Monday, April 18, 2011

26.2 and The D

Prior to October 17, 2010 I had never been to Canada. This is remarkable particularly because for six months I worked in Detroit literally steps from the Detroit River looking out onto Windsor, Ontario. Once I decided to run the Detroit Marathon it became my mission to run to Canada on my first visit.

It turns out running a marathon is hard, and after previous failed attempts I decided 2010 was my year. I decided to stick close to home and run the Detroit International Marathon which runs over the Ambassador Bridge to Canada and back to the States through the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel.
Me outside the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel the day before the race

The race expo was fantastic. We walked over from the convenient race hotel (the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center) to Cobo Hall on a beautiful fall Saturday afternoon. The race hotel was great – a reasonable price to be right downtown Detroit and an ideal location. The race expo was organized, efficient and fast. And the race shirt is one of my favorites. Ever. 
The Renaissance Center on a gorgeous fall day

We had a pre-race dinner at the Traffic Jam and Snug at Second and Canfield. Unfortunately we got the car out of valet and drove down Woodward but it was worth it. I have to admit – I didn’t love my choice of veggie lasagna. But as always the Traffic Jam’s atmosphere and service was top notch. When I told my server I was running the marathon the following day, he kept me supplied with pitchers of water. We ordered hot fudge sundaes for dessert (the Traffic Jam makes its own amazing hot fudge) and we even got a side of additional hot fudge. That is service. Their manager is also one of the coolest guys I’ve ever known for what it’s worth.
Delicious hot fudge at the Traffic Jam

Race morning was cool and dark. There was a little walk to the race that was not marked well (we just followed everyone else) and the corrals were a little bit confusing. The race start was somewhat congested with lots of clothes being thrown off into the street. I realize this isn’t uncommon in a race, but runners were just throwing them off right in the middle of the street without attempting to get clothes off to the side. It was a bit distracting.
at the race start

By the 5k mark runners came to a near standstill on the Ambassador Bridge. Runners were on one side while cars passed on the other side. This literally brought the group to a slow walk. The benefit was the unbelievable sunrise over the Detroit skyline. The downside was runners stopping (in the already slow group) to take photos. The race also asked runners not to use iPods and this rule was clearly not followed. I am a purist about running without music, so this was quite irritating.

I’ll be honest – Windsor wasn’t much to write home about. The riverfront has a nice walkable park, but I found myself ticking down the miles to get back to the D. Once we made it through the tunnels and bibs were reviewed by Homeland Security Agents (you have to show your passport to race), I began my detailed tour of Detroit.
runners emerging from the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel

The race wound through everything that is great about Detroit – Mexican Town, right down Michigan Avenue, through Campus Martius Park, through Indian Village, Belle Isle and along the Detroit River. IT band and pain aside, it was a fantastic course – changing, interesting scenery, lots of spectators, and flat terrain. I found myself admiring homes in Indian Village and enjoying my first ever trip to Belle Isle. It was a great way to see the city and highlighted everything to love about Detroit.
at the halfway point near Campus Martius

This is also a very intimate course. I saw my husband and family several times as well as friends who I didn’t know were there watching. It allows you to feel close to the spectators and interact with them unlike a lot of big city races.
Runners toward the end of the race

I realize that Detroit isn’t always seen in the most positive light. I am probably biased because I love Detroit and have loved it ever since the first time I saw it. Its majesty and haunting beauty make me believe that if we invest in it Detroit can be like Chicago, Portland, and Austin. Anyone who came to Detroit from out of town was given a tour of the best the city has to offer – and I think that’s a lot.
after my first full marathon

How would I rate the race? A- (the bottleneck at the Ambassador Bridge brought it down)

How would I rate Detroit? A (maybe it's not perfect, but I love Detroit)

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