One of Michigan’s most famous road races was recently held for the 43rd year in a row. Organized by the Ann Arbor Track Club, the Dexter to Ann Arbor Half Marathon continues to be one of the premier road races in Michigan and the entire Midwest. As the name implies, it is a road race from Dexter to Ann Arbor, a convenient distance of 13.1 miles. I ran my first DxAA race eleven years after the race debuted only it was not the half marathon. My first Dexter Ann Arbor race was the 10K back in 1985. I dug out the 10K race results from that year and compared them to this year’s results. Amazing!
In 1985 I had been running various road races of all sorts but never a 10K (6.2 miles). So in the spring of 85 I figured it was time that I see what this 10K thing was all about and after all, I had no other plans for that Memorial Day weekend. (For many years the race was held on Memorial Day weekend). Back then, similar to the half marathon, runners were bused out to the starting line, then ran the point to point route to finish downtown Ann Arbor. The busing process meant that most runners, nearly 1,000 of us, sat around in Delhi Metro Park for up to an hour before the race. As I recall, in 85, that was not a problem for the air was cool, the lawns were damp, but the sun shined beautifully. It also continued to shine resulting in a hot run! I had heard stories about the route from my running friends. There was this long hill runners had to battle for the last mile of the route. OK, so?
I remember toeing the starting line less than several feet from the actual start. Then the gun fired and we were off! I had no idea of how to actually run a 10K, I simply approached this race as any other, start fast, run hard, and hang in there to the finish. So that’s what I did! I remember seeing a string of single file runners stretching long ahead of me on the sunny part of the route. I was nowhere near the lead runner. So what? I was running as hard as I could and I was determined to do my best!
37 minutes, 51 seconds after the gun went off I crossed the finish line downtown Ann Arbor! This was an average pace of 6:05 minutes per mile. I thought it was just OK.I was a little disappointed I did not run a sub 36 min for my first 10K.
But here is the interesting comparison. With a time of 37:51 in 1985, I finished 15th in my age group and 90th overall! Yesterday, 31 years later, I ran nearly 10 minutes slower, finishing in 47:24, but finished 1st in my AG, and 60th overall! My time from 1985 would have placed me 5th overall in yesterday’s race!
So what accounts for such substantial variations in finish placement given the same race time? Well actually, time itself, or more accurately the times. 30 years ago the 10K event was the premier race distance. The half marathon was sort of an unusual gimmick type race. Also, those who did compete were more serious or intense runners. Thirty years ago all of one’s training runs were run hard. There was no “long run” as every runner seems to do at least once a week now.
Flash forward to today and it’s actually somewhat difficult to find a good 10K race event! The half marathon has perhaps become the second most popular only to the 5K distance. The 5K distance is primarily popular because it appeals to most any person who is reasonably fit whether a regular runner or not and it also appeals to serious runners who often view the 5k distance as a training or speed session for a longer race, such as the half marathon of course.
While I will never approach running a 37 minute 10K again (factoid: my first 10k remains my lifetime personal record), I hope to always continue to be competitive in my own division running against my many friends and peers. Why not look up the next 10K in your area and give this race distance your best effort?
Thanks for taking the time to read my post and Run Happy!
For a neat look at a video of the 10K: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUJYyzu7Gio Let me know if you spot me in the race hint, it’s as I finish.