by Doug Kurtis, Oct. 26, 2007
As a participant in the Detroit Free Press Flagstar Half Marathon I was able to get a bird’s eye view. When you’ve been running for almost forty years you get to know a lot of runners and meet a lot of new ones too. The recorder I carried on the run never went to pause as I listened to the sounds of the race and runners.
After parking near the Free Press building, my wife Ann and I stopped in Cobo Center to use the bathrooms. Lots of runners from the Island Road Runners were doing the same thing.
Walking to the starting line I struck up a conversation with Brodie Killian 28 of Dearborn, running his first marathon. Killian, a former U of Michigan football player, upon reading my column on chiropractic care began treatments to help get ready for the race.
Using my own advice, the first assignment was to drop my gear at baggage check. It was dark and runners were scurrying through the alleys, some of which were dead ends, to avoid the crowd of spectators on Washington.
Once mission one was accomplished, I hustled to get to my corral in time to hear that there was less than two minutes to go and “if you’re in the bathroom you’re in the wrong place”. Looking up on the stage were celebrity runners Dick Beardsley and Haile Gebrselassie lending their support. The enthusiasm of coach and author G.P. Perlberg had the crowd pumped and music blared as the countdown began and the horn sounded.
The flow onto Michigan Avenue seemed to go well with wonderful crowd support. I was caught by Downtown Runner Club member Katie Singer who was also doing the half after recovering from the heat of Chicago’s Marathon. We soaked up the sounds of upbeat bands in Mexican Town before I let her go.
My chiropractor Tom Gerou was chasing after his 24th Free Press Marathon finish as he passed me going by the Street Corner doo-wop group, all decked out in red suits. On Grand Boulevard I asked a women running in a skort if she would recommend it to other women. She gave it rave reviews for fit and femininity.
The sunrise on the Ambassador Bridge was everything I expected. Even better was running with Cheryl Halonen, 36 of Hartland. She was on a runner's high and announced her goal was to beat her husband’s best marathon time despite having her hands full raising nine kids from ages eleven months to sixteen years. (She finished in 3:28:20).
In Windsor, Ford Runners Club marathon runners Mike Webster and Bill Countney were pacing each other but seemed to be focused on finding a port-a-john that didn’t have a line. They passed me several times before we went our separate ways at the half split off. Former winner Ellis Willis was in her own world as I went by her on Riverside Drive.
Retired director of Detroit’s municipal parking, Ron Ruffin was racing with a few of his teammates from the Stone Steppers. If nothing else they looked cool in their blue and white uniforms.
I expected a crowd around me in the Tunnel but had plenty of space. It seemed much warmer than during my serious marathoning days. From its exit to Cobo Center, spectators packed Jefferson Avenue in support of the runners. It was very uplifting.
Running Fit co-owner Randy Step caught me with a few hundred yards to go. We’ve been friends for twenty five years and this was the first time we’ve ever finished together.
At the finish line former Michigander Andy Krafsur, co-founder of Spira shoes was ecstatic. The top five men and first two women were all wearing his bright yellow racing flats and had the company name emblazoned on their uniforms. His web site already shows Christopher Kiprotich and Anzhelika Averkova crossing the Free Press Flagstar winner’s tapes.
Organizers had to be pleased with the record number of participants, decent weather and few snafus at the finish area. It bodes well for the marathon’s future.