- 13.1/Half Marathon, 26.2 miles/Marathon
- Road Race
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I chose Detroit as my third marathon. I accidentally ran one of these things saying I would never do it again, and, well - you know how the story goes. Previously, I ran the Chicago marathon in 2011 and 2013 and I figured if I was going to do this again I should change it up a little and run somewhere new. I chose Detroit for a few reasons: it was accessible, I could train with my friends running Chicago as they were only a week apart, it was relatively cheap (as a race and to lodge, park, etc in the city) and it was also a fast and flat course. Oh, and it goes through Canada for a while, which is pretty neat.
As a Chicago native, I've been pretty lucky to have a world class marathon race experience in my city. So heading up to Detroit to run a marathon was a little bit different - instead of 45,000 runners from all over the world running the marathon with me, it would be about 5,000 others. When I watched my friends run the Chicago marathon the week before I started to regret my decision to run Detroit (no one will come support me! I don't even know anything about Detroit! Why am I doing this?!). And the expo on Saturday didn't do much to ease my nerves about my decision - as it settled in that most of the runners present would be running the half and leaving me at mile 13.
But, man, I really loved this marathon. I loaded my playlist up the night before with some Kid Rock and Eminem jams (when in Detroit...) and by the time I was a mile in, worries about choosing Detroit for marathon #3 were gone. First of all, this race's start line was right on Cass street (who knew? seriously, it was a literal. SIGN). But more importantly, the first few miles everyone is so excited that you can't help but get swept up in it. And then at mile 3, just as the sun is rising, you cross the Ambassador bridge across Michigan to Canada. It's beautiful, it really is, and if I wasn't trying to get a PR, I would have been snapping pics left and right as I crossed that bridge. Mile 4-7 go through Canada, which is pretty cool because, well, Canada. And then from mile 7-8 is the only underwater mile in a marathon - runners take the tunnel back into the US. I will say, for the first 1/4 of this mile, it's pretty sweet. Everyone starts screaming/hollering/howling as you go downhill into this tunnel and it gave me ALL THE EXCITES. And then it becomes, "wait, it's getting sort of hot in here. Wait, there's some funky smells. HOW LONG IS THIS TUNNEL?! WHEN DOES IT END?!" and just when you think you can't take it anymore, there's an evil steep incline to get out, and BAM you get hit with fresh air and a huge cheering section and a big sign that says "WELCOME TO THE U.S.A."!
I was worried about the split off at mile 13 (as about 20,000 runners do the half by comparison to the 5,000 marathon runners) but it wasn't so bad - as the half runners turn to finish their 13.1, the full (and relay) runners continue straight and go downhill to a crowd of people cheering. (The downhill part definitely helps with the motivation to continue.) I actually enjoyed having a little more space and I never felt like the crowd of runners thinned out too much (I was worried about that). Honestly, I sort of preferred having less runners around and the first half seemed a bit too crowded by comparison.
14-19 is pretty residential, there's some people out and about, it's not so bad. And then Belle Isle happens. So, Belle Isle is this secluded little island that you get to by going over a bridge and that's where miles 20-22 happen/where motivation goes to die. Since the bridge is completely closed off (marathon and relay runners use each half to go into and back from Belle Isle), not many people go there to cheer runners on. It's just you and the wall. And some decent scenery. But you don't care. Because your whole body is dying. And you just want. To get. Off. This. Island. Already.
But you will make it out. You will. And when you do, you only have a few miles left and you're heading back towards the finish line! The last few miles are a bit of a blur. They were tough. There were some surprise inclines during mile 25. And then the course is back in the middle of downtown. You know you're getting close to the finish. There's a few turns and one particularly evil hill to get to mile 26, but you know what, it's mile 26 and you've completely destroyed your quads by that point anyways, so you run up it because you can taste the finish at this point. And you turn the corner at mile 26 and the finish line is so close, the crowds are large, people are screaming. You realize that .2 miles looks so much farther than you can ever remember it looking. But you run through it. And you hit the finish line, completely spent. Someone puts a really cool medal around your neck (featuring a car, because it's Detroit) and you give yourself a moment to let you emotions finally catch up with you (you may or may not cry at this point. I did.)
Overall, great race. Worth the trip, I recommend it to other runners looking for a new spot to run a half or full.
Things that could improve: the organization of this race is definitely not up to the caliber of a much bigger race. Bib numbers weren't assigned until a few days before. Runner tracking wasn't figured out until the day before. The website could use some work. But the experience is what matters, and the race itself was great - so I can't complain much about those little details.
Other things to note: long sleeve shirts as swag (love that), parking in Detroit is cheap! Woo!, Slowe's BBQ is amazing and a great post-race meal spot, don't drive 5 hours back to Chicago and trap yourself in a car the same day after you run a marathon.