Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Death is a popular activity in Detroit, so maybe I can chalk up my own in yesterday's half marathon to the benevolence of the city's tourism department. I hit 8 miles in 50:57, about two minutes faster than last year, but then, like so many others before me, I died a painful death under the Detroit River. My shoes sounded like they were stuck in mud and I feebly emerged from the tunnel.

I'd been averaging around 6:20 per mile, with the last three liberally run in 6 minutes flat. I think that was probably the culprit in the end, but why ruin a good story? The ninth mile was 6:37, the tenth 6:50 (64:24 total). Course markers being as unpredictable as mortality is predictable in Detroit, I was still, somehow, two minutes ahead of last year's pace.

I really did come unglued in the 11th mile, badly enough to stop looking at splits. This mile was in the 7-minute range and the 12th mile took 8 minutes. I was now around Tiger Stadium and the brick-paved roads of Michigan Avenue. I'll never cease to be amazed by Detroit's penchant for bundling pain with nineteenth-century ornamentation. All the people I had passed in the middle of the race now flooded past me and I swerved all over the broad street trying to get out of their way.

I reached the 12-mile mark in 79 minutes and realized that it was going to take something special to avoid the humiliation of running even slower than last year. I'm not sure why, but I hurt more than I've ever hurt before in a race and dug deeper than I ever have before, without qualification. I launched a powerful kick down Woodward Avenue. All this gave me a 7:20 final mile and a 1:27:02 finish, 26th overall. My last four half marathon times are 1:26:51, 1:27:17, 1:27:12 and 1:27:02. At least I'm consistent. I then took my unrequited bloodlust, with a gap in between to stagger around on Detroit's cold, empty streets in short yellow shorts, to see the Lions take on the Buccaneers.

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