AKRON, Ohio — For decades, thousands have crossed the finish line for the Akron Marathon. This year's edition is special, as it's the 20th anniversary.
"We're excited," co-founder Jeannie Marks told 3News. "It's our 20th year; we have about 7,000 runners. We're just so thrilled that people are out and back together again, and everything's opened back up."
Friday night, a Kids Fun Run starts at 6 p.m. Then on Saturday, it's the big races: the Akron Marathon, Half-Marathon, and five-person relay. The bell rings at 7 a.m.
Runners experienced a Health and Fitness Expo today at the John S. Knight Center, where they could shop, do yoga, and pick up their registration packets. Plus, you never know, you could meet your running idol, like race volunteer Stephanie Orwick did when she met Kathrine Switzer, who in 1967 became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon.
"Best day of my life so far!" Stephanie gushed.
"It's a wonderful thing to see how far we've come," Switzer added. "Fifty-eight percent of all runners are women and 45% of all marathoners are women, and it's growing."
Katherine's barrier-breaking moment led her to run 42 marathons and help organize women's races all over the world. At 75, she says it's never too late.
"You're never too old to start," she said. "The body always wants to get better, and we'll always improve."
Kathrine has been the ultimate inspiration to women like Melissa Johnson, who has run in all previous Akron Marathons. She says Switzer has paved the way for runners like her.
"The fact that she stepped out there and just said women can do this and that it shouldn't be questioned that women can do this, and that she just went out there and ran and did it for us, means a lot," Johnson said, through tears. "It means a lot."