Ron Marinucci October, 2019 Column: Livonia runners covers entire city on foot

Ron Marinucci October, 2019 Column: Livonia runners covers entire city on foot

“If you live in Livonia, I ran in front of your house.  If you work In Livonia, I ran in front of your office or factory.”  It’s almost certain nobody can make that claim, nobody, that is, except Mike Silvio.

Running more than 2,000 miles in the almost 36-square mile city, Silvio finished his quest in July.  “I can’t really recall when I started this,” he said, “maybe 2013 or 2014.” It began “on a whim” when he one day drove past the city hall and stopped to pick up a map of the city.  That launched the adventure.

Silvio, his wife of 21 years Dawn, daughter (now a student at the University of Michigan), and son (a senior at Livonia Stevenson High School) have resided in Livonia for fifteen years.  But with his supply chain responsibilities with a technology firm, “I split my time between my home [Livonia] and Akron, Ohio.” He’s also an adjunct faculty member in the Mike Ilitch School of Business at Wayne State University.

He began running during the recession that hit Michigan a dozen or so years ago.  “We all had pay cuts,” he recalled. “I gave up my two golf leagues and bought a new pair of running shoes.”  He added, “I was diabetic and knew I needed to make major changes in my life.” He also joined the 501 Running Club, coached by Suzy Stock and Doug Goodhue.  From the club, “I surrounded myself with great people who became close friends. I was hooked.”

“I like having long-term goals that I can pick up whenever I need something to motivate me,” he related.  “I was running the same four and five mile loops every day and wanted to make it interesting and give me a reason to get out the door when I didn’t want to run.”  He admitted that his supply chain job plays a role in this. “My brain is wired to follow a process and track data.”

Silvio tries “to run four to six days per week when healthy.  Injuries do have a way of slowing one down from time to time.”  He likes to get between 45 and 55 miles weekly, with top long runs of sixteen or eighteen miles, but “no longer runs 20s because I think the risk of injury is greater than the training benefits from the extra two or three miles.” 

During the winter he cuts mileage.  “I spend a week in Ohio. The area does not have many sidewalks or cleared trails.  So it’s a bit dangerous and treadmills are not as appealing [to me].” He appreciates that the bike/running trails at Kensington Metropark, where the 501 Club meets, are often at least partially cleared of snow in the colder months.  “The only years I run hard all winter are the years I scheduled an early marathon and want to be in shape for it.”

Silvio also belongs to the Seven Continents Marathon Club, having completed a marathon on each of the continents.  “I started in Rio [Brazil, South America] in 2012.” He finished the seventh in 2016 in Antarctica, “covering the other continents in between.”  Modestly he quipped, “Yes, I ran seven continents, but all that means is I bought six airplane tickets. So let’s not get carried away. The miles are the same as the person who ran the Detroit Free Press Marathon seven times.”  He did admit, though, “I had a great time and created some great memories traveling.”

He also races several other times each year.  One goal is to run each of the “major marathons,” such as New York, Berlin, and Chicago, which he’ll do this month.  That leaves only Boston, “but I’m not in a rush to do that.”

He has his local favorites, too.  “Dexter/Ann Arbor and the Crim are almost always on my calendar.  I like to run a few half marathons and at least one full marathon a year.”  Goodhue and Stock “got me to my first marathon. Ninety percent of my long [training] runs are at Kensington with the 501 Running Club.”

But Livonia is a long way from Antarctica.  “I ran every street and, if it was a dead end or cul-de-sac, I ran to the end and turned around.  When a new street was added, I went back and ran it. It’s incredible how many streets exist in a 36-square mile city!”  He ran from his house to streets north of I-96. For those streets south of the freeway, he’d drive and park at some favorite spots and then run.  “I can’t tell you how many times I ran down Six and Seven Mile roads to get to a neighborhood I hadn’t covered yet.”

He describes himself as “a morning runner.”  That helped to reduce the number of potential problems.  Traffic, for instance, “is typically light when I get out.  But there were days when I would head out super early, before work, to get in a 20-miler and I was concerned that the bars had just emptied out.  There were some close calls from cars rolling through stop signs, looking in the opposite direction. As I get older, the less I want to run in the snow.  I’ve seen too many friends injured from slipping on the ice.”

Some of the main, busy roads had no sidewalks.  “I wish they had sidewalks at least on one side.  I just had to navigate those and step aside for traffic on the shoulders.”  On residential streets, he tried to stay on sidewalks, too. “I got tired of running around parked cars.”  He did keep a sharp eye out for “imperfections,” such as cracks and broken concrete, “that you could trip over.”

One thing did lead to a bit of lamentation.  “I wish tracking the miles was easier.” Taking that city map he purchased, “I’d copy a neighborhood when I left for my run.”  If it was dark, still in the morning, using a headlamp, he used the map to figure “the most economical way to cover the section I wanted to cover.”  Then, when he arrived home, he downloaded from his Garmin watch to his RubiTrack software. “I would then highlight the streets on the city map to confirm I ran them.”

The finish came on July 18.  “Except for the last mile, all my Livonia miles were done alone.”  Kirk Vickers joined him for the last mile, as requested. Vickers, the owner of Triad Performance Training, has helped coach Silvio “for the past ten years for injury rehabilitation, strength training, and technique.”  Silvio recognized Vickers as “a valuable part of my team and a good friend. I was thrilled to share the moment with him. We work hard, but we have a great time.”

Silvio also cited his family as “incredibly supportive.”  But he admitted, “My dad probably thinks I’m crazy. He won’t say it, but I sense he’s thinking it.”  Continuing with this humorous thread, he added, “My wife knows where I am at 9:00 every night. I have to be up early to run, so I’m typically home in bed.  If I was a bowler, who knows where I’d be?”

The City of Livonia was not aware of Silvio’s adventure.  For the finish with Vickers, he contacted the city, revealing when he’d end up at the city hall and that he’d like to meet the mayor.  That was eagerly arranged. “Mayor Dennis Wright,” he said, “is about the nicest guy you could meet and was very gracious with his time.  And his support team was very kind.”

“My running friends know me and that I am just having fun with this.  I am not incredibly fast. I am a middle of the pack runner.” He quipped again, “I just want to outrun my doctors.  My family practitioner is faster than me most days. I think I can beat my cardiologist, but I should check his times.”

Speaking of motivation, Silvio said, “Whenever you finish a goal, it is satisfying.  My hope is to inspire other people to get out and exercise. After my heart issues [surgery] in 2016, I realized that getting people to be active was important to me.  I saw this as a way to share that message.” In part, as a result, he has become a motivational speaker and an ambassador for the Lululemon brand. “We have many of the same goals.  We want people exercising, connecting with and leading others.”  

Continuing to philosophize, Silvio said, “What we do is hard.  We get off the couch and exercise. It’s not so easy to do that. Whatever we can do to inspire others [to do likewise] is important.  Life is short. Why not spend some time running and try to extend it? We want to be there for our kids and grandkids. The only way to increase your odds of being there is to be active.”

Silvio is not resting n his remarkable past.  He still has that one “major” marathon, Boston, left to run.  “I just look for ways to motivate myself and hold myself accountable.  I need to think of something achievable that takes an extended period of time—twelve half marathons in twelve months or something like that.  I’m lucky to be able to do that.”