Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Detroit Free Press International Half Marathon race report

Getting to the start line was the hardest part. So I was just happy to be able to run in state #37: Michigan.

The day was dry, but bitterly cold. I knew that chances were good that I'd be walking more than running, so I bundled up: thermal tights, a short-sleeved top, a long-sleeved thermal top, my insulated running vest, and my waterproof running jacket, plus gloves and a hat. Oh, and my race belt with my PASSPORT inside!

We headed down to the starting corrals, noticing that everyone was huddled against buildings rather than standing in the windy corrals. Luckily we only had about 20 minutes to wait before the first corral set off. The corrals were well labeled and neatly divided; there didn't seem to be the corral shifting you often see in races. At 6:45 the Canadian and American national anthems were sung, and the wheelers were sent off at 6:58. The start was really well organized, with countdowns and the corrals moving forward on schedule.

Then it was our turn -- and because the corrals were well managed, we weren't crowded, even at the very beginning. Nice job, race organizers!

We started off with a straight shot toward the Ambassador Bridge. Not a lot of support on the course -- hey, it was early, dark, and 36 degrees out. We turned in toward the immigration plaza and ran through a few dozen US border patrol agents, dotted around and across the route. They kept repeating "WE NEED TO SEE YOUR BIBS", which meant I was looking down and adjusting my jacket so make sure my bib was visible and I ended up colliding and then sliding across the front of an agent. Yeah, smooth. 

It seemed a little haphazard; though we had read that you wouldn't be allowed to bring a backpack into Canada (unsurprisingly), we saw some people get their bags confiscated, while others ran through without being stopped. Of course, the real question is -- WHO RUNS WITH A BACKPACK?!?!

Then we corkscrewed up and onto the bridge. Now, you know I love a good bridge!

Seriously, this is a good looking bridge... and IT STRETCHES BETWEEN TWO COUNTRIES!!!

We had 2 of the 4 lanes of the bridge to run on, with a "buffer" lane monitored by bridge staff, and then a lane where traffic was alternating and slowly moving across.

From the bridge we could get a nice view of Detroit:

and the lovely parklike town of Windsor, Ontario as we crossed the river. Hello, Canada!

Eventually we looped off the bridge, welcomed by super friendly, high-fiving Canadian border guards, who were keeping up a constant chatter with the runners via megaphone. Oh, Canada. 

The route along the river on the Canadian side was nice and quiet, with a park on one side and sweet, modest houses on the other. Too soon it was time to return to the US, passing another Canadian checkpoint, more high fives, and then down into the tunnel.

I expected the tunnel to be bigger, somehow -- just two lanes? It was hot and humid, but we ran our underwater mile...

Okay, we stopped to take this picture:

Coming back out of the tunnel there was another gauntlet of US border agents ... at least a few of them were smiling, saying welcome back, and a couple were even HIGH FIVING!!!

Then more running, running, running. Okay, a lot of walking. But that's okay. We just kept on keeping on. Hey, I didn't realize how many Stanley Cups the Red Wings have won:

The last miles just slowly ticked by, then we turned into the home stretch, held hands, and ran across the finish line. 

As with everything at this race, the organization was top notch. Good signage meant no half marathoners missed the turn. (Big props to the marathoners who had to essentially pass the half marathon finish line and then go on and run another 13.1 miles!) Medal distribution was fast, and we were handed a bag of snacks rather than the weird "buffet style" that moves so slowly. 

Great things about this race:
- Excellent communication before the race
- Nice merch at the expo
- Nice layout at the expo
- Good swag in the bag: nice shirt, custom "buff", temporary tattoo, sticker, and a bag of Haribo
- Great corral management
- Unique course
- Plenty of signage / mile markers
- Plenty of well-organized water stops
- Handsome medal
- Free race photos!

I honestly can't think of anything I would change about this race -- this is going to go down as one of my all-time favorites. 

Post Race: We headed back to the hotel, had HOT SHOWERS, got changed, checked out, and wandered around Detroit checking out the sights. And then we had a smooth flight home. Phew!

KAWS' "Waiting" statue

Aretha Franklin Way

Tokens for the People Mover

Waiting for the People Mover

fist bumping with the Joe Louis monument

Wil taking one on the chin from Joe Louis

the Fist

the Spirit of Detroit

Shroom Burger and Cheese Fries at SHAKE SHACK
Thank you Detroit, and that's State #37 in the bag!


  1. Sounds like a great race! Nice and flat.

    1. Interesting that they have an US-only half route. I guess for those that aren't allowed into Canada. I heard on the news that 2 marathoners were married along the route.

    2. The US-only half starts later than the main race -- it's essentially the last half of the full -- a good way to add a few more runners to an event when you're already closing off the streets!