Oh, glorious fall days for walking! I do hope you didn’t miss getting out for a walk today.
I am returned home from Columbus, Ohio after an exhilarating half marathon walk through the finer neighborhoods of this American mid-west university town. The event has walking divisions in the half and full marathon.
Under a black sky filled with bright stars and half moon, 1300 walkers waited with excitement, and perhaps a little anxiety, for the 7am start of the Columbus Marathon. Runners started one hour later. We were sent off with as much fanfare as any running start. There was plenty of energizing music, a powerful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner while everyone stood facing the State Capitol Building, and pacing police cars to lead the way once the gun was fired.
Volunteers were out at the very first water station which was within the first mile and half of the start. Some of the bands were still setting up but despite that there were cheerleaders already on the route and music to be heard. Granted my version of the event is going to be different from others but I do hope what I write gives you a taste of the event. Because I was one of the lead walkers, for virtually the entire route between 2 miles and 11 miles I walked on my own. Up until 2 miles there were some other walkers with me. After 11 miles a handful of runners had caught up from their 8am start and were passing me. I wasn’t alone because the water stations were plentiful and each of these had several dozen volunteers who were all vocal in their cheering. There was a police officer at almost every turn in the route. They were excellent at keeping cars out of the way, but sometimes a little slow on giving me directions! A couple of times I almost took a wrong turn. A few miles into the race I realized that there were blue and white arrows spray-painted on the road. As a half marathon participant, I was meant to follow the blue arrows. Even later in the race, I realized that no arrows at a corner meant just go straight! I had been slowing down on a few corners trying to figure out if I was supposed to turn. It took a while to figure out the system, and it might have been nice to read about this in the race directions. But there it is, for you to know should make the trip to Columbus! And, of course, if you were walking a little further back in a larger group, the route may have been more obvious.
The first few miles of the course took us out along Broad Street which is somewhat commercial. But at this point it was dark and all of my focus was on warming up appropriately. By the time the sun was lightening up the sky, I was walking the course that passed by upscale Columbus homes that had rooms and lawns to spare. Most important there was foliage. It’s interesting how a little foliage has a disproportionately large calming effect. And, it’s amazing what a little sun can do to illuminate the gold and red leaves of autumn foliage.
By 6 miles the course was taking me back to the area of the city where we had started. This part of the route was straightforward and not terribly scenic compared to what I had just passed through but, again, cheerleaders and water stations were plentiful. And, there was a terrific surprise waiting once I got to the next turn. At almost 10 miles into the race, there was a huge crowd lining the streets. Spectators from the start of the running division must have made the trek a few blocks south to this position on the race course. Because I was still alone on the course, it felt like thousands of people were out cheering me on! I’d love to know if other walkers had a similar experience, but my guess is that they would have because it would still be another 20 to 30 minutes until the first runners would come through.
Floating on the high of such overwhelming enthusiasm, I found myself walking past historic old German Town. The cheerleaders had thinned out but the quaint houses and shops were still a feast for the eyes. Walking by one particularly charming pastry shop I asked the Sunday morning coffee gang sitting at the tables if I should return for my post-race recovery caffeine. Their wholehearted endorsement had me stopping by on my way out of Columbus later that afternoon. If you go to Columbus Marathon, be sure to go the Pistacia Vera on South 3rd Street. In fact, don’t worry about the marathon; just go to enjoy the best traditional Parisian macaroons outside of continental Europe and an espresso! (It’s all about the snacks and caffeine, don’t ya know?!)
Now I had a reason to walk faster toward that finish line! After passing by a lovely park at the south end of the German Village, the rest of the route went north on High Street past the regal State government buildings and other commericial highrises. At this time, lead runners were starting to pass me. I always enjoy seeing these athletes flash by.
Soon I was turning toward the finish at the Nationwide Arena. The architecture of this arena is remarkable and it is surrounded by wide sidewalks and grassy areas. Once again, crowd support was overwhelming in the final hundred feet of the race and the post-race snacks were plentiful. I particularly enjoyed the sample of Clif Builders Bar which I had never tried before. It has high protein content and high quality ingredients. I may have to find more of those!
As far as how the organizers managed a walking division: unfortunately, I can’t offer too many insights. Obviously, it was great to have separate registration and start. I did not see any guidelines for walkers and I suspect there were lots of walking participants running portions of the race but it would be impossible to discern that once the pack of runners caught up. The bib numbers were identifiable but the bibs themselves were not a different colour. Still for a walker, this has to be one of the best races I’ve entered. I always appreciate separate registration and acknowledgement that the walking gait needs separate result postings and rankings from the running gait.
Also, this past weekend, we had a few people walk the full marathon in Detroit. I hope some of them will add a post here so that we can learn about their experience.
Detroit Free Press/Flagstar Marathon
What a beautiful weekend it was to powerwalk a marathon.
The Detroit Marathon is an international marathon that crosses into Canada so all race participants must attend the expo and show identification to pick up race packs. The expo was very busy and we all managed to make purchases (its all about the ‘look’).
Lots of hotels in downtown Detroit meant most people could walk to the start. The race start was at 7:15 a.m. for the marathon and half marathon, relay teams and shorter distances which meant approx. 16,000 people were trying to find their coral and it was very conjested. (Wheelchair racers had an early start.) Both the Canadian and American national anthems were sung and the race was off.
There was a competetive walking division in the half marathon and the walkers had signs on their back indicating this. It was great to be with so many walkers for the first half of the race. It took approx. 8 mins. to reach the start and it was slow moving once we crossed the start but we managed to work our way into a clearing and settle in to enjoy the race.
The water/aide stations were plentiful and so was the music. I especially enjoyed the harmonizing by the quartet singing Rockin’ Robin and their ‘tweet tweet’ kept bringing a smile to my face during the race (one of those guys could really whistle).
The sight of the Ambassador Bridge into Canada was amazing and crossing the bridge was exhilarating. Customs officials stood on both ends of the bridge cheering us on and I felt a surge of emotion setting foot on Canadian soil. The course travelled along the river through Windsor and brought us to the tunnel to cross back into the U.S.A. The thought of crossing through this tunnel under water was playing on my mind which actually helped power me through it. Again customs officials greeted us at both ends of the tunnel.
We walked through various tree lined neighborhoods from the oldest (Corktown) to the estate homes (Indiana)and it was wonderful to see the culture and heritage of Detroit. The pavement was marked with spray painted arrows in the same manner as Lee described in Columbus but there were lots of volunteers to direct us (we were in the ‘pack’ so had no trouble with this). The course also took us out to Belle Isle a beautiful 982 acre island park in the middle of the Detroit River. This is actually where the early years of the marathon took place before it became international. The course wound its way back downtown where there were lots of people to cheer us into the finish. Everyone was given a bag of food (bagel, apple, pear, chips) and water and yogurt drinks.
We all wore our medals and sat by a fountain enjoying the day talking about the finer points of the race.
Thank you Lee for introducing us to our passion.
Jill and Jay Pettit
Great blogs on both races…….just what I need, more races to contemplate! congrats on your race times and the good times you and Lee had in your respective races!