On Sunday I was finally able to run the Detroit Free Press/TCF Bank Marathon. It has been a bucket list race for me for many years. After finally getting back to running about a year ago, I knew it was high time to check Michigan off my 50 states quest.
To be completely honest this was not the easiest race to train for because of the timeline. Being that it takes place in October, one must begin training in July. It was miserably hot and humid for the vast majority of my training season. In fact I had a genuine pity party about two weeks into it. I felt that I simply could NOT train in such conditions (even though I have certainly done it before). It made me really assess what I truly wanted; I had to dig deep if I was going to make it happen.
Even then it wasn't the easiest of training seasons. Many runs did not happen. The ones that did were not stellar. I was lucky to make it to 18 or 20 miles tops. The ONLY shining victory was the fact that I grew to loathe speedwork less. That's huge for this girl!
For twelve weeks I doubted my ability to run this race. I regretted purchasing my airline ticket. I waited until it was too late to secure lodging (unless I was a Rockefeller). I thought I was too slow and heavy to run this race.
The kicker for me was logic. If I deferred to 2020, 2021, or even longer, this race would always require me to train through July, August, and Septmber, i.e. it was never going to be any better. I might as well make a go of it. However, my confidence was shot and I had as much self-doubt as any three people combined. I kept my plans under wraps for fear of "public failure." I only discussed this race and my plans with the people I speak with every.single.day. I referred to it as my "secret marathon."
As fearful as I was, I boarded a plane on Saturday. For all of my fourteen prvious marathons, I was excited. This was a whole new ballgame for me. Fear has never been my middle name... until now.
The expo was large and motivational.
I went to the expo and felt like a fake. I expressed my concerns to one gentleman, and he said, "Just do what you can do, and run a smart race." Is there more any of us can do?
Of course I had to snap a photo in front of the flag of Denmark, since our current excnahge student is from there.
Seeing the finisher's medal up close was excellent. Would I earn one?
The question was, "What drives you to run?" My answer is on the white paper.
Like I said, I waited until less than two weeks out to try to get a hotel room. When that plan obviously failed, I reached out to my friend Molly. She hosted me back in 2011 when I had an overnight layover in Detroit. She didn't hesitate for a second. She even arranged for us to stay at her dad's home, since he was as easy drive from the course.
I unloaded all of my race swag on my bed in her dad's home.
Not only did sweet Molly host me, but she also let me be her "plus one" at a pre-race dinner that night. We went to a gorgeous home in the area and were treated to a scrumptious, home cooked meal.
Check out my awesome friend and that incredible view!
I sat among Molly and fourteen new friends. It was so cool!
I slept decently that night. Naturally I woke up at least three times, though. It's my norm! My alarm "finally" went off at 5:15 AM EST (that's 4:15 AM for my body), and I tiptoed out of the house around 5:45 AM. My reserved parking spot ended up being 1.1 miles from the start. It was no big deal, though, due to the energy of the morning.
I got into my corral and thought, "Well, what will be will be." I prayed A LOT about this race. I prayed the week before, the night before, the morning of, and even during the race. Have you ever prayed while running? You should!
We started before the sun rose. That was new for me.
Once my corral crossed the start line, something unprecedented happened. I got a little emotional! After all I was FINALLY doing this particular race. Everyone had way more confidence in me than I did in myself. I think I literally felt their positive vibes as I started running. I didn't even take a walk break for quite a while. I was amazed.
I was feeling very good out there. It was flat as a pancake, cool and breezy. That's a Southerner's dream! Before I knew it we were to head up the ramp to the Ambassador Bridge to Windsor, Ontario. I just couldn't believe that I was going to do it!
The bridge was one of the three inclines along the course.
I'm literally on a bridge that separates two countries!
The good news about an incline of a bridge is that it must come back down on the other side. I hustled down it into Canada. Canada, eh! We were required to run with our passports. No one was stopped at the border, to my knowledge.
Yep, that's Canada. They were blaring "Sweet Caroline" as I passed the entrance.
We ran several miles in Windsor, Ontario. It culminated with running down into the Windsor Tunnel back to the USA. Not only was it downhill (until the middle), but obviously it gave me the opportunity to lay claim to running under the water. How cool!
It was cool and rather lively running in the tunnel.
Of course, at the midpoint we had to run UP to the land. That was the second incline of the day. Getting out of the tunnel was a long-awaited, much-anticipated victory for me. You see, they had to open the tunnel up to traffic at a certain time. If anyone wasn't out by then, they would be asked to leave the course.
I did it! I beat the cutoff!
After a little more time in downtown, the half marathoners turned off to finish their race. That is always a somber moment for me. You can hear their finish line hooplah, yet you still have another 13.1 miles to go. It was OK, though, because this day was unlike any other. I finally took my own advice and tried to truly run the mile I was in. The miles went by quickly, and I was feeling good. Yes - I was actually feeling good! What the what?!?! Not only was I concentrating on the individual miles, but I was also focusing on taking one Gu every three miles. That broke up the entire distance into smaller increments for me.
Soon we went to my favorite part of the course: Indian Village. It's a neighborhood of gorgeous, historic homes. I could have stayed in there all day! I was thoroughly enjoying viewing the homes and the fall foliage.
Unlike Mississippi, Michigan is actually getting a fall season this year.
Somewhere past the halfway mark, my lower left back started to hurt. I wondered if it was a kidney. I asked a medic what she thought. She thought it was possible, but most likely just a muscular issue. The astonishing thing was that the ONLY thing hurting was that. Again, I ask you, what the what?!?!
Mile 17 is always special to me because it means I only have single digits left to go.
In the teens my thought was, "Wow, the next thing I know, I'll be to mile 20." Then 20 came, and I was looking forward to 21 because I could take another Gu. There was always a little victory to be had. This was truly the race of the positive attitude! Having only one thing hurting also helped tremdously. In the past EVERYTHING has hurt by mile 20, if not sooner.
"Just five miles to go!" I couldn't believe that I was feeling so alive, hadn't hit the wall, and was still HAPPY. That can only be attributed to the power of prayer! Even going up the third and final incline of the day into Belle Isle was a good experience.
I will admit that after Belle Isle and the riverfront area with no spectators, I was quite ready to be done. It was mile 24 or so, meaning I had taken my last Gu, so my little victories were waning thin. My mind knew that two more miles were nothing, but my body was ready to be at the finish line already. This is the point of the race when, frankly, Ms. Positive isn't so nice anymore. It was the final countdown, so to speak.
Then it was a mile and a half... then just a mile... then a half a mile... then just a few more downtown blocks to turn through. I finally asked a lady, in an exasperated way, "Where is it?" Only a fool would not know that I was referring to the finish line. She happily replied, "Just around the corner!" Thanks goodness!
There it was; the finish line. It was still there. It hadn't been disassembled already. There were spectators, the announcer, photographers, and -- most importantly -- volunteers handing out medals! When I was within close enough proximity to break into a run, I got emotional yet again. I was doing it! I had done it! No sweeper van, no dying muscles, no defeated attitude. FInish #15 was steps away!
I did it! It was the best marathon of my 40's for sure!
I called my husband and let him know that I was done. What a relief! All that worrying had affected so many areas of my life, and now the burden was completely lifted. This marathon did not get the better of me. Onward and upward!
The 1.1 mile walk back to my rental car was more like a crawl. It didn't matter, though, because I was on top of the world. I did it, I did it!
There ya go! It's my first international race.
I got back to Molly's dad's home and got cleaned up. We went to one of her childhood favorites, National Coney Island, for lunch. She remarked how I sounded really good when I voice messaged her near the end of the race. What can I say? It was MY DAY!
Sweet Molly and I
I have such a good taste in my mouth about Detroit. Molly gave me a tour of beautiful lakefront areas, I met such nice people, and my faith and confidence in my running has been restored. That's more than I could have dreamed would happen. Even a day later, I couldn't be happer!