a sign that said “RUN DREW” and they all cheered, which put a HUGE smile on my brother’s face. He slowed to a quick walk, and Hans and I joined him as he again took a bit more Powerade. He wasn’t drinking much of what I brought, but he assured me he was taking water at each water stop.  He gave me back the bottle and I said, “I’ll see you at the finish line” and he was off again.

We hightailed it downtown as fast as we could from there. Getting caught in traffic at Detroit and West 65th, I questioned my decision making skills, but by the grace of the Cleveland parking gods, Hans and I found an empty spot on the West 9th.  We found ourselves on Lakeside, also finding the last leg of the race course. We waited it out and caught my brother one last time before he got to the finish.

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Drew was in the zone when we saw him, but eventually all our yelling and screaming caught his attention. He gave us the “here’s lookin’ at you” finger-point and somehow picked it up again. As he sped off, I started yelling “THAT’S MY BROTHER! HE’S A MARATHONER” and the crowd around us cheered. I suddenly became overwhelmed in that feeling I had when I had finished my first half marathon — I was just so damn proud of him.

I would eventually track down my brother, who had found my dad and his girlfriend, on Lakeside, medal around his neck and blanket around his body.

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He said he thought he came in around 3:50. I looked it up later to find his official clock time was 3:51:29 — absolutely amazing for his very first full marathon.  Not only did he reach his goal, he blew it out of the water!

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Even though after the half last year he was vowing to never to do this again, I can’t say I’m too shocked by any of this. My brother is determined, a hard worker, and mentally and physically strong. When he sets a goal for himself, he reaches it every time. Talk about commitment – his picture is in the dictionary next to the definition of the word.

Later Sunday night, he texted me to thank me — but in the grand scheme of things, I wanted to thank him for again showing me that anything is possible when you put your mind to it and simply #dothework.  He’s one of my biggest motivators and is a constant source of inspiration. Here’s to you, Drew!  Now, let’s see how long until we see you BQ…

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