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Detroit Free Press Marathon October 21, 2012

Detroit Marathon ~ October 21, 2012

    Late last fall, fellow TRF member Jarrid Jensen and I decided to commit to running the Detroit Free Press marathon.  It would be our 2012 “goal race”.  I was excited for a variety of reason, but to be honest, one of the reason’s isn’t common runner’s fair.  Canadian marathon legend Jerome Drayton (Peter Buniak) ran, and won the event in ’69 setting a Canadian and North American record ~ I felt a strange connection to Drayton’s past by registering for the event.  No, I wouldn’t be breaking any records, but, at a personal level, I take huge pride in knowing Canada produced one of the worlds best runners (actually he was ranked #1 for a while), and that I, as a Canadian would be “sort of” running in his  foot steps.

    First, the course itself isn’t anything too special. In my opinion the novelty of this race course is the fact that runners cross over the Ambassador bridge leaving Detroit, entering Canada at Windsor Ontario, and then return to American soil under the Detroit river via the mile long Detroit-Windsor tunnel. The rest of the course is, in all honesty, quite boring.  It’s flat, paved, with adequate crowd support. Mile markers were accurate, aid stations were well placed, and the volunteers did a great job of handing out water, sport drinks and GU gels.  I actually disliked one portion of the course – the historic park-like setting of Belle Isle: miles 17 – 20.  There is a lot of open space in and around Belle Isle, add the river, and tired runners are faced with pretty strong winds. Nothing like head winds to help you get to the finish!  The finish line is typical ~ crowded. Runners are marshalled into a parking lot to receive their medal, “good-y bag” and refreshments.  I will mention that the medal puts to shame most of my other full marathon medals. Toronto’s Scotia and the Goodlife for example, don’t compare at all. The size, design, ribbon, and colour make for a great award.  

Jensen and I drove to Detroit Saturday morning.  We had the option of staying with a friend whose parents live in Windsor, but opted to stay on the American side so as to avoid having to cross the boarder early Sunday morning, and then be faced with looking for parking.  Finding a hotel that would hold a room for one night was difficult, so when the Marriot (located at the Renaissance Centre) had a vacancy, Jarrid made the reservation. The Marriot was a good choice. It’s location to both the marathon expo, and the start line was less than 10 minutes – talk about convenient.

As runners, the expression “get to the start line healthy” is something we are constantly reminded of.  Jarrid and I were both under the weather.  Fortunately, I was able to get a good nights rest, feeling refreshed Sunday morning – Jarrid on the other hand, was battling an all-out cold/flu.  I awoke at a quarter to 5, to get at hydrating, eat my breakfast, and to take care of the three “S”s.  The starter’s pistol would go off at an early 7am.  Jarrid couldn’t sleep – he was wide awake for most of the night, and needless to say wasn’t in the best shape to run a marathon.  Nevertheless, Jarrid checked the on-line weather, (it was great – sunny and warm),  we laced our shoes, and come 6:30am he and I headed out the door.  Starting corrals were well marked, but both of us did have to fight our way through a huge crowd to get to our starting group. 

    I had a good race, but even with all my hard training, by the mid 30’s, the marathon began to win the battle. I ran a great first ½, maintaining a decent pace. I felt strong, had no hydration issues, no cramping, no aches or pains, and just kept at it.  By the 30th K I still felt ok, crossing the timing mats in a decent 2:05.  Using my Garmin, I tried my best to maintain a steady pace, however, I did get sucked into running faster than necessary, hoping to “bank some time” – what a rookie mistake.  By the 33rd K, my calf muscles started to fill up with concrete – oh no… The remaining K’s (33-42) were a challenge.  My pace started to fall apart, and by the 39th K I was in full-out survival mode. I hate to admit it, but it was at this point of the race, that the mental head games began, and I actually started to wonder if I could, should, cheat. Yup, my mind was telling me to stop.  42.2 couldn’t come fast enough. The marathon insulted me even more – in the States, K markers are mile markers – and we all know that a mile is longer than a kilometre.  Mile 25 through 26 seemed to take an eternity.  I crossed the finish line with the most stoic facial expression. Needless to say, I won’t be buying that photo.  I earned my medal that day, and after regaining my composure, I hobbled back to the hotel.

    I learned a lot that day.  Jensen was and is a trooper. He, by no means, was in any condition to run a full marathon. I am proud to run and train with this guy.   Although he wasn’t shy in grumbling about his predicament, he made it to the start line, ran and finished the race!  Maybe not the wisest thing to do, but I’ll be cliché ; a famous Boston winner once wrote that “courage was spelled P R E F O N T A I N E “ well Sunday, October 21rst, “courage” could have been spelled J E N S E N. The man had the guts and determination to run the distance. It’s that type of determination that makes winners. Good on yah Jarrid! What an example.

    We drove home Sunday after the race – both of us didn’t want to miss Monday’s working day – again not the wisest thing to do, but heck we wanted to get home. How’s it go? Youth is stupidity, only with age comes wisdom” – well something like that.   It was during the drive home that Jarrid said “congrats – you ran a Boston Qualifying time”. Yup, I was so demoralized by the last few K’s of the race, that even after crossing the finish line I didn’t realize what I accomplished.  It took a few seconds to sink in, not only did I set a PB, but I did manage to accomplish one of my “to do’s”  ~  get to Boston. Needless to say, over the course of the next three or so weeks, while I convalesce, I’m reviewing my summer’s worth of training. Like all runner’s, I have goals and I hope with some fine tweaking, good advice, and as always, some good fortune I can achieve them.

Would I run Detroit again? You bet! I for one like to change up racing venues.  Travelling to Detroit was a nice change.  Add the fact that the Canadian dollar is close to on par with the Yankee dollar, the  “destination marathon” experience wasn’t too costly.  Travelling with friends is always nice too.  It makes for a memorable experience. 

If anything, after running Detroit – you too can say that you’ve run the only sanctioned race mile under water.


Avid outdoorsman. Live in small rural community with many opportunities to get outside! Running is my passion, but do frequently get out on my bike, and while up north at the cottage, get my share of swimming in. Look forward to a great 2012 season, and am looking for interested individuals to compete in Adventure racing.

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