Run Like a Local in Akron, Ohio

Words and photos by Ohio runner, Denise Young.

Living in Northeast Ohio, we have a multitude of great places to run. The Cuyahoga Valley National Park provides challenging and breath-taking (no pun intended) access to numerous trails in the Akron and Cleveland Metro Parks and hundreds of miles of pathways connected to the beautiful and historic Erie Towpath & Canal. On any given weekend morning, one can expect to see runners from many area running clubs doing their long runs on the towpath, trails, and roads.

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Denise and her husband at a race.

Admittedly, I don’t get to these places often enough being a full-time pediatric nurse and mother to two teenage boys. My oldest (18y and in 12th grade) runs XC and Track and Field in high school. My younger son (who will be 16y soon and in the 10th grade) plays varsity soccer and runs track and field in high school. I am often squeezing in runs around town during their practices or running at strange times of the day so I don’t miss any of their games and meets.

(Use these FASTZach routes for an 11-mile route through Cuyahoga Valley and a 7-mile route to exploring the Erie Towpath & Canal.)

This time of year is such a special time to be in Akron. Driving around the city and suburbs, you will spot that fantastic blue line that marks every mile of the Akron Marathon route. The Akron Marathon is one of the most organized marathons I’ve ever run. Akron will always hold a special place in my heart. The Akron Marathon changed my life and made me a runner!

When I was young, running was something I did to get in shape for other sports. As an adult, though, I started running to get in shape and to run the occasional 5K race for fun. When the inaugural Akron Marathon was announced in 2003, I took a risk, stepped out of my comfort zone, registered for the event, and eventually completed all 26.2 blue-line miles. That race changed my life. My passion for running led me to become more focused and serious about my training, lifestyle and competitive goals. Over the next 15 years, I ran once unthinkable personal bests of in every race from the 5K to the marathon, which includes marathons in Akron, Columbus, Cleveland Boston, Chicago, and New York City. As a current master’s runner, I still love running and am more motivated than ever.

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Denise and her family at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Cleveland Half Marathon.

Running makes me feel like a better mom, wife, nurse, friend, and person. It makes me feel like I can handle any stressor. Running allows me to be a positive role model to my two boys of how to live a healthy, active lifestyle as a working mom. My husband is also a competitive runner who competed in college and coached high school xc and track & field for many years.

As a family, we have traveled to many cities to race and our boys have always been a part of those experiences since they were babies. My boys watched the 2008 Women’s Marathon Olympic Trials in Boston and were in the Central Park Grandstand when Shalane Flanagan won the 2017 NYC marathon (we met her and the male winner – they both autographed my NYC Marathon medal)! My family has been there every step of the way.

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Denise (left) and Olympian Deena Kastor (right).

Running has brought opportunities that I never dreamed possible and I am blessed to have met so many inspiring runners. From professionals and Olympians to inspiring everyday runners, so many have overcome obstacles such as illnesses and injuries to be the strong people they are today. One of those people is my mother who is a stomach cancer survivor. She and my father travel all over running races together. Another role model of mine will compete in this year’s Akron Marathon, Deena Kastor. The Akron Marathon has always been special to me, and to run with Deena and my Akron Children’s coworkers this year is both an honor and privilege.