Wasn’t it was just last week when I paid my entry to run the 2017 Detroit Marathon? (actually it was last May). I had many weeks to train, I had everything mapped out ahead, and now, I wake up today realizing the only thing left on my training regime is to break in my new Brooks Ghost running shoes! 4 Days from this moment I hope to have successfully completed my last competitive marathon. I am in the midst of what runners call “Tapering”.
Tapering is the process of letting your body fully recover from the many long runs and to load up on energy sources so you can survive a 26.2+ mile road race. It’s also the time when runners overuse such phrases as: “The hay is in the barn, Put a fork in it, The fat lady is singing”, and so on with many more such lines. Essentially, there is nothing more to be done in training except to rest and attempt to live easy.
With less time out running that means there is more time to do other things. It’s not to late to continue to prepare mentally. Actually, the mental process is probably more crucial to a runner’s success than some forms of training. This will be my 6th Detroit Marathon. Detroit was my first marathon back in 1994. Much of the course route has been drilled into my memory since my early childhood more than 60 years ago. Each time I run Detroit I experience certain memories of the places I am running through. This helps to detract from the actual marathon and allows my brain to forgive me for beating up my body at that moment.
When I run along the start of the course I remember my grandfather taking me to board the Boblo boat. (The Boblo boat was a fun ride along the southern part of the Detroit River to the Boblo Island Amusement Park). My grandfather shared his stories of shipping on the great lakes, of how the channels in the river were constructed, and much more. I still think of those many tales as I begin to cross the Ambassador Bridge into Canada.
Once in Canada, I remember my second Detroit marathon as it actually started in Windsor Canada. In those days the marathon started in Windsor’s Jackson Park and ran much of the way along the riverfront. I was told by veteran Detroit marathoners that the view of Detroit from Windsor would be beautiful and that I would soon be over there. Right they were.
Nearly every section of the marathon route through the streets of Detroit contains a vivid memory of my past. Some like my Boblo experiences, “The Corner”, the site of the old Tiger Stadium (which I first knew as Briggs Stadium) take me back decades. Others areas such as Corktown and Lafayette Park bring back memories as an architectural student at the University of Detroit where I studied these areas of Detroit.
Then there are some parts of the course that are more unique to my marathon experience. I rarely had any connection to Indian Village prior to running through the scenic and historic residential neighborhood during my more recent Detroit marathons.
Then of course what would running Detroit be without Belle Isle? The historic island park links the Detroit Marathon with the New York City Marathon! How? Each was designed by the famous landscape architect Fredric Law Omstead! I also remember coming to picnic on Belle Isle with my paternal grandparents and spending great summer days on the island. There is of course the “curse of Belle Isle” too. As a runner, the island represents one of the tougher spots along the route to run. The runner is openly exposed to strong winds blowing up the river and against the runner, regardless of what direction the runner is pursuing.
The finishing part of the Detroit course has had many variations over the years. In recent years it has found a home along Lafayette Ave. appropriately enough, in front of the old Detroit Free Press building (the Detroit Free Press has been sponsor of the marathon for 40 years). Regardless of where the finish line is, I have managed to finish strong during the final stretch to the finish. My last Detroit in 2015 being my best. I look forward to repeating my strong finish again in a few more days.
Beyond the goal of a strong finish is the goal or strategy on how to run the distance. It’s much more easier said than done but it is a proven fact that the best (fastest) marathons are those where the runner actually runs the last half (13.1 miles) faster than the first half. It’s known as a negative split. My strong finish in 2015 was the cap on my negative split marathon. That marathon was strategically my best marathon. Shortly after that race I declared it to be my last “Detroit Marathon”. So why am I writing about running Detroit again only 2 years later?
Simple really, in addition to it being the 40th running of the Detroit Marathon, I also saw an opportunity to place very well within my 65-69 Age Group. I will have strong competition within my group but I intend to be competitive too. The strategy? The strategy will be much the same as 2015 where I break the course down into various neighborhoods and districts and simply run my own race. I have a goal finish time, will it be good enough to win my AG, or second, or even third or more? My time really doesn’t matter to me, what matters is that I control my race and that I give it my best effort.
So, back to what we know as taper time. It’s the time to rest, feed your muscles, and think about the race. Time to loose my worries about whether or not I have sufficiently trained, time not to ponder all the stretching and strength training I did or more accurately did not do, time not to worry about my competition, time to quit obsessing about the weather, etc. it’s time to run MY Detroit Marathon!
Thanks for taking a moment to read my post. Check back next week for my final chapter in the Detroit Marathon.