Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Pacing the 2017 Martian Half Marathon

When my friend Ruth said that the Martian Half Marathon would be her come-back race after a break from the distance running circuit, I decided to join her. It was a bonus that I was able to join the pace team as the 3:00 pacer. I had heard good things about this race in Dearborn, Michigan, and it was only a 3.5 hour drive for me.

Yes, I wore that hat during the race

I drove up to Michigan on Friday afternoon and went straight to Ruth's house. Then we drove to the expo. It was a smallish expo with a lot of booths representing other local races. There was some gear for sale too. After the expo we went for dinner with Ruth's daughter Sarah at the Michigan Beer Company. They had great food and we could order flights of various Michigan brews.

Selfie with Ruth and an alien at the expo; they had inflatable aliens everywhere 
The expo 

The next morning we needed to leave Ruth's place at 7:20 AM. It was nice that we didn't need to get up super early. The Martian Marathon started at 7:15, but the half marathon didn't start until 8:45. And in between those two start times, there was a 5K and a 10K race. Some people did a challenge by running both the 5K and the half marathon in the same morning.

I picked up my pace sign and then Ruth and I found some Half Fanatics. We got a group photo with the Half Fanatics that we saw. The weather was slightly cool and sunny. It was going to be a perfect day for running a half marathon.

Pacer Sandy, ready to go!
Just some of the Half Fanatics at the race; I also saw several Marathon Maniacs who were running the full marathon

Several runners found me in the corral and expressed interest in running with the 3:00 pace group. I explained that I'd be doing intervals of 2.5 minutes running and 1 minute walking. Everyone seemed to be on board with this and they liked the fact that there would be walk breaks. We started the race going up a short but steep hill. It would have been a really tough hill at the end of the race, but it wasn't so bad early on. Then we wound our way through some of the neighborhoods in Dearborn. These were some very lovely areas with nice houses and manicured lawns. There weren't a lot of spectators, but that was OK.

In between neighborhood segments, the course did an out & back on Hines Drive, a long but flat road where we could see full marathoners and other half marathoners on the other side of the road. There was also a group giving out M&Ms, and we passed them three times. This is also the location of the only on-course photo I took because I just loved this spectator's flying saucer costume. I couldn't stop and take too many pics, as I was pacing. And I had a core group women who ran the whole way with me, which was great. Even when they got a little bit ahead of me, I continued to call out the run/walk intervals and they stuck with the plan.

Best costume just might to go this spectator wearing a flying saucer

Toward the end of Haines Drive, there were some guys giving out Bud Light. It was at about mile 10 and getting slightly warmer outside (not hot though), so one of my runners and I partook. And then we began running on a nice bike trail in a wooded area for a couple miles. I loved this part of the course. It was twisty and turny, but very peaceful and pretty. When we emerged from the park we had less than a mile to go. I was a little ahead of time, so I slowed my pace in these last couple miles, and saw most of my runners go ahead of me. I had encouraged them to keep up their pace and even to speed up for a strong finish if they felt up to it. I think a few of them did.

At the finish with two of the ladies who ran in my pace group

The finish area was nice. There were picnic tables in a  grassy area, and a playground for kids. The post-race food was hummus and pita, bananas and cookies. I sat and ate my hummus and pita while talking with one of the ladies who ran with me. Then I decided to go back and find Ruth on the course. Her last few miles were slow walking because she developed multiple blisters on her feet, but she completed her come-back race! Once she had a few bites to eat, we walked to the nearby Dearborn Brewing and had some good beer. The brewery was offering $2 drafts for the runners, and the restaurant next door delivered $2 appetizers of hummus & pita and bruschetta; both were very good.

Dearborn Brewing's Cream Ale was delicious  
Ruth and I display our glow-in-the-dark medals; I still need to see it glow

This was a nice race and I'd be happy to run it again. The course was nice and pleasant, even if there were few spectators. The swag was good. I really like the t-shirt and the alien medal glows in the dark. Aid stations were spaced appropriately and most had both water and Gatorade (a couple had only water). We also got Gu twice along the course, which is pretty good for a half marathon. The volunteers were all great. Several runners dressed in costumes fitting the Martian theme, or in alien patterned running skirts (like Ruth did) or t-shirts. I pinned a plush alien refrigerator magnet on my hat and wore a pacer shirt. If you're looking for a big city race, this one isn't for you, but if you want to do a very well-managed medium sized race that features the neighborhoods and parks in Dearborn, I highly recommend Martian.

I closed out my visit to the Detroit area by heading over to my Aunt Lorainne's house to spend some time with her and my cousin Virginia. I hadn't seen them in a while and I wasn't going to miss this opportunity when I was so close. Lorianne is my grandma's sister, and one of the few remaining links I have to my grandma. We caught up for a while and I enjoyed meeting the cats Riley and Smokey. And then I began my drive back to Columbus.

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