Ron Marinucci - November Column

Ron Marinucci - November Column

Provided by

Bygone races…… I know I’ve written about them in the past, maybe five or six years ago. Two recent happenings led me to think about some of them anew.

Several weeks ago, as she periodically does, Karen asked me to “clean out the loft,” which serves as an office of sorts for me. As I was going through some folders and books, I came across a loose-leaf binder I hadn’t seen in quite a while, years in fact. Once upon a time it served as my race journal. I remember that Doug Kurtis told me he called his similar journal a “runography,” a catchy term I think.

And then, Grandson Michael and I were driving down I-696 with running buddy Bob Drapal. We were headed to “Pizza Night” with our blind running friend, Michael Holmes, and his two other guide runners, Dave Vanker and Mike Rollason. Bob asked, “Do you remember ‘Run the Reuther?’” I-696 is named the “Walter P. Reuther Freeway” and indeed I do remember it.

I’ve been running since 1975, racing since 1986, and writing about it since 1987. I don’t live in the past or even dwell on it much; there’s far too much going on now! But it is fun to occasionally reminisce. And that’s what these two episodes led me to do, to reminisce and remember some happy running times.

The Run the Reuther race that Bob questioned was in 1989. It was a 5K and very unique. Somehow Motor City Striders president Ed Kozloff managed to get permission to hold the 5K on the freeway, the day before it opened to vehicular traffic. I guess it won’t be held again? Bob recalled the handouts at the race, boxes of Prince spaghetti and macaroni. I remembered that the race was delayed about 45 minutes, maybe an hour. Far more runners showed up than Kozloff ever imagined.

My race journal, which I stopped keeping for some unknown reason about 15 years ago, brought back other memories, some a bit hazy. It showed that I’ve run every Roseville Big Bird 10K but one since 1989. That one I missed due to an out-of-town family wedding. Does it count in keeping the string alive that I found and ran a race in New York that weekend? And this year, I also remembered, will be Darrell McKee’s 37th Big Bird, all of them!

And, unless I miscounted in the past 15 years, I’ve finished 20 Crims. McKee, again, has run each of them since it was begun in 1977.

But what attracted my attention most were races that are no longer held. At least I think they are no longer held.

There were a few of those now defunct races in which I ran every one. One was the Huron Valley Hospital Run, beginning in 1986. It lasted ten years. Initially it was a late spring race. In 1988, I believe, race day temperatures soared to 105 degrees, 98 at race start! The next year it was moved to the cooler temperatures of autumn and renamed the Fall Fitness Frenzy.

There were only a couple of Docs ‘n’ Jocks races, too. It was a four-mile event, held at the Pontiac Silverdome. It was co-sponsored by the Detroit Lions and Oakland County Medical Association. One year, Lion’s receiver Herman Moore presented awards, along with his wife, Angela; she ran the race, too. The other year was also special for me. My son Matt ran and won an age-group award. The presenter that year was the Medical Association president, Dr. Stanley Dorfman. When he called Matt up to receive his plaque, he proudly announced, “…and I delivered Matt about 11 years ago!” Cool.

I also ran every Ultimate Pontiac. OK, there was just one of them, in 1995. I set a PR there, too, but only because race director Randy Bulla had a unique race distance, 12K.

My journal shows several years that I ran the Somerset Runs in Troy and River Rouge RUnner (“RU” for Redford Union High School, using the race as a fund raiser). Each of these had two races, 5Ks and a 10K (Somerset, in Troy) and 5 Mile (Redford). They were held so that runners could enter and race both distances if they chose—and I did.

Apparently in my younger days I raced far more often than I do today, sometimes two or three weekend days a month. In the late ‘80s, I ran back-to-back Saturday races that I recall fondly. The Mad Anthony Wayne 10K was held at Wayne State University and had a keeper tee shirt. The shirt had a picture of Mad Anthony Wayne on it! The other back-to-back race was the Harvest 10K in Dearborn. This one was the first race I ever covered for Michigan Runner (1988) and was held within a couple of miles of my boyhood home.

Other keeper tee shirts, which I still have from 1988, came from the Luther Run at Concordia College in Ann Arbor and Brighton Summer Fun Run. The Luther tee sports a running and heavily perspiring caricature of Martin Luther; at least I’ve always thought it was him. The Brighton shirt has a map of the race on it, complete with a railroad track crossing. I could have used it during the race because my journal noted that I “got lost” while running. Hmmm……

I don’t know if the Livonia Family YMCA St. Pat’s Day runs are still held, but I don’t think so. It was wonderful family fun. All of us, Karen, Mike, Matt, and I, ran the 5K and then settled down to, ahem, replenish our carbohydrate stores with the all-you-can-eat pancake and sausage breakfast.

I’m also not sure the Cranbook Run is in existence. But it was Karen’s first race, picked because I thought the beautiful Cranbrook grounds would make it a memorable inauguration to racing. It was “memorable” all right, as Karen still occasionally reminds me. She doesn’t remember the scenery much, but certainly does the many hills, oh, and that the tee shirt had a camel on it. That the camel is part of the school’s heritage doesn’t seem to matter.

One of my training runs for the 1992 Boston Marathon was the Fenton Winter Run, a 20-miler hosted by Mike Middleton. I woke race morning to freshly fallen snow, about 9” of the white stuff according to my journal. But I drove all the way up to Fenton to run—and so did several hundred others. Middleton said the show must go on. The local police officer sent for traffic control (Right, there wasn’t any in 9” of snow.) remarked, his exact words, “You guys are crazy!” Yep, we were and are. I remember veteran runner Dave Armstrong telling me afterward that our efforts that morning would be greater than those in the marathon to come. I think he was right.

Do the Riverbend Striders still hold the Summer Evening Series of races? John and Ann Gault put on 5Ks and a 5-mile or two in Flint, Swartz Creek, Clio, Flushing, and Mt. Morris, I think. Results from individual races were tallied and awards were given to overall winners. And those who completed all four or five races received a special polo shirt. What I remember most, thanks to my journal, is setting PRs one summer in race after race, even running under 6 minutes a mile pace for the first time—and usually not finishing in the top 5 or 6 in my age-group. Those Flint-area runners were fast!

I also came across the first two competitive races my boys ran. Mike finished the Midsummer’s Night 5K in Novi in 1989. After the race as he and Dad shared race stories and refreshments, a woman runner came up to thank Mike. She said that he helped her to finish, running by her side and offering encouragement the whole way. Matt ran the Novi Run for the Health of It 8K a few years later. I finished the race and trotted back out on the course to find and finish with him. I began to worry as he couldn’t be found. Oh-oh! I couldn’t find him because he finished practically on my tail and was already off the course by the time I turned around.

My sole Scotty Hanton Marathon in Port Huron was brutal, easily my most dreadful, uncomfortable race. It was a hot (My journal claims “80+ degrees) August Saturday. I discovered that “wall” marathoners talk about. Up to mile 22 I recall, I was running with another guy, both of us quite comfortable. I began to drag and told him to go on ahead, we’d meet at the finish. I never did find him, although I found his finish time. We were together with four miles to go. His time for the marathon was 2:50-something, while I struggled in at 3:17 and change. If there had been a bus on the route, I’d have caught it. Karen reminds me of how unpleasant I was to well-wishers at the finish line. Hmmm……

The Williamston Half Marathon lasted quite a while, but, alas, is no longer. It was always a couple of weeks after the Free Press Marathon, a good way to use that last of the marathon training. What a contrast to the urban marathon! Williamston was run, if I recall correctly, on roads mostly surrounded by corn fields. After the race, soup was served. Cool.

I always enjoyed the Briarwoods Run in Ann Arbor. There were several distances and, although they started and ended at the mall, they were mostly run in the countryside. In 1994, my journal tells me I ran maybe, mile for mile, my best run ever. And, it is noted, that was in a “driving rain that turned to sleet.”

There are so many others in my journal, too many to recount. The West Bloomfield Half Marathon and Chai Run, also in West Bloomfield, were my first two races, 13.1 and 18 miles! There were the Back-to-Birmingham, Ferndale Foot Frolic, Holly’s Carrie Nation, Novi-Providence Run, the Run for Hospice and St. John’s Apple Fest in Fenton, Waterford’s Rainbow Run, and many others, including what seems like myriad holiday races. Are they all really bygone?

I should thank Karen and Bob for helping to take me back down memory lane. What now long-gone races do you remember?