My last training run—a nice 2 miler—is in the books!

I ran in the same area in Tremont in which I struggled to run 2 or 3 blocks back when I started running in June 2012. During those days, running 1 mile seemed like an enormous accomplishment that I might never be able to do, and the fact that I’ve been able to go from 0 to 13.1 (Lord willing) in less than a year’s time still blows my mind sometimes.

More than anything else, this entire experience has been a great reminder that I can accomplish great things in my life with hard work, dedication, tenacity, prayer, and perseverance. It has been a great reminder that the truly greatest accomplishments in life are not easy and that nothing worthwhile comes without sacrifice and investment. Running has been a great reminder of how I can achieve my goals if I refuse to give up and refuse to allow temporary frustrations and obstacles to deter or distract me.

Greater Cleveland has a great community of runners, and I don’t think that’s an accident.

Why?

We’re a tough town that is filled with people who know how to deal with adversity. It’s in our DNA as Clevelanders. Some people have difficulty adjusting to the concept of running through pain, of pushing through that last mile even when every cell in their bodies is crying out for relief, and of trudging out for a training run when the weather is awful. Not us.

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You think a city that fought as hard as we did for the Browns is going to be deterred by a few miles? Ha! (Image obtained from Sports Illustrated)

We’re a town that’s used to coming this close to a championship only to see our dreams dashed time and time again, and yet we remain a town that has the willingness and faith to believe that next year just might be our year.

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Running 13.1 miles is nothing compared to dealing with the pain that Cleveland Indians fans felt after we lost Game 7 of the 1997 World Series in extra innings to an expansion team! (Image obtained from bleacherreport.com)

We’re a town that’s taken the brunt of the economic downtown, seen far too many people leave the region in search of greener pastures, and been the brunt of many jokes because of the nature of the city. Nevertheless, we remain proud of our great city and defend it against the naysayers. People may laugh at me, but I would never want to live anywhere else but Cleveland. I think it’s the greatest city in America. While I do enjoy visiting other places, I can honestly say that I am always glad to return home and feel a certain calming in my soul when I see the beautiful skyline of Cleveland for the first time.

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I see the skyline from my house every night, and it still invigorates me and inspires me to dream big dreams for our great city. (Image obtained from velocitycleveland.org)

Back when I created my half marathon training plan, I said that I would write a post about why I picked the background that I did. I would imagine that most training plan backgrounds have dramatic images of people running proudly, but I chose to pick an image from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King that features Gandalf riding his horse Shadowfax towards Minas Tirith, the capital city of the realm of Gondor.

I still haven’t read the books, but I did read the description of Minas Tirith. The city was described as being a place of learning that was once very prosperous and thriving and that had attracted people from all over the world but that had eventually fallen on hard times because of corruption, weakness, and decay.

When I read that passage, I immediately thought about Cleveland. One simply needs to look at a few Cleveland history books to see that Cleveland was one of the nation’s leading cities back in the 1900s.

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Antique postcard of Cleveland (Photo obtained from ancestorinfo.com)

Unfortunately, as we all know, Cleveland has fallen on some tough times over the past few decades.

Minas Tirith was eventually restored to its former glories, and I’m confident that Cleveland will soon be restored to its proper place in the list of America’s great cities as well.

Cleveland is filled with thousands of people who love our great city, who are proud to live here, and who are committed to helping revitalize our great city. Many of the recent articles about Cleveland that have been published in The New York Times and other nationwide publications like Smithsonian often refer to the fact that first-time visitors are struck by the fact that there are so many people in Cleveland who are passionate about making the city a better place to live. We’re not a city filled with people who are only here for a short period of time or a city filled with people who have no connection to the region. We’re a city filled with people with deep roots in the city or people who came here and loved it so much that they set down roots and can’t imagine leaving.

Those of you who are traveling to Cleveland to run the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon will have the opportunity to meet our fantastic running community, which is a community that enthusiastically embraces newbies like myself and provides us with support, encouragement, and guidance! If you haven’t already, you should check out the other Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon Official Bloggers!

Many articles have been written about our culinary scene, and anything that I would write would be redundant. I will say, though, that anyone who’s coming to Cleveland to run this weekend should definitely take advantage of all of the great food offerings that Cleveland has to offer! I highly recommend Barrio in our Tremont neighborhood, Happy Dog in the Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood, and Si Senor in our West Park\Kamms Corners neighborhood.

I’m thrilled to have the privilege to run my first half marathon in my favorite city in the world. Although I imagine that I’ll be pretty worn down as I run along the final part of the course through downtown Cleveland, I am looking forward to cranking up my favorite tracks from the Lord of the Rings soundtrack and reveling in the glory of the entire experience as I knock out those final miles and end in a glorious finish at Cleveland Browns Stadium. It’s going to be a great day and a fun race, and I know I’m going to remember it forever.