I had the opportunity to go to Detroit last month and run the Detroit Free Press International Marathon. My company was sponsoring employees to run this race and I was able to coordinate it with a business trip as well as a short vacation to Illinois for my niece’s wedding. We ran the race in honor of Cathy Scoda – an employee who had been training for the half marathon and died unexpectedly of heart failure at the young age of 48.
The Thursday before the marathon (which was on Sunday), I went walking/running with my daughter and felt great. We then headed out to do some errands and after about 30 minutes I suddenly started to feel horrible. It quickly went downhill. I had a hard time breathing, my chest hurt and I was just plain miserable. Spent a few hours debating on trying to find an urgent care facility that day or see how I was the next morning. After laying down for a while – I realized I needed to try and find one that afternoon. I called my insurance to find the location of an approved facility in Illinois and they informed me I would need to drive to Muncie, Indiana. Yeah. Not going to happen. I finally found a place nearby that would only cost me $75 out of pocket and headed out. Place was closed because the doctor had an emergency. And it looked like a dive. I had passed a nice urgent care facility a few blocks back and went over there. It was $125 to be seen there – but beggars can’t be choosers. A couple of hours later, I finally got to see a doctor. Bronchitis, asthma, sinus infection. Good things to have right before a marathon.
Saturday I drove back to Michigan (I’m trying to forget the brilliant moment when I locked my keys in the trunk of the rental car) and went to the race expo. They do a good job of forcing you to walk by every booth twice as they wind you to the back of the conference center to pick up your packet and then leave. I only gave in once and bought a new medal holder. At this marathon you have to show a passport in order to pick up your packet because the race crosses over into Canada. Kind of different.
Sunday morning I drove into Detroit. Things went smoothly until I sat on the freeway for more than 20 minutes without moving trying to park at a casino. Wasn’t happening. Everyone else had the same idea. Took my chances and raced up to the next exit and drove wildly trying to find a different casino and hoping I wasn’t driving into areas of Detroit I should avoid. Luckily, a coworker and his father came back to that casino to escort me to the race because I was totally lost.
It was another good morning. No wind and cool – but not too cold. I had a throwaway shirt (thanks St. George for the ugliest race shirt I never wanted) and disposable gloves to keep me warm and that was sufficient. The company had designed Team Cathy shirts for us to wear and it turned out to be a great shirt and didn’t cause any chafing. (I know – never wear something for the first time to a race). There were quite a few MCUL employees running the 5K, a handful or two running the half marathon(s) and one crazy employee doing the full marathon. (Who could that be?)
I was in the last corral because when I originally registered – I was in the walking marathon. It took us about 30 minutes after the start of the race until we crossed the start line. This was my first big city marathon and quite an experience. So many people and the marathon and half marathon were on the same course for the first 12.9 miles. Basically – I spent most of the first 10 miles dodging between people and trying to move forward because, as usual, lots of slow runners went into earlier corrals. After 2 or so miles we approached the entrance to the bridge. Lots of customs officials yelling at us to show our bibs and looking for shady characters or people wanting to immigrate illegally into Canada. Phew – I guess I didn’t look too shady because I wasn’t stopped. We crossed the Ambassador Bridge between the US and Canada. This is a mile long bridge and was a lot of fun (except for the people dodging). Everyone around me was complaining about the uphill and I was trying to figure out what they were talking about. It was a bridge – very little uphill. Heck – I ran all the uphills in this race – something I can never do in Utah.
Once in Canada we ran along the waterfront in Windsor, Ontario for several miles before once again running the gauntlet of customs agents. This time they weren’t as noisy – guess they figure no one wants to enter the US. On the way back we ran in a mile long underwater tunnel. Nice and hot and muggy. And no GPS reception. One mile later we were back in the good old US of A and running through Detroit.
In the first half of the race there were people everywhere cheering you on. Rarely did you go an entire block without a cheering section. They also had lots of bands and entertainment along the way. About mile 12 I was passed by a couple of Team Cathy runners and talked with them for a few minutes. At the half marathon turn-off, Doug Scoda (Cathy’s husband) cheered me on. Suddenly – the crowds were gone. There were obviously lots more runners doing half marathons than full marathons. Right after the turn-off, we also saw the starting line of the US Only Half Marathon. It had started an hour or so earlier and I was hoping I could pass some of them before the finish.
I did carefully watch the time to make sure I used my inhaler every four hours. I could tell by mile 10 that I had no energy from being sick, so I just continued with my run 2.5 minutes/walk 2.5 minutes schedule and hoped I could maintain that. If nothing else, I would walk it in. I was not trying to push because I figured that would be foolish when I could hardly stand up without wanting to pass out a couple of days earlier.
In the second half of the marathon we started running through different “towns” in Detroit. Greek Town, Polish Town, etc. There were a few miles where we ran by some gorgeous old mansions. The people in this area were great. Lots of them set up little tables in front of their houses with Dixie cups full of M&M’s and Gummy Bears and such. I loved my M&M’s and treasured them over a couple of miles.
At mile 16, I had been leap frogging another woman for a mile or two. I could tell she was flagging and she would hear my GymBoss beeping. She finally asked me what I was running and told her my 2.5/2.5 plan. I invited her to run with me and she happily joined me at that point in time. Her name was Stephanie and she was starting to flag. It was her first marathon (you could tell because newbies had green bibs) and she had never run longer than 20 miles. I told her that I would be happy to stay with her the rest of the race and keep her going and she was really excited to no longer be alone. We had a good time getting to know each other the next 10.2 miles. Around mile 18 we ran out on a mile long causeway to an island. I could see some half marathoners on the way back out on the causeway and knew I was maintaining a good pace. We ran a couple of miles along the lakeshore on this pretty little island and then headed back. We were kind of happy to see how many runners were still crossing the causeway because we knew we were far ahead of a cutoff. We also felt bad because we knew they must be really struggling and had a long way to go.
After leaving the island, we spent a lot of the rest of the race running along the lakeshore heading towards downtown. Not a lot of cheerleaders anymore and Stephanie was flagging – but holding on. I told her to enjoy the emotions of the first finish – because nothing is the same. As we headed up the final hill she gave out an excited cry because her son was waiting for her. He joined us as we turned the corner to the finish line. Stephanie did not want to run anymore, so I told her we would get to the last stoplight before the finish and then run it in. We started the final run hand in hand and her son was disappointed because someone forced him off the course. We crossed the finish line and Stephanie turned to me and hugged me. She was so excited to be a marathoner and I was so happy to help her get there.