Monday, October 30, 2006

The 8-mile mark of both the Detroit Marathon and Half Marathon comes underneath the Detroit River, clearly a part of the experience of going to the Murder City. Not part of the experience of downtown Detroit, by contrast, were the loud, massive crowds present at just about every step of the 21-kilometre course. Between the omnipresent cowbells, spectators with stereos and free Starbucks after the race, it is clear that America knows how to put on a race. This was plain right from the start, when the race went off to the strains of Republica's Ready to Go as opposed to the fourth-rate music played here. I have never run with that many people (supposedly 15,000) nor have I been so excited and full of adrenaline to run a race. I will confess to pumping my fist while shuffling across the start line in a crowd of runners, though a lot of it had to do with the freezing cold and the wind, which really gets me excited for some reason.

The crowds of spectactors were as artificial as they were great. After all, the previous night we had walked around downtown Detroit in search of something to do but found only the Hard Rock Cafe. There was nothing else open and we went back to our hotel. In search of some food for the next morning, I realized that there was literally nowhere to go but a diner in the hotel, which had very little food and couldn't break my $20. This is the closest thing to another person that I saw:

Downtown Detroit is neither dangerous or dirty. Rather, it is spotless verging on sterile with many beautiful old buildings mixing with beautiful new ones. It is very, very, very empty. Waking up in the morning, it was like waking up in a post-apocalyptic twilight zone: there were tall buildings, both old and new, but it was plainly obvious that no one was out there. In terms of architectural continuity and road racing, I would rate Detroit's downtown far ahead that of Toronto, but Toronto wins in every other area.

Returning to the race suspended below the Detroit River, I finished 38th with a time of 1:26:51, almost exactly the same as five weeks ago despite a very, very light training schedule (20 mpw, three days a week) during that time. The twelve-second differential can be attributed to untied shoelaces at the halfway mark, but it won't be. It was very, very cold at the start: three degrees with a cold, persistent wind that stuck around for the entire race. Turning right into a headwind at 18 km took a lot out of me and made the last three kilometres greatly a matter of survival, even though I was gaining places. I don't think I realized how cold and how windy it was while running. All things considered, I have to say that I have never had more fun at a race.

Despite Republica's burst of adrenaline, I hadn't get to my corral in time and started the race too far back. I was at 7:20 at one mile, 19:50 at three, right on pace, a little slow through five, great through seven (45:00), slow through eight and then hung on with a surge at ten miles (66:40). The lack of training made itself evident in the last three miles, when I gained spots but not with the power and fluency I needed or expected. On reading this later, I sound wistful when I was not, so I will reiterate that not only was I thrilled with the time, but the trip was so much fun that any half-decent time would've been acceptable.

Here are some images of Detroit:

This tall, aging tower was captivating for some reason.

This church is right down the street from Comerica Park, the sparkling new baseball stadium, which in turn is across the street from Ford Field, the football stadium where the race finished.

This is a parking lot next to the hotel. Note the complete lack of cars along with the complete lack of anyone in all these pictures.

This is Comerica Park on Saturday night, potentially the site of Game 6 of the World Series had the Tigers not unfortunately lost.

This is the People Mover, a Monorail-like monument to urban decay. It is a tiny elevated train that circles downtown. I have no idea who it carries and where it takes them.

Beautiful old Tiger Stadium, long since closed, is visible in the distance in the centre of this picture. Also note the people. The only location I knew in Detroit was the corner of Michigan and Trumbull, where the Tigers played for almost nine decades. The race went right by here, though the stadium obviously looks different from the outside.

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