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Guardian Mile’s debut run puts fast times in downtown Cleveland

August 12, 2018

Guardian Mile’s debut run puts fast times in downtown Cleveland

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Numerous big cities have signature one-mile road runs, and Cleveland hopes to join the club.

Based on the organization and the spirit at Saturday night’s first running of the Guardian Mile, make room for The Land.

“This will be a signature event for Cleveland,” said Mentor’s Heidi Yocum, who volunteered with her husband, Mark, as timers for the five various races.

“Cleveland is a running area, and northeast Ohio is known for its running. It’s a one-way run, and it’s great for the runners, knowing it’s a straight shot to the finish line.”

Nick Willis of New Zealand, a two-time Olympic medalist, and former NCAA champion miler Emily Lipari won the featured races – the Monticello Elite Men’s and Women’s mile runs, respectively.

Runners started at West 24th Street near the West Side Market and crossed  the Hope Memorial (Lorain-Carnegie) Bridge, past the Art Deco guardian figures for which the race is named. After the uphill start, the last half-mile of the USATF certified course goes gradually downhill, finishing near the Western Reserve Fire Museum, across from Progressive Field.

Spectators were scattered across the length of the bridge, and hundreds of fans gathered near the finish line and lined each side of the bridge over its last 100 yards.

The event blended a family-type atmosphere with the serious competition of international-caliber runners.

Music, including some old rock and roll and the song “Cleveland Rocks,” blasted from speakers near the Fire Museum. Runners – at least the casual ones – feasted on pizza and ice cream as they cooled down after their races.

The first race, the gOH Run, included children running with their parents. Brian Anderson, 39, of Bay Village, went the mile with his son, Zachary, 5. Anderson’s wife, Angela Facciolini, ran in another race.

“To be honest, I was holding him back,” Brian Anderson, chuckling, said of his son. “It’s a really cool atmosphere. There’s lots of support going over the bridge.”

Race founder and director Rae Alexander said about 400 runners competed. She said the field included several Olympians, professionals from nations such as New Zealand, Australia, Mexico and Kenya, and from all parts of the United States.

Willis, New Zealand’s five-time national champion and a winner of silver and bronze medals in the 1,500-meter run in the 2008 and 2016 Olympics, respectively, finished in 3:59.31. Alexander’s son, Colby, was fourth in 4:00:87. He was a state high school distance champion at Strongsville prior to a standout career at Oregon.

Lipari, who trains in San Diego, completed her run in 4:33:35. She won the NCAA women’s national title in the mile as a senior at Villanova, after being part of the school’s national champion cross country team as a freshman.

A total of $14,000 in prize money went to top finishers in three of the races.

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