Ron Marinucci: September Column

Ron Marinucci:  September Column

by Ron Marinucci

It was “Hell!” Indeed it was, in more than one sense. After a two-year hiatus, the 30th Run Thru Hell returned on August 13. There were the same old races, the 10-mile for “runners” and the 4.8-mile for “weenies.” There were the same tough courses, hilly from start to finish. There was the same August humidity, although overcast skies spared runners the usual heat. There were the great tee shirts, “I Ran Thru Hell,” that attract notice wherever they are worn. And there was Harrison Hensley, directing traffic in and out of the porta-potties.

But there was an emptiness, too—Dolores Hensley. She and husband Harrison had put on the races through Hell for 29 years. But she died in June after a lengthy struggle with the effects of a stroke suffered in November 2008. The Run Thru Hell was brought back “In Loving Memory of Dolores Hensley.” It was a moving and fitting gesture to have this message printed on the race tees. Other well-deserved accolades were printed, too. And, after the races that day, a memorial mass was celebrated at nearby St. Mary’s Catholic Church.

The 10-mile had 543 finishers, while the shorter race drew 452—almost 1,000 participants!

Although the clouds kept the temperatures in the 70s, the humidity was pretty daunting. I was dripping by the first mile and I’d guess anyone not drenched by mile two wasn’t working very hard. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one running in squishy shoes at the finish.

Those seeking PRs on these courses need not register. A few weeks before Hell, in his e-mail newsletter, Stu Allen claimed runners could “subtract three to five minutes” from their Hell times to estimate how they’d finish at the Crim, not the easiest of 10-mile courses, either. I think and hope Stu is right! (He was! I was a little more than four minutes faster at the Crim.)

The difficult courses are signatures of Harrison Hensley. Back in the ‘80s or ‘90s, he advertised the Run Thru Hell on race flyers as “flat and fast.” I chuckled when he later told me, “That was for weenies and runners from Ohio.” It was in good humor as he has many running friends in the Buckeye State, including one who recently contacted me about getting in touch with Harrison after nearly three decades.

Right out of the box, runners get an indication of what to expect, if they’ve forgotten, from the courses. A short, but steep hill greets them about 100 yards from the start. Along the course, those hills continue, one after another, with a half a dozen or more real grinders. At Farmington’s Run for the Hills the next Saturday, John Tarkowski and Bruce Seguin echoed my thoughts on the grinders; they, too, had forgotten how hilly the 10-mile course is. Looking back, I think I did find a couple of flat stretches; maybe, I might have been hallucinating.

But the courses are great, as were the keeper tee shirts. My grandkids love them, the tees, that is. Wearing past “I Ran Thru Hell” tees have ignited conversations wherever I’ve worn them, from Las Vegas to Massachusetts, among nonrunners, too.

I’m glad I ran the race, as ill-prepared as I was. With my hill-training partner, blind runner Michael Holmes, nursing a serious injury, I’ve neglected any real hill work. Due to other commitments (and the long stretch of hot, humid weather here), my long runs haven’t been very long either. I think I ran 12 miles in Las Vegas in early July; that’s pretty much been it. I thought the loss of some weight, about 10-12 pounds from this time last year, would be enough to carry me to my goal. I was wrong, as I found out around mile 8. I was pleased with my effort, but not quite so with my time. But I relearned a lesson. To do my best, I must train hard and specifically. I hope I remember it.

After the success of last year’s Halloween Run Thru Hell to honor Dolores Hensley, that one will be continued on Sunday, October 30. Proceeds from the 5K and 10K races will again go toward a charity.

Speaking of special day/holiday runs, a bunch are right around the corner. Some of them are new. These races are among my favorites and I look forward to them each year. I’ve run all of the Light Fest 8K runs on Hines Drive in western Wayne County, held on the third Tuesday of November. It’s an evening race, with Hines Drive closed to traffic, so all of the Festival lights can be enjoyed in full splendor. Since 1987, I’ve missed only one Roseville Big Bird 10K. And I’ve enjoyed many of the Turkey Trots, Jingle Bell Runs, and other festive holiday races. You can find many of them at

A few have been drawn to my attention. Diehl’s Ciderfest 4 Mile is being held again near Holly on Saturday, September 24. It’s a good race on “scenic country roads,” very pretty, with a nifty stretch through the apple orchard. In keeping with seasonal traditions, runners are given “free apples and cider at the finish.”

Running Fit is presenting its first new race in two years, the “Run, Scream, Run,” on Saturday, October 22. The 10K, 5K, and 1 mile are billed as “Danger that will haunt you forever!” The races are at Wiard’s Orchard in Ypsilanti. “Costume” and “Zombie” divisions are included??????

Sunday, October 30 brings another new race, the Wicked Halloween Run. There are 5K and 10K races and a “Monster Mile.” The starts and finishes of the races are in Downtown Plymouth, at Kellogg Park. There are a costume contest and “candy stations” as well as fluid stations on the courses.

Again, for more information, Web sites, and other fun holiday races, check the calendar at

Let me vent! I’ve read a few letters-to-the-editor in the Detroit- and Oakland-area newspapers complaining about the Brooksie Way Half Marathon. It seems some Rochester and Rochester Hills residents don’t like the traffic situations the race causes. Oh, they can’t get out of their subdivisions. They can’t make it to church. (Heaven forbid they actually leave a little bit early to worship!) The waits are interminable. First, it’s not as if the race is pulled on them as a surprise on the morning of October 2. Plan ahead. Second, what about the community spirit, not to mention the extra money that will come into the area? How about coming out with your neighbors to cheer on the runners or maybe even volunteer? Follow the great example set by Flint residents who support the Crim, from start to finish lining the roads. Third, the Brooksie has contributed tens of thousands of dollars, likely far more than that, to local charities. Unless you grousers would prefer to donate an equivalent amount from your own pockets…. The wonderful effects of such an event are numerous, yet these people complain. There are things for reasonable people to complain about; the Brooksie isn’t one of them.