After showering and eating my pre-race ritual meal, it was approaching 5:30am; time to put the coffee on for Missus Gj. As the aroma of the coffee filled the room, Missus Gj’s nose twitched once or twice and like a bolt of lightning she was out of bed, had her first cup of coffee, showered, ate a light snack and off we were to the race: Time 6:20am.
Going to elevator we again found it to be out of order (during our stay, 3 out of 4 elevator banks were down for repair, save once when 2 banks were working) geesh, just what we needed, not only was I going to run the half, but I was also going to walk 15 flights of stairs down to the lobby, not to mention the toll this had on Missus Gj, who by the way, is not a runner. Down the stair we walked….
Reaching the lobby we noticed that about 30 or 40 runners were milling around waiting to depart to the race. Since we are slow walkers, Missus and I left immediately for the starting line which was about 4 blocks away (the race director strongly suggested that we be in or corrals by 6:30am). Getting closer to the starting line we noticed that thousands of runners and spectators were already there (yes, thousands) lining the beginning of the course. Some runners had already made it to their respective corals; whereas after a quick kiss, I left Missus Gj at the corner of Michigan and Washington Streets. I still had to walk a couple of blocks to find my coral lettered P. Yes, one of the blessings in being slow is being placed way to the back of the pack.
I am not too sure about the number of people in our coral, but I sure was glad to see that many of us were in about the 10 minute pace range or so…fast enough to have fun but not so fast where we’d be called speedy by any stretch of the imagination. Suddenly the loud speakers blared bringing all runners to a quiet whisper. The MC announced that the Canadian national anthem was to begin followed by the Star Spangled Banner…all was quite till the end…I must say both anthems were sung beautifully, ours (the American) by “The Shades of Blue” (Oh How Happy you Have Made Me). The time had arrived….
First it was the special runners, those in wheeled bicycles, then the marathoner runners and walkers. Finally it was our turn, us half marathoners. Runners.. Ready...Set...Go... Time: 7:15 we were off. Well, not really since there were a few thousand of us, it took several minutes for the group to start moving. About two minutes later we moved a few feet, then a few more; off and running the crowd began its 13.1 mile journey..
Trying to gain momentum and achieve pace was almost impossible. As we moved down Michigan Ave, volunteers were lining the street warning us of cars, yes cars, still parked on the street. And since we had only the south side lanes, thing became quite tight every now and then. In fact I tried to gain momentum by running on the sidewalk, only to trip myself on a curb I did not see as I crossed the road. Ouch, my knees, or should I say pride. But, up I jumped and continued on. Turning left on Rosa Parks we headed south to Fort Street where we’d turn right again and start our journey towards the bridge at about mile 3 or so…that is where the major bottle neck slowed all runners to a crawl. In fact, my pace was reduced to over 16 minutes per mile, less than 4 mph…it was then I realized that my sub 2 hour goal was out the window. So, I did what I intended to do all along; I enjoyed the run and conversed about my Little Buddies to all who would listen.
The sun was just beginning its westward journey as we ran across the Ambassador Bridge. How beautiful Windsor’s skyline is set against a rising sun. It was breath taking, I wanted those few moments to last forever. All too soon however we were in Canada and rounding the bend on the truck exit to to the right. Traveling down this road we were finally on the waterfront edge were we’d be traveling for a few miles prior to entering the Windsor Tunnel to head back to the good Ol’ USA via the marathons world only International underground mile. I can’t thank the folks of Windsor enough. Great aid stations with friendly and smiling volunteers…the Canadians really came out in force to cheer us runners on. Truly this is an International event worth running.
As we entered the tunnel, my body began to give me little signs that I was going to be in for a battle, a small one, but a battle nonetheless. Shortness of breath, thanks to over 40 years of smoking, caused my body to scream for more oxygen. I did slow down just a tad in response, but I continued on running. I would not quit. As much as I loved the idea of an underwater mile, my body was demanding fresh air and a cool breeze How much further? It was the longest mile of my life. Finally however we exited the other side (Ahh! Blessed Fresh Air) where a few dozen border guards kept informing us runners to make sure our bib numbers were visible. Up and out of the tunnel we ran and turned left on Jefferson Ave heading straight toward Cobo and the Joe Lewis Arena, where we then turned left and headed toward the river front again by taking a sweeping ramp around and down to the right. I saw a sign were it said that we were at kilometer 15 of the race, or just a little over 9 miles. Only 4 miles to go.
As we turned south towards the finish, I knew the race was almost over…..picking up speed I so wanted to have a good finishing kick, but that wasn’t to be. A runner by my side was bent over and appeared to be getting ready to lose her stomach. I slowed to a crawl and asked if she was ok? T o that she struggled to say yes, but just a little sick to her stomach. I walked a few feet with her as she regained her composure. Once I was sure she was o.k., I was off and only had a half block to go. Before I knew it, I sped across the finish line hands raised high into the air. Victory will be ours. Childhood Cancer will be beat! My time: 2:06:35…..not bad, not too bad at all.
Post Script: Missus Gj was supposed to meet me at the finish line. I looked and could not find her anywhere. Ultimately, it took us over 5 hours to find each other….where? At our hotel of course.. I even had the front desk called the police to make certain my sweetie wasn’t in the hospital somewhere or worse…talk about crossed lines of communication..LoL