Run Thru Hell Recap - Ron Marinucci

Run Thru Hell Recap - Ron Marinucci

Run Thru Hell Recap - Ron Marinucci

August 9, 2008

Yesterday, I ran through Hell—literally and figuratively. And, I was joined by about 2000 other sinners, er, runners.

Each August, ten-mile and 4.8-mile races are held in, well, Hell. Most Michiganders know that Hell is a tiny community (emphasis on “tiny”) about 15 miles northwest of Ann Arbor. (Michigan also has a Paradise, in the Upper Peninsula.)

In Hell, at about the three-mile mark, is the Dam Site Inn, whose food, I heard a couple of Ohio runners claim, is “pretty good.” The town’s leading citizen, as one might have guessed, is Old Beelzebub and there he was, ever indentifiable, urging runners on a few miles into the races. I guess that’s the literal part.

Figuratively, the ten-mile race, for me at least, was hell, as spelled “h-i-l-l-s.” Consider first, that the day was an ideal Michigan August morning—sunny skies and temperatures in the 50s and 60s, with low humidity, all unusual for Hell. But the hills….

This was not my first Run Thru Hell, hardly. I have a pink race tee shirt and a sort of day-glo yellow and a red and…. So, the hills shouldn’t have come as any surprise. Throughout the race, I kept trying to rank the hills according to their difficulty. I couldn’t do it. There were different ones—long sloping hills, sharp steep hills, hills strategically placed. (I’ve always thought that race director Harrison Hensley is a sadist.) Just when I’d tell myself, “Whew! That one was the toughest,” along came a new “toughest hill,” followed by my newer “toughest.” I lost count, but three were about ten killers on the ten-mile course. The first, a short, but nasty one, came about 100 yards out of the chute. Once it leveled out some, about 25 yards later, a new monster appeared. And their bigger, meaner brothers were waiting for us farther on the course. I haven’t been that tired or beaten up in a long time. I enjoyed it thoroughly!

Of the 2000 runners, a handful more ran the 4.8 than the longer race. Maybe they perceived it as a somewhat easier way to get their coveted tee shirts. I wonder how many runners come just for the tees. I know way back, about 20 years ago, I did. And, a few years ago, I started running the race again after about a 10-year hiatus, just to get an updated tee shirt. “I Ran Thru Hell,” they proclaim. In Boston, Las Vegas, and New York City, my shirt has generated comments and questions from passersby. Mike Anderson, a top-flight University of Dayton runner, told me quite a few Ohioans have asked him, “Is there really a Hell in Michigan?” and “Is there really a race there?” Yep, and the tee shirts prove it.

Now, those who look at the tee shirts closely will see “Runner 10” and “4.8 Weenie.” But I don’t think so. The shorter run is no stroll through the neighborhood.; it’s tough. And, several veteran runners attested to that afterward.

During the race, I wondered if anyone would break an hour. Ugh. Of course, I think I knew someone would, but not many. Imagine my astonishment—and it was astonishing to me—to discover that Jordan Desilets, past Eastern Michigan University standout, finished first in 52:26. 52:26! I saw his hometown listed as nearby Pinckney and immediately thought, “Does he know some shortcuts?” Nah, the races were chip-timed. In fact, almost 40 runners bested an hour.

John Tarkowski ran 1:03:35—at 55-years old! Hey, that’s my age-group. He was probably tooling down US-23 while I was crossing the finish line. And check out Peter Polidori. The 70-year old finished in 1:14:39. Seventy-three year old Brian Harris posted 1:16:50. Over the last half of the course, I’d catch him, barely, on the uphills. Then, on the downs and straightaways, he pulled ahead. After the turn at mile 9, I never saw him again. There were other impressive times, too. Check them out at RMDC.

I can’t wait for next year’s Run Thru Hell. One, as difficult as it is, the challenging course is alluring. Two, I enter a new age-group (are runners the only folks who look forward to getting older?). Three, maybe the color of the race tee shirts won’t be pink or day-glo yellow or red—Karen says, “Those aren’t your colors.”

If you’ve never run through Hell, consider marking it on your calendar for 2009. Join the 2000 others who know a running gem when they find one.

Ron Marinucci can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]

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