When I first decided to run marathons, I set a loft goal. That goal was to run the Boston Marathon before I aged up. That gave me about 15 months to achieve a Boston Qualifying time. I’ve spent the last 16 months training and killing myself for that goal. I did manage to achieve an admirable BQ back in late June. Since then, my training has been a struggle and races have not gone well. Fortunately, the Detroit Free Press/Chemical Bank Marathon was one I was doing for charity and not one I intended to push in. You would think that would make it easier…. (in the writing biz, that’s what we call foreshadowing).
Due to my recent struggles, I heavily considered dropping down to the half marathon. However, due to the fact that I was running this for charity (Love Runs) and thinking of the victims of human trafficking, I thought it would be unfortunate for me to take an easy out when they don’t have an option like that. So the full it was.
All week I had been fighting off a cold. I would wake up with minor symptoms and they would go away. Saturday morning they would NOT go away. I had major sinus pain all day. In addition to that, my hamstrings and thighs were screaming at me like I had already run a marathon due to a bunch of physical labor I had done the day before.There were threats of thunderstorms in the morning and I was half hoping the race would be cancelled. This wasn’t going to be pretty. Or was it??
I decided I could probably power through all these things and still run a 3:15. But wait, if I could run 3:15, why not try for a 3:05? That would give me a 5 min buffer for Boston. Might as well try right? The weather ended up being as good as it could be. Yes it was warm (70F) and super humid, but I didn’t seem to mind it much because there was a breeze and it stayed cloudy pretty much the entire race. I only knew how humid it was from how much I was sweating. It wasn’t until the last 10k or so that the wind really became a factor for me. It was STRONG.
I started out ok, holding a 3:05 marathon pace. I felt ok for a bit, and longer than I thought I would, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that if I was going to finish this race at all, I just needed to ease up and run at a comfortable pace. So I did. It was slow for me, but I didn’t care. This was about running as comfortable as possible.
About 2.5 miles in, we hit the first big feature of the race, the Ambassador Bridge. I wondered how difficult it would be to climb and boy was it something. Halfway up I vowed I would not stop to walk up that bridge. about 90% of the way up the bridge, that vow was broken. Holy, that thing was tough. As we descended into Canada, it was cool to run my familiar river front route. I saw a few familiar faces and greeted a lot of the crowd.
As I approached the second feature of the race, the Windsor/Detroit Tunnel, my family was there to cheer me on. Again, not a goal race, so I stopped for minute to kiss the kids, take a pic and head off. Each of the kids had a sign. Well, my 7 month old didn’t, but I’ll remember that at Christmas.
I had heard a surprising amount of people say that the Tunnel was more difficult than the Bridge. I did not find this to be the case. I was shocked how easy it felt. Fortunately, I was still up with the faster runners at this point so I missed the “I want to take a pic by the Canada/USA flags on the wall” crowd. What I didn’t expect was the crowd waiting for you when you exit the tunnel. The streets were PACKED and as you descended below Cobo Hall and the crowd was above you on the highway, so cool. That was probably one of my favourite scenes.
From there the race started to hit me. I had walked a little on the bridge, but that was a MEGA hill, so I felt no shame. Here, I was already starting to struggle. At the 15k mark I decided I would take a walking break. I decided to give myself some 5 minute walking breaks but those seemed way too long, so after 3 minutes, I got going again. I figured if I did one at 15, 23, 31 and 39k, that would be ok. Again, just finish.
When I passed the halfway point, it was so tempting to turn right and just finish the half and be done. I saw the flag that said “26” and I thought that seemed an eternity away. Fortunately, I had done a course preview run and knew what was ahead of me. As I got to my next walk break, I definitely felt like a little walking would help me regroup a little bit. Again, only 3 minutes but shorty after I got going again, I realized how much sweat was in my socks. This was the first time I had worn compression in a race, but I couldn’t deal with the liquid in my shoe. I stopped to wring out all the sweat from one of my socks. So. Much. Sweat. But that felt much better after.
Halfway to my next walk break, one of my friends spotted me in the crowd and joined me for about a mile. That was a good pick me up to keep me moving as I was already debating taking another break earlier than planned. However, at this point I decided to go from every 5 miles to every 4 miles. That would give me two more breaks at miles 18 and 22.
Around mile 19, I turned a corner to head back towards the city, and that is where the wind hit. It was STRONG. When we crossed over onto Belle Isle, I couldn’t believe the force of the wind we were running into. Luckily you weren’t facing it the whole time, but man that was tough.
I ended up taking a few more walk breaks than I planned to, but time was out the window for this one, I just didn’t want to suffer and wanted to keep moving. That seemed to be the general opinion of everyone I was around. As I neared the end, there was one last little hill, but the way the wind whipped around the downtown core, it was almost like the wind was pushing you, carrying you, up that hill. That was a weird sensation but a nice help.
Mile 26 was at a corner and then you turned right to finish the last 0.2. The wind was never stronger than in that last 0.2. I couldn’t believe it. It’s like I couldn’t run if I wanted to. It almost brought me to a dead stop. I kept my legs moving, didn’t walk and crossed that finish line. My time was very under whelming but I didn’t really care. It was done and time for a rest.
Once again, a race that was a huge struggle for me, but the event as a whole was so cool. I have very fond memories and a great impression of this race, just not my performance. The bridge is the big challenge, but it’s also over with by the time you hit mile 4. I personally didn’t feel the Tunnel to be much of a challenge, but even if you do, again, done by mile 9. The rest of the course is relatively flat.
Such a cool event. Unique with it’s international crossing. A really fun crowd too. The crowd was big in some spots, but fairly sparse in a lot of other parts. Even when there was less people, they were enthusiastic and had great signs, beer, music, etc. It was a fun day and I’d definitely do it again.