Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Running The Crim in Flint, MI

Prior to running the Crim 10 miler, I had never been to Flint (despite a profession that requires me to travel to communities across the State of Michigan). Flint is only 45 minutes from Lansing, but other than traveling to Flint's Bishop International Airport (there are fantastic deals from there) I'd never been to the city proper.

Celebrating Flint's auto heritage (photo courtesy of the Michigan Municipal League)
Flint has an interesting reputation. Michigan's auto manufacturing economy put the state and many cities (including Flint) on the map in the 20th century. As the auto industry has struggled, so has Flint. But in the few years I've been hearing good things about Flint - a revitalized downtown, leveraging an anchor institution (University of Michigan at Flint), a motivated city government and grassroots effort to rejuvenate the city.

Downtown Flint (photo courtesy of the Michigan Municipal League)
The Crim Festival of Races 10 miler provided the perfect opportunity for me to run a race that attracts elite runners while visiting Flint. This year celebrated the 35th running of The Crim, and with more than 10,000 participating in the 10 miler, it seemed like a great idea. I'd also heard the Crim is rather hilly, and I'm always up for a challenge.

photo courtesy of the Michigan Municipal League
We arrived to Flint about an hour before the race. Traffic was atrocious, and it took us about 50 minutes to get off the freeway, park and walk to the start line. The crowd at the start was thick, but there was a lot of energy. As I stood in the throng of runners, I started to notice a lot of bibs that said "10 mile walk". Not wanting to get behind a lot of people who weren't running, I started making my way through the crowd. 

Downtown Flint (photo courtesy of the Michigan Municipal League)
As I was walking toward the front, I heard the announcer saying to corral yourself into the various time corrals. Unfortunately I could not see any markings that indicated where the time corrals were.  After the start, it took over 8 minutes to get to the start line, but that's not uncommon in a large race.

Downtown near the race start (photo courtesy of the Michigan Municipal League)
Once we passed the start, it was extremely congested. Unfortunately walkers and runners were all mixed together, and it was nearly impossible to pass people and get into any sort of rhythm. At times there were walkers crossing the entire road, and there was nowhere to pass. Typical running etiquette is to get to the side when you're walking (which I did when walking around mile 8), but this was out of control. I would definitely suggest starting runners and walkers at different times. The course was entirely too congested, and I was about 5 miles into the race before I stopped fuming about having to run side to side to get through.

The course had a ton of energy. There were spectators and music everywhere as well as an abundance of water stations. We ran through a stunning neighborhood with beautiful, stately homes. It was a really nice course.

The race ended in downtown Flint with thousands of spectators and runners. I didn't get to really appreciate much of downtown Flint, but it does appear they have really embraced U of M Flint and made that a crucial part of their downtown. I loved the neighborhoods we ran through and found downtown to be animated and energetic. 

The finish - downtown Flint (photo courtesy of the Michigan Municipal League)
Overall the Crim was a good race aside from the congestion. I would suggest for future reference that walkers start 10-15 minutes after runners. This is certainly not a knock on walkers (so please don't send me notes that walkers are people too - I already know). It just made the race very congested. If there had been a staggered start (as is the case in many races) it would've made a world of difference.

How would I rate the Crim? B- (create a different start time for walkers and it's an automatic A)

How would I rate Flint? B+ (the city is doing some great things - their downtown is fantastic!)

1 comment:

  1. Great job Sam! I love running the CRIM! It is very challenging and the support you get from the spectators is amazing! I do agree with you 100% about the congestion. There should be a staggered start time or the PACE markers at the start line need to be made more visible (I didn't see them at all either) with the walkers starting in the back.

    Overall it is a great race!