Faces of the finish line: Meet the runners ready to rock this year's Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon

As one of the 50 oldest marathons in the country, the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon has a long tradition of attracting runners from all over Northeast Ohio and beyond. And with more than 30,000 runners slated to pack the streets this year, that tradition is back in full force in 2018. Every runner has his or her own reasons for hitting the pavement, and that inspiration is often what carries them through the finish line. These nine runners are no exception—hear their personal stories.

Joey Hanna
As a former professional touring musician, Joey Hanna is used to hitting the road with artists like Carrie Underwood, Gavin Degraw, and Brandi Carlile, but now he pounds the pavement in a whole new way.

Initially, Hanna started running to take off the weight he gained during his touring days as a result of “free catering and all of the road food. I hated the way I looked on TV, and just hated the way I felt.”

Now 75 pounds lighter and an audio producer at American Greetings, Hanna runs for the love of it—having won his age group the last two times he’s run the Cleveland Rite Aid Marathon. Much of his motivation stems from his severely autistic son, as evidenced by the autism bracelet Hanna sports when he runs.

“Each race, when things get tough in the later miles, I look at it and think of my little buddy, and it somehow gives me strength each time,” says Hanna. “It always feels like he's right there with me pushing me towards the finish.”

Clare Manoli
On May 20, Clare Manoli will be hitting the half marathon course to honor her mother, Christine Manoli, who died of ovarian cancer in July 2016. Though her mom’s cancer bout was “brief and intense,” Manoli is quick to distinguish that her mom didn't “lose her battle” with cancer. In fact, Manoli says she has never seen such an inspiring display of immense strength.

“I will never use that phrase when referring to my mom because she never "lost" to anything,” says Manoli. “She was the toughest of them all, but was tragically taken too soon. So while running this half marathon, even when my legs are on fire and I'm thinking, 'Why the hell did I do this?' I won't lose the battle. I will remind myself of my mom and push myself to be as strong as she was, all the way to the finish line.”

Ed Shephard
Ed Shephard will always remember 1970 as the year his eighth-grade self decided to lace up his running shoes and never look back. That year sparked a lifelong passion for running, and Shephard has since become a running coach for both high school students and private clients. 

Now he is running this year's marathon to make his first attempt at breaking the record for the longest time span between a runner’s first sub-3 hour marathon and their most recent sub-3 hour marathon. (The current record—set in March 2017—is 41 years, 102 days.)

“On December 5, 1976, when I was 20 years old, I ran a 2:29:32 marathon," shares Shephard. "On the day of this year’s Cleveland Marathon, it will be 41 years, 166 days since my first sub-3 hour marathon."

Shephard had hoped to make the attempt last fall, but his wife passed away during heart surgery in November. While dealing with his grief, he decided to retire from teaching high school math and devote all of his energy to training for the marathon—swimming, lifting, yoga, and stretching. With the marathon now just around the corner, Shephard is hopeful he can meet his goal: "While I might not succeed on my first attempt at the record, I am encouraged by the fact that runners as old as 74 years of age have broken the 3-hour barrier for the marathon."

Katy Ellen Orenchuk
Fibromyalgia won’t stop Katy Ellen Orenchuk from meeting her fitness goals. With a little encouragement from her husband, Orenchuk has entered the walking division and adopted a healthier lifestyle than ever before in preparation.

“With the pain and fatigue over the past few years, I’ve put on a lot of weight and ignored my overall physical fitness,” says Orenchuk. “But I’m feeling motivated by training for the half-marathon.”

After suffering a miscarriage last fall, Orenchuk decided to dedicate her participation to the International Rescue Committee, which works to ensure healthy pregnancies for women around the world who do not have regular access to healthcare (as part of its larger support of refugees).

“I’m looking forward to crossing the finish line of the Cleveland Half a happier and healthier person, as well as hopefully helping some folks out in the process.”

Erin Dawkins
Running the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon will be a family affair for Erin Dawkins—with her husband taking on the 10k, her children running the one-mile race, and her tackling the 8k. They'll be traveling from Clawson, MI, for the race, but for Dawkins, it has been a much longer journey. 

"My husband has always been a natural athlete, and in the early years of our marriage, he would often encourage me to run," she shares. "I would roll my eyes and tell him that it wasn't for me."

But after having two kids, Dawkins was at her heaviest weight ever and feeling the stress of raising children alongside working full-time. With her husband's encouragement, she decided to make a huge lifestyle change. Getting past the one-mile mark was a challenge initially, but Dawkins pushed through and found that she started to enjoy that little bit of "me time" those miles afforded.

However, that doesn’t mean her family hasn’t been an important part of her transition into a healthier lifestyle. “It’s so important to have a strong support group, and I feel so blessed that my husband and kids helped me find a way to be a stronger, healthier me," says Dawkins, who says she and her husband now run together with their kids. "I hope we are helping to set up a good foundation for their lifestyle going forward.”

Lloyd West
Most people who have had seven knee surgeries might cringe at the mere mention of a marathon, but not Lloyd West. West has not only undergone a body transformation, but a life transformation as well. Having been a tobacco chewer for 28 years, the transition to becoming a long-distance runner didn’t come easy, but West gradually worked his way up from longer walks with his dogs to increasingly challenging runs. Now he’s healthier than ever and ready to take on the big 26.2.

Though West admits to being a bit nervous, he says that the “tears I share with my wife as I cross the finish line will prove that with faith, determination, support and being a little crazy, all things are possible."


Leah Stevens
Leah Stevens hasn’t always been the biggest fan of running. In fact, she hated it until about one year ago. That’s when Stevens decided to go full tilt, zooming past her mental blocks one mile at a time.

For a while, Stevens wouldn’t brave a 5k, but once she did, she was hooked and wanted to push herself further. “I thought [running] a half marathon was absolute insanity, but after seven months of running, I did it, and then another. Now I’m ready to attempt what I thought was only created for superhumans with my first marathon.”

Stevens is ready to show the world—and, most importantly, herself—that a “vegetarian, a classical musician, and a pretty ordinary person” can accomplish the extraordinary with a little self-confidence. And she’ll have plenty to celebrate, as the marathon happens to mark an extra-special occasion: falling just one day after she graduates from the Cleveland Institute of Music.

Cindy Morris
Cindy Morris couldn’t be more excited to leave her 30s in the dust at this year’s Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon. Gearing up to run just seven days after her 40th birthday, Morris is more than ready to enter a new era at full throttle.

Running has been no small feat for Morris, who suffers from an autoimmune disorder known as Menieres Disease. She is partially deaf in her left ear and regularly experiences episodes of dizziness or fainting. Because of these symptoms, she has had to miss or drop out of several races, but that’s never stopped her love of the sport. “I’m not letting this disease define me,” says Morris.

With her sights set on the 10k race, Morris hopes to set a personal record—hurdling her illness every step of the way.

Darrell Pauley
For Darrell Pauley, the third time is sure to be the charm. Pauley has run the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon two other times, but injuries and weather had other plans for his ability to finish the full course. “I registered as soon as I could last August to try it again,” he shares.

Pauley’s determination is an extension of his own perseverance. A two-time organ recipient who has undergone both kidney and pancreas transplants, Pauley has spent the last seven years celebrating his good health by running various races. He chose the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon because of its proximity to his surgery anniversary date (and the fact that his surgery was performed at the Cleveland Clinic).

This year, Pauley plans to go big or go home: “Just look for the 60-year-old guy wearing the green shirt that proclaims me as a ‘2 Organ Transplant Recipient.’ See you at the finish line!”

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