Flashback Fridays 26: Detroit Marathon

October 20, 2013.

Welcome home.

Yep, my hometown race. Coming from Windsor, this was exciting. I could combine this race with a visit with family and friends. I would cross the border twice (Ambassador Bridge going into Canada, and the Windsor-Detroit tunnel coming back to the states). Neither is usually open to pedestrians, so this would be a treat.

The visit home was nice, but brief. I decided to spend the night before the race in a hotel in the states…crossing the border race morning could be a big traffic jam that I wanted to avoid.

So, I packed up and said goodbye and went to the expo. It was your typical big marathon expo. Lots of vendors and tantalizing gear. One thing I needed was something to carry my ID. All of our registration information was review by Canadian Customs and Homeland Security and we were pre-approved to enter and leave the country. However, we could be pulled aside at the border and we MUST have ID. I did pick up a new running belt for this purpose. They also had previous years finishers shirts (long sleeved) for a few bucks. I picked up a couple (my rule for finishers shirts is that I only wear finishers shirts that I earned at events, but can wear finishers shirts from any year when I train…as long as I actually completed that event at some point).

Picking up the bib, you had to show ID that you could use at the border (ie: passports, but not drivers licenses) and you had to pick it up in person. Some bibs had a slip attached indicating that you needed to talk to an immigration officer before getting your bib…but this was rare. I got my bib and was done in about 10 seconds.

A friend and fellow runner joined my at the expo. It was great catching up and swapping stories. She had fractured her heal and tore her plantar fascia during a recent race in Africa. She hobbled on a broken foot for the last 10 miles and finished the race. She didn’t even know that the foot was broken until she got home and saw her doctor. Damn, she’s a tough one! After saying goodbye, I headed to the Olive Garden for carbs and back to the hotel.

I was up early the next morning. The hotel granted me a late checkout so I would have time to come back and shower after the race. I headed downtown early and found my way to event parking (many had trouble finding parking and a lot of unofficial lots were charging a ton of money to park). I was one of the first at Cobo Hall (site of the expo) and the building was open to runners pre-race. It was a cold morning, so I appreciated the opportunity to stay warm. Finally, I headed out to the start corals.

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It was still dark when the race started. That is deliberate. One of the highlights of the race is a couple of miles later when we cross the Ambassador Bridge at sunrise. It was a bottleneck and it was one tough hill. But the view is one of the best I have experienced, and is worth running the race for this alone.

The stretch in Canada was great. We ran along the riverfront and the crowd support was wonderful. A quick loop through downtown and we entered the “underwater mile” in the Windsor-Detroit tunnel. It was great to run it but was quite warm in there. Everyone was unzipping jackets and taking off hats and gloves, which went right back on as we came close to the exit.

Crossing the border each way was interesting. Some security officers were cheering and giving high-fives. Most had their hands on their guns and scanning the crowd intensely. It was a very unique part of the race.

We then toured a little bit of Downtown Detroit. We went through some well known neighborhoods and the route kept us out of the blight. I can count on one hand the number of boarded up buildings that I saw. The organizers did a good job of showing off their city.

We approached the halfway point. Since there are three races combined together (full marathon, and 2 half marathons), there was a split at the 13 mile mark. My legs were tired from my recent Twin Cities Marathon, and I longed to just head for the finish. But I still had a long way to go. We passed the split and reached the starting line for the “U.S. Only” half marathon. Those runners had already started. The next few miles were the “miles for the sake of miles” part of the course. It was a straight line down a wide road. No blight, but nothing special. We then did a loop through “Indian Village” which is a very nice neighborhood. The run got interesting again as we got to the waterfront. Detroit has done a great job in beautifying this stretch. It was a wonderful stretch with amazing views of Windsor. We then crossed the bridge to Belle Isle. I had never been there before, but it was lovely parkland.

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By this point, my legs were cramping up bad. We were at mile 20 and I lost my pace group again. I was stretching at every rest stop. We left Belle Isle and headed back downtown. Crowd support was great. Volunteers were awesome. My legs…not so great. But, I kept it together and got my second slow marathon finish time in two weeks.

Finish Time 4:49:42

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The post race food was adequate. The medal is awesome. I didn’t linger as I needed to get back to the hotel and to the airport.

…and, I had just qualified to be a Marathon Maniac!

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