Friday, October 16, 2009

Cheer for This Guy

Less than 36 hours from now marks my annual dalliance with exercise - running the Detroit half marathon. That is far less impressive than running an actual marathon, but for the time it suits me quite well because I only have to train minimally and the negative post-marathon effects are non-existent. I can also enjoy the excitement of the complete event with half the displeasure, and I get to keep all my toenails.

However, my good buddy Craig (seen above) is running his first complete marathon this weekend. Go Craig! He's a real runner and is hoping to qualify for the Boston Marathon, so he will actually be trying hard. It's also cool that he could have done his first marathon in Chicago or somewhere like that, but he stuck with his home state and Detroit. It will be difficult for me to give him the appropriate amount of encouragement because I will likely be in the Port-A-Potty after I am done with my portion of the run, so it is up to the internet community that I have founded and adores me to cheer Craig on through the finish line. If you already are heading downtown Sunday morning to cheer for family or friends, please feel free to add Craig (and to a much lesser extent, me) to your list of people who's name you should yell loudly when you see that person. If you don't already have plans to go downtown for this purpose, what's your problem? Get downtown.

To give the perception that I write more than I actual do, I am going to cut and paste the entirety of a long marathon post that I wrote last year about the marathon experience in Detroit. It's funny because there are some things in there that are less accurate than they used to be, but that's OK because no one read it then, and no one will read it now. But look at how long it is!!

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.


Tank said...

Thanks Ken! I'll be sure to let you know if anyone yells "Hey! That's the guy the blog told me to cheer for!"

Nick said...

Good luck, Ken and Craig. I'm doing the shortest leg of the team relay, so I really deserve no cheering whatsoever. Perhaps I'll see you boys down there.