Friday, June 7, 2013

What to Expect at the Ann Arbor Marathon

The Ann Arbor Marathon is this weekend. I loved the event, and I am a bit sad that I won’t be there. I have ran the event as many times as anyone. Nobody has ran it more than me. (It’s only occurred once) so I will call myself the expert. If you are interested in what to expect this year, or any year (and by the blog searches landing here, I think that you are) here's what awaits you:

First of all, some important intangibles of this event: The ghost of Iggy Pop will run alongside of you. Bob Seger songs will pay in your ears. You’ll hear the Icky-thumps of The White Stripes, and you just may hear some Lynard Skynard licks from Kid Rock.  Legendary lectures of University of Michigan professor's like Ralph Williams will also be echoing in the air, and you may see the specter of my previous drunken self wandering home from the bar.

Besides that, the tangibles:
 If you go to the Expo, don’t judge. It was pretty terrible last year. It was in a mall.  I can’t think of many more worse places to have an expo than a mall. Maybe a Hookah smoke shop or a cigar bar. Also, I went there expecting body glide, but found none, so had to hit Running Fit on the way home. 

To get there on race day, I took I-94 and came from the south down Main Street and parked at Pioneer high school. There could be better ways, but this way was great. If I remember right, they charge 5 bucks or something to park there, but Michigan game day they charge like 50. 

When you walk up to the start, it has all the majesty of a football Saturday. The big dome of the stadium looms, anticipation is everywhere, and unlike football Saturday, you will be the athlete for the next 3-4 hours.  When they play Hail to The Victors, your blood will turn blue, and in fact, your pee and feces will turn blue, should you happen to be late to the race and in the porta-potty at that moment.

The lines for the portapotty at the start were terrible. Find a starbucks or a burning bush and pee there.

Downhill start!! Whooopy!  The first mile is perhaps the funnest. You will run through downtown Ann Arbor in the still of the morning, and it all feels like a movie backdrop. No cars, no pedestrians, just you, your shoes, and a few thousand others.  This part was too short, I would be happy to do this part twice, but alas, you have miles to go before you sleep, and you run on.

Before you know it, you are off to Geddes.  Then they will start to hit you. Hills, hills, and hills. They will pound your hamstrings and your thighs, and this is near the start, so be careful.  There is also some Out and Backs here along Huron Parkway that may put you to sleep. In fact, if you look at the ground as you run by, you will see written in chalk  “You are running this section because we needed to find a way to make the course 26.2, not because it is interesting.”
Still, did I mention I love the course?

Pretty soon you are running by the University of Michigan hospital. These are no longer hills, these are mountains. But the trip through the Arb on some trails and then in and out of Gallup park will refresh your legs and your spirit. Soak in the air. It is freshly oxygenated from the green leaves nearby, and has super powers. I promise.

Up and down State street is a great part of the course. You’re back to school like Rodney Dangerfield ready to do the Triple Lindy, and to Rage, Rage against the Dying of the Light. By this time, the pace groups who had high hopes at the start will have lost their members. You’ll see little signs with finishing times in the air;  3:15, 3:30, 3:45, and they will be bouncing up and down, but with nobody following. The runners were all picked off, one by one, by evil demon clowns laughing at their heels. The clowns are actually the hills and some June heat, but they are clowns nonetheless.

The loop around Briarwood is one of the more maligned parts of the course, but I loved it. I think I am the only one. It’s at this point you have a good idea of what your marathon is about, and most importantly, IT’s FLAT!!!. Oh that will feel like heaven.  Take the loop around the mall like you are a space shuttle doing a slingshot around the moon, and shoot onward to the finish.

They took out the main street, Michigan Stadium hill at this point, (lucky you!)  but in some alternative universe version of this race, you are finishing inside Michigan Stadium. As it is, you are finishing at Elbel field, a practice field, but I love ending a marathon running on new surface. I have finished on the grass of Tiger Stadium, the turf of Ford Field, and of course the surface of a high school track, and there's something special about the running on a new surface at the end. Even if it's just 50 yards, after you run 26 miles, to get to that last .2 and feel a sense of 'ahhhhh' at your feet is divine.  You'll still get that here in Ann Arbor. And last year there was pizza, and plenty of it.  

Enjoy yourself, and know that my spirit is running along side of you. No longer my drunken self, but my sober, running self.

**If you want to know what to expect on a dark run along the San Diego/Tijuana border, Check out my novel: On the Lips of Children on Amazon **


Anonymous said...

Great post! I recently started blogging, and hope to provide good info on races such as this one. Good luck to all those running this weekend!

Ty @tyruns.blogspot said...

If I was a more energetic and peppy type person, I would make an event out of spectating this one, since it comes within spitting distance of my house. (Okay, more like throwing distance, for a good QB) . Every time I try to cheer at a race I just feel stupid though.

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