What set Akron's race apart from Cleveland's...well, Akron has a relay, which is really uncommon. It's a great way for lots of people of varying abilities to participate, and it creates a larger sense of community fun. Workplaces and other groups will participate in the relay and runners from all over Ohio will run the relay as well. I think that is the first step to what I feel sets Akron's race apart from Cleveland's; its friendliness.
The first marathon I ran was Disney, and it is hard to go from the Friendliest Marathon on Earth to any other marathon. But Cleveland boasts a lot of neighborhood pride in the race, which I imagine comes only when the race hits Lakewood, and the second half. I ran downtown, Ohio City, Gordon Square, and the Shoreway. Those places were NOT friendly. Akron, on the other hand, was super friendly...and this was BEFORE I hit the neighborhoods with fancier houses and generally higher class residents. Running through North Hill was an absolute treat. Those motherfuckers used the marathon as an excuse to bust out the speakers and tailgates and hand out beer to passing runners. There were TONS of people holding signs and there were groups who moved as the race moved, cheering people on from different streets throughout. Akron's marathon feels like a real, supportive, community race. It cannot be beat.
And the rest of it...all the registration and whatnot? Super easy. They forced you to walk the entire convention to get to the shirts, so that was super annoying. Also, the half marathon shirt was white this year, ugly and crappy. But those are the only negative aspects. Everything else was easy and great. The finish line was right downtown, in the baseball stadium, and that was awesome. When I finished, I found some relay runners and sat down with them and hung out while I ate, before I left for work. I talked to people in line before the race started, something I did at Disney too. But at Cleveland? NOPE. Every runner was super fucking unfriendly.
It saddens me too, because I really hate Akron. I really want to love Cleveland. But there is no denying that Cleveland is a much less friendly town and a much less friendly race. Now, Cleveland's course is mostly flat, except for the three-mile hill at the end. Akron's race is much hillier. Nevertheless, Akron's race was easier to run as well.
In the end, if you're choosing a race in NEOhio, or planning on running your first long distance race, choose Akron. It's better all around.