Freep International Half-Marathon Report

Well I must say, this race pretty much kicked my ass. 😛  And that was despite a 12:33 pace!  😮  But I still loved it. 🙂

I ran this half marathon with my friend Toddra.  My reason for signing up in the first place was to give her some company for this 13-mile race (which she signed up for on New Year’s Eve after a little too much celebrating, lol!).  She had targeted a 2:30 finish, but the reality is that her training program didn’t go the way she would’ve liked (her work was crazy busy this fall, and she travels a lot), so she had that strike against her.  And then…we woke up Sunday morning to this*:

Yikes!  For those not from around here, let me assure that 70 degrees at 7am on a mid-October day is not the norm.   I felt pretty confident that Toddra would have a tough time meeting her goal in those conditions, and honestly, between the heat, the high winds, and the unknown course, I questioned my own ability to run a 2:30 half-marathon!

All five of us from our Saturday morning running “group” carpooled together for this race, but the other three were planning to run it faster, so after a quick group picture…

…Toddra and I split off. My ankle had been hurting me the last couple of weeks, but it was fine that morning…until I tripped over some uneven sidewalk while walking downtown.  Grrr.  (Both Toddra and I tripped over it at the same time—I think it was out to get us!)

I’m going to try not to be so wordy for this race report, but instead let the pictures do the talking.  Running at a slower pace definitely had its advantages in that I got to truly enjoy the sights, stop for pictures, and finish feeling pretty good.

Here’s what it looked like while we were standing around waiting.

So many people! I read in the paper the next day that there were over 26,000 participants for all the race distances (that included the 5k and kids’ run, which were held Saturday).  Pretty soon, though, we were off!

This is kind of a sunrise over the bridge.

(The weather was pretty cloudy until near the end of the race, when the sun poked out a bit.)

Heading up to the top of the bridge!


View at the top of the bridge looking east (toward Downtown).

View looking west, back towards Downriver.

Yes, I was one of those annoying runners who stopped for a selfie on the bridge. But come on, it’s an awesome experience!!  Despite the fact that it was difficult, I loved every minute of being on the bridge.

At the top!

I tell you what, those winds were killer at that point.  😮 I lost my sweat rag when it blew off my SPI belt. 🙁 Not a good day to lose your sweat rag!  Toddra had a harder time than I think either of us expected going up the bridge, but she made it, and we jogged the decline, which was very welcome!

And then we were in Canada!

Welcome to Canada, eh! (Seriously, a woman to the left had a sign that said that!) As we came to the border crossing, a Canadian Border Patrol officer was shouting through a megaphone: “Welcome to Canada, eh! Free body cavity searches on the right! We can say that over here, because we’re the fun group, not like those stuffy people on the other side!”  Bwahaha, love those Canadians.

And here’s proof that I made it to Canada!

That’s the Ambassador Bridge from the Detroit River shoreline in Canada. The time spent in Canada was truly a blast…those Canadians are just a hoot!  Running down Riverside Drive was incredible–the views of the Detroit skyline, even with the cloudy sky, were beautiful.

And the Canadians themselves were just fabulous.  As we ran down Riverside, they had “Born in the USA” playing over the loudspeakers, ha ha. They had lots of spectators cheering us on, being very positive about the American visitors to their county.  It was just incredible! (Random moment: as I ran down Riverside Drive, I heard someone call out, “Hey Stephanie!”  I turned and was shocked to see one of JJ’s hockey coaches running the race!  LOL, somehow I had no idea he was running it too!)

Next up…

The tunnel. 😮 Yeah, I could’ve done without that. :p  It was too LONG, and with the warm weather, it was ridiculously hot.  By the time we hit the middle, I was SO ready to be OUT of there, but Toddra was less enthusiastic about running up the incline. 😉  So, we mostly walked, but when we hit the fresh air and those cool winds hit us…it was like heaven!

I love that they had a sign to welcome us back to American soil. 🙂  made sure to high five as many border patrol officers on both sides of the border as I could–it was so cool!

Back in the US, we ran down Jefferson…

And then we ran under Cobo Hall.  It was so very cool to see ALL the people lining the overpass there in front of Cobo.

Toddra was struggling quite a bit after the bridge, but she really tried her best!  She took more frequent but shorter walk breaks as we ran along in Canada, but by the time we hit mile 10 on the other side of the bridge, she was really feeling it. I’d tried to come up with smaller goals after the bridge, like running .9 and walking .1, but she couldn’t keep with it.  At mile 10, I told her we only had 3.1 miles left, and I asked her what her game plan was.  “My game plan is to walk a 5k.”  LOLOL!  I couldn’t let her totally walk it, though, so we came up with a “run .4, walk .1” ratio, and that worked for a while.  As we got closer to the end, the walk breaks became more common, but that was okay.

Running through Mexicantown and Corktown was so fun.  The sun came out for a minute in Mexicantown!

We ran past St. Anne’s (second oldest continually operating Catholic parish in the United States)…

And through Corktown (beautiful old neighborhood settled by Irish immigrants…sorry, my pic doesn’t even do it justice)…

I thing I always want to remember but never can is the signs!  I swear, Detroiters make the best signs!  There were some that were so funny, but of course I’ve forgotten them.  I did manage to snap a picture of one…

Ha ha ha! That cracked me up!  Then we were on Michigan Avenue (the brick part…not so fun).

After a quick turn, we were back on Fort Street.

Toddra was plugging along, walking now and again, but when she wanted to walk as I was staring at the finish line 100 yards up ahead, that was NOT okay, ha ha!

I grabbed her by the hand and pulled her along, and to her credit, she ran from there to the finish.  And then, thankfully, we were done!!  Ironically, with my sore feet and ankle, I was pretty much limping away from the finish line, but Toddra was surprisingly bubbly and chatty and walking just fine, ha ha ha!  Our three friends were already at the car when we crossed, so we had to wait until we got back Downriver to get our post-race medal shot:


So that’s our race story.  Being a pacer was as hard as if not harder than I expected, and although I feel like I could have done a better job, Toddra swears she wouldn’t have made it to the finish line without my support, so I guess I did do some good.  I don’t know if I ever want to pace someone again, though, ha ha!  I think I’m just too nice to be a pacer.  Tough love isn’t my thing. 😉

As far as my own personal race experience, I would say that overall, despite the tough conditions and the challenges of being a “pacer,” it was an awesome race and I loved it!  Detroit puts on an incredible race—the crowd support, the organization, the experience of racing in two different countries—it was all just amazing and truly a blast.  It definitely helped that I ran it at a slower pace and wasn’t out to PR.  I honestly don’t know if this would ever be a “PR” race for me, simply because there are a lot of hills and inclines, which I don’t have in my normal training. (And I’m not sure I’m willing to add them, ha ha!)

I will definitely do this race again, and honestly, I’m giving serious credence to trying the full…maybe next year. 😮  It would definitely be for the experience and not for a PR…ha, with that bridge, not even close! :p  But it’s such a major event in the Detroit running community, and I really want to get that GREAT BIG MEDAL, ha ha!  For now, though, I will happily settle for my medium-sized medal, which is actually quite hefty in its own right and damn cool to look at, too.  Definitely a great race event, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is willing to brave a bridge and a tunnel and has documentation to legally cross the border. 😉

Thanks for reading!


*In full disclosure, I mocked this image up after the fact…I did not remember to do a screen shot of the temp on race day, ha ha! But I do know how to look up historical weather data. 😉

3 thoughts on “Freep International Half-Marathon Report

  1. Ann

    What a great race story!!!! I absolutely loved your pictures throughout this great race!! I didn’t know you were thinking of doing a full in Detroit….hmmmm…. should I join you for #9?! Actually, Detroit was my best marathon time😊 despite that darn tunnel and bridge!

  2. Meg B

    I have always enjoyed the Freep half. They have just the American side, which doesn’t have the hills and tunnel if you want to try that next year. Then you will have run the whole marathon course!


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