Ron Marinucci August Column: "Covid19"

Ron Marinucci August Column: "Covid19"

    The CoVid19 scare has led to the postponement or cancellation of many races.  The Boston Marathon, for instance, initially postponed the event until September.  Since, by order of the Boston mayor, it has been canceled.  The BAA has scheduled a virtual marathon.  The New York City Marathon was also called off.  Here in Michigan, the announcement came a few weeks ago that the Crim, slated for later this month, was also canceled.  Runners waiting to hear on other late summer and early autumn events such as the Chicago Marathon and even the Free Press Marathon were disappointed to discover both have also been canceled, although the Free Press is planning a virtual race..

With so many races affected by postponements and cancellations, I starting to think about past events that are no longer held—not because of the Corona Virus.  For one reason or another, these races just met their ends.  Here are some of those I—and other runners, too—remember, many from quite a few years ago.  I will include some memories.  And I still have tee shirts from some of them!

 I’m certain there are more, but I came up with a list of about three dozen now defunct races, most of them in Southeast Michigan.  How many races do you recall that are no more?

 In fact, the first three races I ever ran, in 1986, no longer exist—the West Bloomfield Half Marathon, the Chai Runs, and the Back to Birmingham 5K ad 10K.  Long-time runners Doug Goodhue and Jerry Mittman remember the West Bloomfield Half, too.  “I loved the West Bloomfield Half Marathon that started from the high school every spring,” Goodhue reminisced.  Mittman added, “While temperatures at some of the late April race reached in to the 70s, I remember one year it was snowed out!”

The West Bloomfield course was serpentine and hilly, I guess.  At least that’s what some Detroit runners thought.  In the locker room after one of the races, they noted “how many hills” there were.   I recall the hills, but never thought them particularly out of the ordinary.  I guess Detroit is flatter than where I was training at the time.

The Chai Run(s) were also held in West Bloomfield, start and finish at the Jewish Community Center.  Included were a variety of distances, from 5K to 18 miles.  (Interesting it was billed as “18 miles,” not 30K.)  There were several distances in between.  It was there I met Bob Littky, a great guy and wonderful ambassador for running and health in general.  Littky was later featured in a book, Death Defiers.  It recounted the stories of Bob’s miraculous return from the dead, literally, not once but twice, while on operating tables, to finish more marathons and other races.  I was saddened to hear of his death about five or six years ago.  I ran the Chai a few more times after that first year, but, alas, it didn’t last much longer.

The third race I ever ran, Back to Birmingham, doesn’t exist any more either.  Looking back, I wonder why race directors back then let me enter their events.  I seemed to be a jinx!  It was a nice race, one I talked Karen and some friends into running, too.  Race officials made sure our kids were watched while we ran.

Our current spate of warm, OK hot!, weather reminded me of the Huron Valley Hospital Run.  It lasted ten years and I ran all of them.  It was one of my favorites because it became a family affair; Karen, Mike, and Matt, and even my father often participated.  There were always unique awards, too.  Instead of medals or plaques, overall and age-group winners received hats, towels, key chains, and even casserole trivets.  The first of these runs were held in the spring, until 1995, when race-day temperatures sent the thermometer to more than 100 degrees!  After that, the last races were held in October and renamed the Fall Fitness Frenzy.  

Run the Reuther was a one-time 5K, a stroke of genius from Ed Kozloff in 1989, I think.  The course was a section of the soon-to-be-opened Walter Reuther Expressway (I-696) in Oakland and Macomb counties.  So many race-day entrants caused the start to be delayed forty minutes or so.  Boxes of Prince macaroni were distributed.  I still have the tee shirt, but not the macaroni.

Two races in Novi bring fond memories.  The first, A Midsummer Night’s Run, coincided with the city’s 50’s Festival.  My son Mike ran his first 5K there.  As I met him at the finish, a woman came over to me explaining how Mike helped her to finish the race with his words of encouragement.  A few years later, The Run for the Health of It was a nice 8K in the late spring.  It was son Matt’s first road race with me and he almost beat the old man!  But I could only hold off the then 12-year old a couple more weeks, though.  He whupped me pretty good at The Great Pizza Challenge in Flint.?     

A few other defunct races I recall are the Harvest Run in Dearborn, near my old stomping grounds as a kid; the Mad Anthony Wayne 10K (great name, historical and everything!) on the campus of Wayne State University; Run the Rouge in Redford, a 5K and 5 mile started so runners could run both races; the High Five in Highland, where Dave Armstrong cleverly had separate races for men, women, and masters; Waterford’s Rainbow Run; the Mill Valley 10K in Milford; and many more.

 I queried some long-time runners about their memories of defunct races and it sparked some lively responses, mostly with fond memories. Mike “Flagman” Bowen recalls some long races. Still running with his black-and-white POW/MIA banner, Bowen cites “the Goat Farm Ultra—42 miles. It started in Monroe on a trail in a rest area and ended in Novi near Hines Park. I was leading a group when someone on a bike rode by and said, ‘You missed a turn!’” He also remembers the old “Breckinridge Marathon, on M-46 west of Saginaw.  [One was] a very hot, humid summer day. They wanted to cancel, but didn’t. [It was] my first experience with heat exhaustion…a good lesson—drink, drink, drink!”?            

Short, for “Flagman” at least, was the Williamston Half Marathon. “BRRRRR,” he recalls. “The half was cold and windy, but [there was] great soup at the finish!”?             

Riley McLincha also singled out a 26.2 miler, “the Saginaw Bay Marathon at Delta College. For him, there are “not a lot of good memories” of that one. “Think Volkslaufe,” with its long, hot stretches, “but 26-miles worth.” But, there is some fondness there, “This was my first marathon,” he said.?             

Before Super Bowl XL, Detroit hosted Super Bowl XVI in 1982. Blowing, heavy snow and temperatures that dipped into the single digits caused havoc with the Super Bowl Run held near the Silverdome in Pontiac. Bob Drapal frequently recalls that there “were two starts, one for those there on time and one for those who couldn’t get there until later.”?              

“My buddy Rich and I have been saying for a couple of years somebody should bring back ‘The Rocket Dog,’” responded Joe Burns. Also known as the Ankle Biter, “it was a fun trail race [with] a laid back atmosphere. [They had] great Dog Bone prizes and lots of munchies…and cold beer!!!!! The gang that ran that race did it right!”?              

Flint-area runner Bill Khan laments the recent cancellation of the Tuuri Road Race in Flint. Until canceled in 2010, he noted, “It lasted 31 years…. It was a great Crim tune-up, with lots of hills, particularly in the second mile.” He also noted, “A past [Tuuri] winner and record holder is Greg Meyer. Even up until the end, the Tuuri still had nearly 1000 participants and was among the top three races in the Flint area, including the Crim.” He finds a bit of a silver lining in that “The race lives on in a different form as the Atwood Stadium 10K/5K…. It contains 3.8 miles of the old Tuuri 10K course.”?              

Jerry Mittman remembers a long list of other bygone races. “I first ran [the Trenton Teadmill 8K] in 1993. It was my first year of running since high school—31 years earlier! I still have the shirt, a classic.” There were also the Royal Oak Toys for Tots, Troy’s Somerset 5K/10K (timed so both races could be run), the Grand Prix Run on Belle Isle, and the seasonal Domino Farms Festival of Lights. He also remembers “the Big Boy Series in Huntington Woods, [the three weekly races] then down to one, the three mile.” The Terry Fox Run “started in Detroit, went across the Ambassador Bridge, and finished in Windsor.” He also brought up one of my all-time favorite races, the Briarwood Runs in Ann Arbor, with 5K, 10K, and 20K distances.?              

Former Michigan Runner Masters Runner of the Year Andy Muchow cited “one race that came back from the ashes. I only ran it once, the Heart of the Hills races in Bloomfield Hills. The 10K course was very challenging, but [was] a really nice route through the neighborhoods.” Held in late July, the weather was almost always very hot and very humid. One year, clouds literally formed under the canopies of trees on the course. And, Muchow asks, “I ran the Zanglin run once. Didn’t it go by the wayside?”?              

Tracey Cohen offered the Pictured Rocks Run in the Upper Peninsula. “The original 11-mile race [was] in Munising. It was a great small town race with lots of character and support.” She cited “Stink Hill” as part of “a tough, challenging course!” The Pictured Rocks has been reborn, but this incarnation is “a half marathon and 5K.”?              

Maggy Zidar has run more than a thousand races and she remembers some bygone events. “I’ve often bemoaned the demise of favorite races,” she lamented. “In Grand Blanc, the Run for the Roots, I mistakenly showed up for my first one dressed in my Irish apparel, assuming the ethnicity meaning for ‘roots.’ [It] was a four-mile that started and finished at a greenhouse, featured awards with rooted running shoes, and seemed to usher in spring.”?              

She recalled another timely run. “On the Right Path, a small race in Clio, always coincided with the beginning of the school year. On a September Wednesday evening, this one always inspired me,” an English teacher. “Sponsored by a Catholic Church, a priest always read the passage from Timothy relating the running of a race to one’s spiritual life. Tasty vegetarian hot dogs were served after in a comfortable shelter.”?             

Not all of her memories of races past are quite so fond. “Emily’s Race is one I don’t miss. I remember coming home and running six more miles because the course was so crowded it was difficult to ‘really run.’”?              

No doubt many of you have already thought of the former Scotty Hanton Marathon in Port Huron. I saved this for last because it was named by almost all of those I contacted. Herm Smith quickly recalled, “One for me is the Scotty Hanton, held on Labor Day Weekend. It was the first marathon I ran. It is one of those things you will not forget. I first ran it in 1998…and I returned a couple of times. [There were] very few spectators, but you would almost get to know them by the end of the race as they would follow their friends and family all along the course. I always remember the drive early in the morning [to Port Huron], the school to pick up your number, and then a long day of running. Probably because it was my first, it was extra special, but I look back on it with fond memories, lazing in the grass watching people finishing and just getting to know the people there, laughing and feeling good about our long run. [It was] not quite as hectic as the big marathons these days where crowds are so big and spectators everywhere.” Comically, or not, he added, It was “very hot, a lot of road kill, and some parts of the course cars [came] a bit close.”?              

Gus La Ruffa echoed much of that ending’s sentiments. “Yeah, the Scotty Hanton Marathon. I remember being out there about 20 miles, all by myself on a country road. A small kid on a porch yells out, ‘Hey, mister, whatcha doin’?’ ‘Running a marathon.’ ‘Oh, what’s that?’” He laughs now, but ”Same race, the sign at the turn back to Fort Gratiot Middle School blew over. Fortunately, another runner’s relative picked up the sign. If he hadn’t done that, I would have been on my way down to Toledo.”?              

Doug Goodhue has fond memories. “Scotty Hanton was my very first Boston qualifier (8/30/86).” Tracey Cohen added, “I only did the half, but I too remember and liked the Scotty Hanton.”?              

Mittman had the same reaction as I did. “The first defunct race that comes to mind is the Scotty Hanton Marathon, which used to be held in Port Huron. It has some added significance for me as it was the first marathon I ever ran, in 1994.”?              

I recall Scotty Hanton with mixed emotions. I qualified for Boston.  But…. I also remember the heat and close proximity of the cars and the long, lonely stretches on the country roads. It has been the only marathon where I really “hit the wall,” and I hit it very hard. A guy I was running with up to mile 21 or so finished about 25 minutes ahead of me! I swore—both the good and bad kind—that this was my last marathon, but, fortunately, as usual, Karen straightened me out. Time heals many wounds.?             

So, how about you? What defunct races do you remember? What memories return? Do you look upon them fondly or maybe not quite so happily? Would you welcome their revival? Regardless, sometimes memory lane teaches us some things and provides an enjoyable look backward.