Friday, October 17, 2008

Connecting to Detroit through Tiredness

As I type, I am reminded by The Detroit Free Press Marathon website's countdown clock that the Detroit Marathon begins in 1 day, 22 hours, 3 minutes, and 38 seconds. For the purposes of being a little more clear, the marathon begins Sunday morning at just about 7:10 am. I have been involved with this run for either 4 or 5 years now - for the last two years I've run in the half marathon, the three years before that my family participated in the marathon relay, and I plan on running in the half marathon again on Sunday. We're not here to talk about my Grecian physique or my amazing commitment to health and being generally impressive. The Detroit Marathon is one of the single best events of the year for any person to feel connected to the State of Michigan and the largest city in our state. This connection through the run can most clearly be felt by those who are actually participating in the event, but it is also a great opportunity for friends, family, and spectators of the runners to be reminded of their love for Detroit.

Detroit is a city that is beautiful and haunting, and both the beauty and the haunt explode throughout the race course. Individuals start near the Theater District, run by the remains of old Tiger Stadium, twist through Mexican Town, cross over the Ambassador Bridge, run along the Windsor-side Detroit River bank looking back into our beautiful city, through the tunnel back into the D, around Belle Isle, through Indian Village, the Detroit River Walk, Greektown, and finish in Campus Martius. There is no better way to tour the city's sights, and in the past few runs, I have sincerely felt the urge to weep while running through many of these stoic Detroit landmarks. As the feet hit the pavement, the urge to protect this place, to help it grow and thrive, to see the city homes and proud or once-proud buildings, is amplified millions of times over during the marathon experience as the runner soaks in the surroundings. It's a little bit like what I perceive will be my heaven, except with painful legs. It is impossible not to contemplate what I can do - what we can do - to encourage, promote, and work toward the rebirth of this city over the course of the run.

Running in, out, around, and through the city that drew earlier generations of my family to this state makes me proud, energized, hopeful, and sad. I have found much happiness in this place called Michigan, and it is because of this city and industrial icons who found Detroit to be the right place to start their businesses. Believe it or not, Detroit, at one point in time, was the oasis of promise throughout the entire United States. Throughout the entire world. The sadness I feel during the run is because of the way that I now know the world perceives our city (OUR city) and our state, and how difficult and time-consuming it will be to change this perception. Detroit is perfect in its imperfection. It represents America - the historic opportunity for success and wealth, the damage from poor planning, racism, and lack of diversification, and the great optimism of a better future.

If you are running, walking, or cycling in one of the variants of the race on Sunday, great job(!), and take a moment to contemplate what the city of Detroit means to you over the course of the race. If you can't think of anything, determine if you have found some happiness in Michigan, and remember that the probable reason you are here is because of this city. If you're not in the marathon, I heartily encourage you to come downtown and cheer on the people who will be losing their toenails that evening. Your cheering helps more than you think, and maybe you, too, will strengthen your connection to Detroit.

If you see what looks like a beached humpback whale flailing his way through the course, the odds are good that you are looking at me. Send up a cheer for Ken or, perhaps, turn to the person to your side and say "That fella there writes quite the blog," and then proceed with my blog address.

1 comment:

Dan A. said...

Late night procrastination at its worst...I went to sign up for the half marathon on Sunday after a summer of training and it was closed. Going to the health expo today, in hopes of still being able to do that 5k...

...Guess I'll read the blog now that I've commented on it.