**Special Note** Many thanks to those of you who stopped by the MRG booth this past weekend and signed up for the new Michigan Runner Girl newsletter, to be delivered monthly via email. As promised, I picked one person from those who signed up to receive a FREE clothing item of their choice from the MRG Store. Chosen at random was … Shawna Gurgul. Congrats, Shawna! Please email me at michiganrunnergirl [at] gmail [dot] com to claim your prize!
Sitting down to write about a big race is sometimes as challenging as the run itself. Especially when there’s more than just the race — my third half-marathon of ’14 in this case — to talk about.
See, this past weekend was a big deal, not only because it involved running 13.1 miles (never a small feat) but also because it marked my entrance into the world of race expos. Meaning, I wasn’t just attending the pre-race expo as a runner, I actually was part of it. Michigan Runner Girl was among the vendors with booths at Saturday’s Detroit Women’s Half Marathon & 5K Expotique. The days leading up to the event found me anxious, excited, and a bit overwhelmed at times (my family somehow put up with my range of emotions, God love them.) Mostly, I just couldn’t wait to get down to Detroit and meet so many of you, my loyal and awesome MRG readers, and share the newest Michigan Runner Girl clothing items. I also was eager to connect with race organizers and my fellow vendors, all amazing people and runners who like me are melding their passion for this sport with their life’s work. I knew it would be an energizing atmosphere.
Of course I also couldn’t wait to spend time with my running partners Pam, Katie and Erin — girls’ weekend away! — and even better, this experience out of town would include my 14-year-old daughter Emma, who joined us at the booth and ultimately decided to run the 5K.
Emma and I drove down the night before the Expotique, spending time with family in the Dexter-Ann Arbor area after setting up the MRG booth in Cobo Hall.
My most favorite part of Saturday’s Expotique: talking with runners from throughout Michigan. I heard one inspiring story after another — tales of women running their first 5K ever or tackling a half-marathon for the first (or seventh) time; runners who have lost incredible amounts of weight through running; and women who are embarking on new, positive chapters in their life. I loved meeting women who follow this blog and the Facebook page — there’s nothing quite like meeting in real life! There were lots of hugs and smiles. I also met people who I hope become followers — I had so much fun sharing what MRG is all about and the exciting things I have planned.
What a treat to also spend time with Heather Quinlan, a regular MRG contributor who ran the half-marathon. Thanks so much, Heather, for helping at the booth! I loved having you there!
Emma and I enjoyed a walk along the riverfront and capturing this sunset view.
After Expo’ing all day, the five of us headed out to Greektown for dinner. We opted for deep-dish pizza at PizzaPapalis. Delicious. I also couldn’t resist having a couple of Detroit brews — Atwater Brewery’s Vanilla Java Porter is so, so good.
We spent Saturday night at the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center, which was the host hotel for the race. Shuttles were provided race morning from the hotel to the start on Belle Isle, though we chose to drive the three or so miles there (parking was easy and free on Belle Isle!). Stormy weather early on in the day cleared up as we made our way to Belle Isle, thank goodness.
Going into this weekend, I was thinking so much about the Expotique that I honestly couldn’t think too much about the race itself — I think this was a good thing. I feel strong fitness-wise these days, but I hadn’t exactly been following a half-marathon training plan closely. I knew I could run 13.1 — I’d run the trail half-marathon on Grand Island this summer, and I’d logged several double-digit Saturday runs over the past few weeks in addition to 2-3 consistent days of running throughout the week — but still I knew this wasn’t a race for PR’ing. In all honesty, I really just wanted to have a good time with friends and not push myself too hard.
Pam and I decided to run together, given our paces match each other well. Coming off an injury, Pam also wanted to take it fairly easy. We started in the middle of the pack, telling ourselves we’d prefer a slow and steady start followed by a strong finish. Maybe we’d even try for negative splits, if we were feeling it.
We stayed true to our plan and kept it nice and easy for the first several miles. We eventually picked up the pace a bit, but still kept it reigned in.
The half-marathon course is 2.5 times around Belle Isle, offering scenic views of the Detroit River and the city skyline as well as the island itself — this was the first time I’d ever run Belle Isle, and I had no idea how pretty it was! We passed a marina, inland lakes, lush parkland…it truly was a great course, and pretty flat to boot.
But oh, the wind. As great as a tailwind can be, a headwind that’s strong and whipping you in your face multiple times (thanks to the double-looped course) is not easy in the least. More than once I thought to myself (and said aloud to Pam), whoa, that wind is something else! By the second loop, as we reached miles 7, 8, 9, 10 … the wind in our face left me feeling more tired than I imagined I’d feel. Still, we pressed on, stopping briefly at aid stations to take in water. We both even took a mini Three Musketeers bar offered by a young spectator, though chocolate provided toward the end of the race didn’t sound quite as appealing. Other spectator highlights: young kids offering high fives and live music at a couple of spots (we all agreed the guy on drums was awesome.)
With about 5K to go, we decided we should try for a sub-2 hour finish. We could do this, we could crank it up and finish strong, right? Pam seemed more confident than me — part of me just wanted to keep it nice and easy — but with her by my side, I decided yes, let’s do this. I did want to finish strong and feel good.
We pushed the pace, knowing we had less than a half hour to go. You can do anything for 30 minutes…for 24 minutes…for 16 minutes…right? Rounding a corner and heading toward the finish, Emma surprises us and meets us on the course. She’s all smiles and I’m immediately boosted seeing her there. “You’re almost done!” she told us. I noticed she was wearing her finisher’s medal and she had something else — a Detroit “D” medal holder she’d won for coming in first in her age group. I was so happy to see her, to hear about her race, and she ran alongside us for a few moments before breaking away and telling us she’d see us at the finish.
A few little turns and we’d almost made it to the finishing chute. We both pushed a little harder — my lungs and legs were burning at this point — and Pam reached over to grab my hand as we finished together. Crossing that finish line felt so, so good, and even better with such a great friend by my side. We made our goal, too — just shy of two hours with a 1:59 finish time!
After catching our breath, meeting up with Katie (she’s in her second trimester and ran such a strong race!), and grabbing water and food (loved the bags provided for our bananas and other snacks!), we went in search of Erin, who would be finishing soon.
We find her near the end — she’s wearing pink in this picture below. Go, Erin, Go!
Did you run the Detroit Women’s Half Marathon & 5K? How’d it go for you?