Posts Tagged ‘run’

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Thanksgiving is a very big day for running races in the United States. Here in Detroit we have the Fifth Third Turkey Trot. It is the largest road race in the U.S. on Thanksgiving day. This year was the 30th anniversary and for the first time they offered medals to all finishers of the 10k, 5k, and 1 mile races. Last year there was an incredible 20,000+ runners that took to the streets of Detroit to take part in it. After running the 10k in 2011 I knew I wanted to come back and run it again. I learned last year that this definitely wasn’t a race to enter in hopes of getting a personal record. The course is extremely crowded, there are tons of walkers, people with strollers, and people walking and running with their dogs. Since a PR was out of the question, I had to come up with a way to challenge myself, but still go out there and have a good time. After all, this is a fun run.

While having a few drinks with my 2 closest friends, the idea hit me. I was going to run backwards for the entire 5k. Maybe it was the alcohol talking, but it sounded like a lot of fun. I had never run backwards in my life. The next thing I needed to do was find a friend to run with me and help navigate. I knew if I ran solo it would be insanely difficult to weave thru all of the other runners so I needed an extra set of eyes. My friend Jessica agreed. She isn’t really a runner, but she did her first race earlier this year when we ran the Warrior Dash together. Neither of us trained at all. She did absolutely no running recently, and I didn’t even train myself to run backwards. It was going to be a huge challenge for both of us, but we welcomed it with open arms.

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We lined up at the back of the slowest corral not knowing what kind of pace we would run. Immediately upon starting the race, there was an enormous traffic jam. This was going to be tough. We had to weave our way thru tons of walkers and slow runners. I really couldn’t believe it, but we were actually passing a lot of people. The runners had mixed feelings about seeing someone running backwards for the race. Some of them cheered, high-fived me, and shouted “Go backwards guy!”. Not everyone was that supportive though. I had a few people call me a show-off. I was kind of taken back by that. After all of the races I’ve done, I’ve never had people say negative things to me. I wasn’t running to make others look bad. I just wanted a challenge.

Within the first 1/4 mile my quads were on fire. My legs can handle very high mileage, but they were almost instantly rebelling. My neck and my eyes were hurting from looking over my shoulder constantly. I now knew just how hard this race would be. If it started to hurt that quickly, it was only going to get exponentially worse. I kept moving backward (or forward depending on your perspective) and continued on. Jessica and I started to develop a good system for navigating. At first she would say “go right, go left” but that didn’t work too well. She started pointing in the direction I needed to move. That was a much better system. Things got much smoother as we gained some experience and the crowd spread out a little bit. Now I just had to grind thru this race and deal with the pain.

About half way thru the race my legs were dead, my neck was kinked, and my eyes were severely fatigued. Turning around and running forward was not an option though . I committed to this and I was going to finish it no matter what. As we got close to the end we ran into an enormous traffic jam right before the finish. The last tenth of a mile was jammed. Everyone was waiting to cross the finish line. Somehow the race staff and voluteers were not moving the crowd along fast enough. We ended up waiting about 5 or 6 minutes to finally cross the finish line and claim our hard earned medals.

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It was finally over! I actually made it without falling. We went inside Cobo Hall to get some post-race refreshments and meet up with my friend Jason from my running group. He also ran the 5k, but he ran solo. Jason, his wife, and I went to the Detroit Thanksgiving Day Parade but Jessica had to leave after the race.

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We hung out along Woodward Ave. and watched the parade, sharing our individual experience with that day’s race. After having a few beers, the parade was almost over so we went on our way.

What I learned…
Running backwards is tough! The next day the pain really set in. I haven’t hurt that bad since my first full marathon but I do not regret going into the event without training. It was an incredible experience and a load of fun. Maybe next year I’ll run the 10k backwards!

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On November 4, 2012 the 7th annual Bloomer Boogie 5k race was scheduled to take place. Each year it is held at Bloomer Park in Rochester Hills, MI. It’s a beautiful park that is perched atop a hill overlooking the Clinton River. The course is set on the mountain bike trails that snake up, down, and across the hill. I ran this race last year with my friend Gen. It was her very first race, so I ran with her to keep her motivated and have a little fun along the way. This year I decided to go back and run it solo. Although most of my races are spent running with friends and having as much fun as possible, I decided to go out there and give it all I’ve got. Even though I do a lot of races, I rarely enter them with a competitive spirit. This time it was different. I had been in somewhat of a funk over the past few weeks due to personal issues, and really needed something to give me a boost of confidence.

My brother was flying in very early that morning, and I needed to pick him up at the airport at 6AM. I only get to see him a couple of times each year since he lives in Santa Monica, CA. I was really happy to have him there for my race. He’s such an inspiration to me.

After picking him up at Detroit Metro Airport, we stopped for coffee and then headed to Bloomer Park. The day started with the temperature at a mere 34 degrees. Frost coated the ground, and there was a gentle breeze adding a slight chill to the already cold weather. I knew this race was a small event, hosting only 92 runners the prior year. I figured this year there would be about 100 runners or so, which gave me a great chance for my best overall finish ever. My previous best finish was 11th place overall, so I really wanted to make the top 10 for the first time.

Although I’m considered by my running friends to be a “fast” runner, the 5k distance was definitely not my specialty. I spent the entire spring and summer this year training for my first 50 mile ultramarathon, which I successfully completed back in September. So, literally all of my running over the past 6 or 7 months was focused on distance rather than speed.

As we lined up for the start, I couldn’t help but be a little bit nervous. I had somewhat high expectations for myself, and also wanted to make my brother proud. I started out very fast. After the first half mile, my running app on my phone (Strava Run for Android) announced my pace at 6:56. This made me even more nervous. Thoughts started to race thru my mind as jetted along. Did I start out too fast? How long would it take for me to die out? There’s no way I can keep this up. But I kept pushing.

After mile 1 I heard my next pace announcement of 7:07. I was elated to hear that, but with over 2 miles remaining anything could happen. By this time the runners were pretty spread out. I knew I was in a good position, but was only able to see one guy in front of me. I didn’t really pay attention at the start, so I really had no idea what my exact place was. The terrain in this section had a lot of small rolling hills and I could feel my lungs burning. I saw my brother at the first water station. He looked so proud, which gave me the motivation to keep blazing along.

A short time later I heard my 2 mile announcement at 7:12. I started to feel strong, almost unstoppable at this point. My doubts started to fade away and my confidence took a huge boost. With just over a mile remaining, I knew I had it in me to finish close to this pace. I started to get closer to the only other runner in sight. Either he was dying out, or my pace had gotten slightly faster. Either way, I felt great. There was a short section of the trail that widened out, so I saw that as a great opportunity to take his position.

Mile 3 at a 7:07 pace. I could feel the finish line getting close now. At this point the afterburners kicked in and I took off sprinting to the finish. As I crossed the finish, I was greeted by my brother and a race official holding a medal. She said “Great job! You were really flying!”.

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I found out that I placed 2nd in my division. This was only my second time placing 2nd, so that was a really big deal to me. I asked the race official if she knew what my overall place was, but she wasn’t sure. I would have to wait a little bit before the results were posted. My brother told me he thought I might have actually made the top 10, but I had to wait it out and see. I took this time to eat a couple of bananas and granola bars that were being served at the pavillion near the finish. My brother and I went to my car so we could warm up for a little bit. A few minutes later I could see a man taping sheets of paper up on a wall. I anxiously ran over to get my official time and place.

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As I approached the lists, my name stood out right away. I actually did it! I placed 7th overall. I almost couldn’t believe my eyes. I would have been extremely happy with 10th, but I exceeded my goal by quite a bit. This is exactly what I needed.

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PROs
*Beautiful course
*Small crowd, no traffic jams on the course
*Well-marked trail
*Very friendly, encouraging volunteers and race staff

CONs
*Little crowd support
*No photographers on course

The bottom line:
If you enjoy small events and beautiful fall scenery then this is a great race. Although this was a trail race, the course was fairly easy. No big ascents or descents.

Although I was not able to run the 2012 Detroit Free Press Marathon, I wanted to go to the race to cheer on all of the runners and hopefully meet up with some friends of mine who were running. My good friend Jason was running it with his wife Dawn, and our friend Mary. This was Dawn’s first attempt at running a full marathon. Jason and Mary were both battling injuries so I really wanted to be there to show my support for them.

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One month earlier, Jason and I were running the Akron Marathon and Jason would get completely pumped up whenever we ran past anyone ringing a cowbell. So, on my way to the race I stopped at a local music store to buy one. I told the clerk that I needed the biggest, loudest one they had. He set me up with a really nice (and very large) cowbell made by Pearl and some Vic Firth drumsticks. I figured even if I wasn’t able to find my friends, I would still enjoy cheering on the other runners and have some fun with my awesome new cowbell. Around 11am I arrived downtown. As I walked toward the race route, I could feel the excitement in the air. About 24,000 runners were participating in this year’s race. I weaved my way thru barricades and crowds to make it down to the Detroit River Walk near mile 23. I knew my friends were not quite there yet, so I walked the race route in reverse in hopes of finding them. A short while later, I crossed the Belle Isle Bridge to take in a great view of the city and continue my search.

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As I strolled along, I rang the cowbell and cheered for the passing runners. They greeted me with smiles, high fives, and the occasional thumbs up. I was loving it. My disappointment from not being able to do the race diminished and I was full of happiness. Although I have run many races, I never attended one as a spectator. I quickly learned that being on the sidelines was a ton of fun. Two guys ran past with Indian headdresses on and one of them called out my name. It was my friend Eddie and his buddy. After shaking his hand and wishing him good luck I continued on. Not even a quarter mile later I noticed a former running buddy of mine. This was also her first attempt at a full marathon. I trained her from the ground up, so I was very proud to see her out there running strong.

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Near mile 18 I finally ran into Jason, Dawn, and Mary. I was so happy to see them. Lucky for them, I had a some Blue Moon beer, pain cream, GU, and salt and vinegar potato chips. We had a beer together and then they were off. I walked back to the bridge to cross back over to the river walk. I ran into them again near mile 22 and they were at a very slow pace. Their pain was getting unbearable so I decided to tag along with them for a little bit to give them moral support and refreshments if they needed them. I was definitely not dressed to run, and I had a backpack and cooler that I was carrying, but none of that mattered. What mattered was my friends finishing this race safely.

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I decided to stick with them all the way to the finish. They battled thru all of the pain and completed the race. I was so proud of all of them, but especially Dawn for completing her first full marathon. It took me back to that race the year before where I did my first 26.2. The pride and sense of accomplishment I felt after crossing that finish line was unexplainable. I could see it in Dawns eyes. She did it. And, although she was in a tremendous amount of pain, she felt that amazing feeling of victory. The marathon is something that will change your life. Somehow, everyone who finishes comes out of it a stronger, more confident person. As I drove home that day and reflected on the event, I realized that I should attend more races as a spectator. It means a lot to a runner when people encourage them and cheer for them. Even if you have never met and will probably never see each other again, you can still make a diffence by simply encouraging them. I look forward to more events in the future where I can bring out the cowbell and lift people’s spirits.

Only 3 weeks after running my first ultra marathon, I ran the 2012 Akron Marathon with my good friend Jason. It was going to be a tough race right from the start. Both Jason and I were battling injuries, and neither of us should have been running. To top it off, I was also dealing with severe allergies the night before and I didn’t sleep at all.

The day started off a little chilly, as you would expect in late September. As the sun started to rise and the race began, fireworks took over the skies above us. I thought that was a really special and unique way to begin the marathon. Immediately after starting, Jason and I were both in pain. My foot had nerve damage, and he had an undiagnosed injury to his knee. When we run run marathons together, we aren’t concerned with our time. We are just out there to have a good time and complete the race.

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Even though Akron is not a very big city, it had a lot to offer. Our injured bodies shuffled thru downtown and we worked our way across a few bridges. We were able to take in views of the valley below as well as the city skyline in the background. Water stations were everywhere. Literally every mile or so. We really appreciated that, but not once during the race did anyone have any food. No oranges, no candy, nothing at all. We started build up some serious hunger by the half way point, so Jason decided to run into a gas station and buy some Lay’s salt and vinegar chips for us to snack on. Immediately, we became the center of attention. Spectators watched with puzzled looks on their faces and runners drooled in envy over us having chips during a race. Our tasty snack helped curb our appetites as we continued on.

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Just after mile 23 we met up with some really great people who were hanging out in front of their house watching the race. They gave us each a Michelob Lager, which really hit the spot. After slamming our beers and chatting for a while, we hit the road. With only 5k remaining, we decided to run a little faster. We pushed thru it even though the pain was really building. The race ended in Canal Park (Akron’s baseball stadium). As we came toward the finish line, the crowd cheered loudly. We were greeted with very nice finisher’s medals, an Akron Marathon running hat, and tons of refreshments. They had Michelob Ultra, TruMoo chocolate milk (my favorite), bananas, Powerbars, Oreo cookies, and potato chips. We finished the race in 5 hours 39 minutes and 39 seconds which was Jason’s personal record for a marathon. All in all, I really enjoyed the race. The only thing I would have changed was adding food to some of the aid stations.

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PROS
-Plenty of free parking very close to the start and finish of the race.
-The course was wide open. Very little crowding on the course.
-Great scenery along the way.
-Fireworks at the start of the race.
-Plenty of aid stations and medical stations.
-Great swag for participating. Brooks running jacket, Akron Marathon hat, really nice finisher’s medal.

CONS
-No food on the course.
-Lack of crowd support on Tow Path Trail.