2013’s last halves: Detroit Free Press (October 19) and Meridian Mississippi Leo Run to Remember (November 16)

26 12 2013

The injury that started with a too-long and too-fast 10-miler in July dragged on for well over two months.  I took it easy the first month and hoped it would get better.  When it did not, I pulled out all the stops and began treatment with first rest, then rehab exercises, night splinting and home ultrasound.  By early October, I was able to walk a mile without pain.  I started from scratch back to running, slowly adding 10% per week of distance and stretching like someone was paying me for it.  I had already registered for three half-marathons in the fall and did not intend to miss them, even if I had to walk instead of run.

By October 19, when it was time to drive north for the Detroit Free Press International Half, I was up to 3 miles of running.  I figured I’d run 3 and walk 10  —  anything, just to be doing the race  —  no matter how many hours it took, as long as I finished.

detroit freep lineup at start It was a surprisingly cold day with a strong wind when I lined up in the dark with approximately 23,000 of my closest friends and running companions.  I didn’t bring enough clothing and my teeth were literally chattering.  Any runner who has ever been injured knows the thrill of finally being “back”.   But even the excitement of the first race after 3 months off couldn’t cut through that weather.  We started out and soon the really quick people were casting off clothing.  I saw a girl in front of me pick up a pair of gloves from the ground and so I did the same thing.  A couple of blocks later, I donned a discarded  windbreaker too.  I needed them.  Honestly, I was so conscious of the cold and of every little twinge possibly coming from my Achilles tendon, I don’t remember much else about the race.

detroit bridgeBy the the time we hit the International Bridge and ran into Canada there was no longer anything blocking the wind, and it was a bitch.   I’d never run from one country to another before so it was pretty exciting and the day was beginning to warm a bit. We spent a few miles on the Canadian side and it was a very pleasant little jaunt.  We came back below ground through the underwater tunnel which marked another “first” for me.  I’d never run underwater before!  In contrast to the chill on the surface, it was really hot  and humid down in the tunnel.

detroit freep half coursemapI ran most of the 3 miles to Canada, did a lot of run/walk intervals the next 3 miles in Canada and then walked pretty much all of the final 7 back on the Detroit side.  Even with the cold weather and my constant vigilance about the injury, I did enjoy the race and would recommend it to anyone seeking a unique experience running to another country and back on a fairly flat, well-appointed course with a lot of amenities.  Yes, it was a “big city race” with crowds and parking issues, congestion and blocked streets, all the typical complaints Chicago people have about races in our hometown, but it was quite a bit of fun and a great way to convince myself I was indeed healed from my latest bout with rotten old Achilles tendonitis.  It is a race I would definitely consider doing again (once all 50 states are off my bucket list).

A month later, I flew down to Meridian, Mississippi, for the second annual Leo Run to Remember Marathon and Half which benefited the Alzheimer’s Association and was sponsored by the Leo branch of the Lions Club.  That race was pretty much the polar opposite of Detroit:  small, poorly-supported and hillier than I’ve ever seen, but the weather was nice and I enjoyed the overcoming the challenge of the course elevation.  In a brief race report I wrote the day afterward on the Facebook page for one of my running groups, I said:

  •  “A nice “little” race, the second annual, put on by an enthusiastic group of people for the Alzheimer’s Association. The 1/2-M course started at a softball field and wound along a state highway and through some neighborhoods. It was a very hilly course and some were unbelievably brutal (a fact I wish I’d known ahead) but otherwise the scenery was gorgeous. The course as well marked and there were adequate water stops about every 2 miles. Porta-potties were only at Miles 2 and 8.5 of the half. I saw runners using local businesses to “do their business” and I went into an urgent care center to do mine when I couldn’t hold it any more by Mile 6 or so. Nice tech shirts and medals were provided but there was no refreshment at the finish line (not even water nevermind the bagels or bananas). The weather down here is nice in mid-November, misty and 70ish, so it is a good choice for a late fall race. It is Meridian’s only marathon and brand new. I think the amenities will be better as they continue doing races and figure out what runners expect/need. For 50-staters or people who like to travel to do tough courses, I’d recommend this one. For people who like a well-appointed race or a flat course, keep looking. If I’d known ahead what it was like, I’d probably have chosen otherwise myself but I’m glad I did it. Being pushed and challenged but finishing with a smile is what makes us all better runners. Choosing the easy course keeps us rooted where we are.”

By that race, I’d gotten my running up to 5 miles straight and so I ran the first 5 and did run/walk intervals (with a lot of walking) for the final eight.  Like I said in my little review above, the course is TOUGH.  Even the races’s own Facebook page states the hills of Meridian are brutal and I couldn’t agree more.  But each one showed me how gutsy and strong I am and I AM glad I did it.

me in a raceA photographer on the course caught me unawares and took a photo that showed up in the proofs package which inspired me to make my very own meme.   LOL

I do believe they will add more amenities as they go along and in future years there will be enough porta potties, free bananas at the finish, and many of the other staples we runners have come to expect as a given.  I like smaller races and earnest people, so I hope they do succeed in Meridian.

And that’s pretty much it for half-marathons in 2013.  I had signed up to run at the St. Jude’s Memphis Marathon Weekend but the entire weekend was cancelled due to an ice storm and I ended up concluding the year’s running with a couple of small local races right around Thanksgiving.

And injury rehab continues.