The 2006 Detroit Free Press Marathon was not quite what I expected. After 3 1/2 months of training I was excited to see what I could do over the entire 26.2!
I woke up at 5:30 and grabbed the gear I laid out the night before. The forecast called for 35 degree temps and I didn't know what I was going to want to wear, so I grabbed running pants, a couple shirts, a running jacket, and a pullover. In addition, I brought my iPod, a hat, and running gloves - everything I might need.
I had nervous energy as I arrived and anxiously drove from parking lot to parking lot until I found an open one. Along the way I checked out what other runners were wearing to see what I should wear. I found a parking spot and settled on what I would wear to the start line. Long running pants, with shorts under in case I changed my mind. I wore an Under Armour long sleeve with a Nike running shirt over it. I chose a baseball hat and grabbed a garbage bag to wear until we started so I wouldn't get cold.
I jogged/walked the few blocks to the start line and proceeded to get into the back of the line since I wasn't familiar with the setup. I was planning to run 3:50 so I waded through the different corals until I got to 'D'. I decided to lose the pants and made small talk with another runner until we started.
I ran all my long runs at an 8:50 to 9:00 pace so I decided to start at that speed. The first few miles we weaved through Cork Town and Mexican Town, saw a few bands and basically just tried to zone out. I kept the pace group within sight, and made sure to take water at every station. Mile 4-5 was over the Ambassador bridge into Canada. I took a moment to enjoy the view - which is pretty nice early in the a.m.
The route ran along the river, through Windsor to the tunnel, then through the tunnel. As I ran through the U.S. customs agent booths I yelled "U.S." in response to the question "What is your citizenship" they normally ask at that booth. I heard one person chuckle, which made me feel pretty good.
Once in the U.S. I had to take a health break and finally found one behind a tree (I bet this mile would be slow) - and it was - but overall I was still on pace. We wound our way through Detroit for miles 9 - 14. I didn't feel as strong as I normally do, but I continued to stay on pace.
I struggled a bit with miles 15-18. I was losing energy and was glad to see the GU station (mental note to bring my own next time). However, the wind picked up and really got strong on Belle Isle. I tried striking up another conversation with someone I had been keeping pace with, but quickly realized I couldn't maintain - something was not right. It felt like I was running - but not moving! 2 1/2 miles or so on the island and 2 felt like they were into the wind. Coming off the island the 30+ mph winds hit me like a wall - which also happened to be mile 20. Over the next 1 1/2 miles my vision went blurry, and my legs were so tight I could barely lift them. I stopped to stretch which helped me make it 1 mile at a time, but I pretty much suffered the final 6 miles.
I reset my race goal before mile 15, knowing the pace group was far ahead by then and reset it to 4 hrs. By mile 24, I had to give that up too - to just finish - which I did in 4:04.
Overall, I believe I would have enjoyed it more if I wasn't so focused on time. I came away more determined to train better for the next marathon, and focus more on enjoying the experience. However, I definitely am glad to have finished, and thankful for having the ability to complete one - it's great to be alive.