Race Review: Detroit Free Press Marathon

Last week, my brother and I ran the Detroit Free Press/Talmer Bank Marathon. We had a great time! I paced the marathon for MarathonPacing.com and he ran his first marathon as a father. Here’s his take on the fun:

Detroit International Marathon Review

Last weekend, I completed my second marathon; once again running with Dr. Rachel.  A few months back,we had signed up to run the Detroit (International) Marathon – it seemed like a good idea at the time.

The Expo

While Dr. Rachel worked a shift at the Pacer Booth, I had plenty of time to explore the expo.  The expo was pretty straight forward and the check in was well organized and fast.  I only waited a few moments before receiving my bib and gear check bag, which was very nice.  I spent the rest of the time wandering the different booths and scooping up bargains on new gear that I had been looking at for a couple weeks.  The highlight was the official marathon gear – the t-shirts, hoodies, and knit caps were fantastic.  Each came in a variety of colors to represent local professional and collegiate sports teams.  I spent more than I had intended but was happy.  The very end of the Expo had a massive TV wall showing a virtual tour of the race course.  I appreciated the chance to see the course before running it and got to meet some of the people behind Run Detroit.

The Race

It was cold.  Snow fell.

We showed up a bit early to the race to get into our corral and wait for the start gun; most people had the good sense to wait to the last moment to line up in order to stay warmer.  The corrals almost seemed more a suggestion than an absolute as people simply milled about and even some spectators were in the corral area.  While a little confusing, this really did not cause an issue and within 20 min of the first wave we were released for the long run ahead.

The start of the race was great and a lot of spectators had braved the cold to cheer on the runners as we made our way along the streets of Detroit.  Fairly early on, we came to the Ambassador Bridge and the first major uphill I had run in probably a year.  The pace slowed and the course narrowed making things a little compact for my liking but running across the bridge and into Canada was awesome.

Detroit Marathon Ambassador Bridge

As we crossed into Canada, we were greeted by cheering fans and clever signs.  Before the race, I had been told the Canadian fans were great and they really were – best sign: “Only one more country to go!”.  After a few miles in Canada, we took the tunnel back to Michigan.  Described as the world’s only underwater mile, the tunnel was a good change of pace and fun.

The rest of the course works its way through Detroit and across Belle Isle.  The International Half had started with the Full marathon and at mile 12.5 or so they split.  It was incredibly odd to go from running in a crowd to being one of ten people on the road.  Based on the race results, we had started with roughly 15,500 people but at the split only 3800 marathoners remained.  After running alone (I had fallen off pace and was left behind as Dr. Rachel continued on for her perfect pacing) for some time, the US only half marathoners started to catch up as we hit Belle Isle.  Belle Isle was tough, but this was mile 20-22.  Exhaustion was setting in, the pavement was tough, and the wind had picked up making the two mile stretch a real challenge.

The course finished along the Riverwalk area and was very nice.  After a few more bends, it was back to the combined start/finish line and a new full marathon PR (5:22)!  The post-race snack selection was not great but they had Mylar blankets and water ready for everyone handed out by smiling and happy volunteers.  I hadn’t mentioned them until now but the marathon volunteers were great.  This was a cold and cloudy day, but I did not pass a single person who seemed anything other than excited to be there to cheer on the runners.  These volunteers manned 18 water stations on the course meaning there was no need to carry a water bottle which was fantastic.

While the race was tough and I did not make my pace goal, I had a great time running Detroit.

Detroit Marathon Medal

The only thing better was the post-race Coney dog and fountain Vernor’s ginger ale.