Nikki Piland, a teacher at Riverview Elementary School in Munroe Falls, had looked forward to seeing out the end of the school year with her own students in her classroom. She also had looked forward to the Hall of Fame Marathon and events, which were scheduled for April 30 through May 2.
Both hopes were dashed by the COVID-19 pandemic. School buildings throughout the state were recently ordered closed for the remainder of the school year, and the marathon and its associated events were canceled April 8.
So, with the marathon canceled and the school buildings shuttered, Piland decided to run her own marathon through the neighborhoods of her students. On April 25, Piland ran nearly 27 miles through parts of Stow and Munroe Falls.
"While she was sad about the marathon, she was equally as sad that she wouldn’t be able to see her students the rest of the school year," said Laura Forchione, technology integration director for the Stow-Munroe Falls City School District. "So she formulated a plan to fix both issues."
Piland called the experience "surreal."
"I passed hundreds of people throughout the morning," Piland said. "I only have 69 students. So many of them made it out. I even got to run alongside a few."
One challenge, Piland said, was going up Route 59 (Kent Road) onto Marsh Road.
"I really didn't want to go down a big hill on Ridgeline just to come back up it," Piland said. "At the top of the hill I headed down and was blown away by the amount of people awaiting me at the bottom cheering loudly. Yep. I cried. So touched! That hill wasn't such a problem after all."
Piland said she has run more than 20 marathons, including the Hall of Fame Marathon since it started in 2013, and celebrated her 10th year anniversary running the Akron Marathon this past September.
"Once I heard the news about the Hall of Fame Marathon being canceled, I needed to decide whether to continue with my training plan," Piland said. "It takes a lot of discipline and is different from running just for fun. I also thought about how much I missed my students."
Plotting her personal marathon took several hours, Piland said, and she was able to pass by the homes of most of her students.
"I miss my kids a lot, and this is one way I can see them, from two meters away," she said in an interview before the race.
Piland said she has never placed in a race. "I’m not an elite athlete. Finishing is an accomplishment in and of itself."
Piland’s route can be found online at https://www.strava.com/routes/25953611.
Reporter April Helms can be reached at 330-541-9423, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @AprilKHelms_RPC