October 11, 2009
Kensington Metropark, Milford, Michigan
For those of you who may not be familiar with this race, the Worldwide Festival of Races was created three years ago by a small, but enthusiastic group of runners with the aim of helping connect runners from all over the world. With a theme of “Think Global, Run Local”, the organizers desired that fellow runners put aside any political or socio-economic differences and instead create a kinship based upon common values and a love for the life of running.
Runners register for free at a website and log their training and race experiences in forums, blogs, audio clips, movies, and pictures. A 5K, 10K, and a half marathon are offered as race choices with runners selecting their own specific location of their race. A race could be run on a personal route or on a course from a larger, organized race. Each runner decides for themselves.
Results from the race are based on the honor system with runners individually reporting their times. The website tallies the results and with all these elements combined, a worldwide experience was launched and has now grown to include over 1000 runners from 45 countries.
This race has been a great vehicle for helping me with my training while also building friendships with runners from around the globe. What a great way to create a community of friends that inspire each other for better running and overall good health!
This year’s WWFOR came at a perfect time in my training for the Marine Corps Marathon. Just two weeks before MCM, and three weeks after my USAF half marathon, my running of the WWFOR filled the training gap with a much more interesting and meaningful run than my usual weekend long run around the neighborhood.
I decided to choose a local, yet scenic course about 25 miles from my house in a municipal park called Kensington Metropark. This park is beautifully maintained and well represents the natural beauty of Michigan.
The Huron-Clinton Metropark system comprises a series of parks that start in the east and north along the shores of Lake St. Clair all the way down the Clinton River and the Huron River to the west and south to Lake Erie. These parks form the primary recreation and conservation centers surrounding the Detroit metropolitan area.
At Kensington, the main geographic feature is Kent Lake, which was formed by an overflow basin in the pathway of the Huron River. The lake empties into the Island Lake State Recreation Area in the south, where I had earlier spent several training sessions on trail runs through its rolling hills and deep forests.
There is a hike/bike paved path around Kent Lake that is about 8.5 miles long. This route formed my WWFOR half marathon course. I just ran around the lake and then some, doubling back until I reached 13.1 miles.
The weather on October 11th was perfect. It was a cool and sunny 45ºF with little, if any, wind. The fall season here in Michigan is well underway with the leaves turning yellow, golden brown, and burning red. The park was shared that day by runners, walkers, bikers, skaters, ski-skaters, and boaters. It was nice to seeing so many folks outside enjoying such a beautiful day.
I have run and biked this lake route many times over the years, but I had never raced it. The course follows the lake over a few small rolling hills, but none are tough. The path is wide and paved the entire way. This was certainly not a trail run, although the scenery made it seem like one.
I decided again to dedicate each mile to someone special rather than count the miles up or down. I have always felt this makes the race even more special. I just think about and pray for someone throughout the mile. It gives me strength and motivates me to run on their behalf as well.
Given the theme of the WWFOR, I made sure to dedicate a mile to all my fellow runners who were out on their runs all over the world. These runners have helped inspire me throughout my training to really give it my best. I have also been fortunate to build so many nice friendships.
I began the race at what felt like a comfortable pace but did not pay any attention to my GPS-indicated pace. I just ran at what I thought was a good clip.
Before I knew it, I was putting on the miles and noticed I hadn’t eaten or drunken anything. I wore a CamelBak hydration pack and decided to take a few swigs at about the 5-mile mark. I also ate three cubes from one Clif Shot Blok pack. That was about it for drinking and eating for the entire race. I couldn’t believe I didn’t want more. Instead, I just listened to my body and I guess that’s all I needed. It all worked out though.
My pace seemed to pick up as I warmed up. I still felt it was manageable and not too stressful. I did not check my actual pace. I just let my legs go!
I listened to running podcasts while I raced. I enjoyed the WWFOR special episodes out there from fellow runners. It was easy to feel connected with everyone else running around the globe.
About half way through, I came upon two great blue herons. They did not seem startled at all as I neared them on the path. They just gave me a look as I ambled passed them. I guess they didn’t peg me as a threat, but hey, I’m a runner, they know we’re the friendly type!
There were many walkers out that day enjoying the perfect weather. Most were not taken aback by the sight of me running this route, but there were a few folks that gave me that look that seemed to convey that they thought I was nuts for running the darn thing.
As I neared the finish, I was feeling really good, so I started to pour it on a bit. Now, remember, I’m not trying to leave it all out there for this one, but I admit that I did get caught up a bit with excitement near the very end.
As I plowed up a small hill, I concentrated on my breathing and form. I pushed it a little and even found myself grunting out loud with each step. In fact, I was pretty forceful with each dig uphill and I must have been heard by someone nearby. I thought, however, that I was the only one on this portion of the path. The course felt as if it were my own. I was getting into the run but I felt like I was smoothly flying at the same time. I know it’s quite a contrast but that’s what it was like.
I was then startled out my trancelike focus by a speedier runner that passed me from behind. I laughed and he said he understood. He was quite a bit faster and admitted he grunted quite a bit too during his runs. He was training for the Detroit Marathon. He was happy to hear about me and the MCM.
As I barreled down on the last steps to my finish line, I imagined the MCM finish. It was only two weeks away. I could see it and feel it. I could also sense all my running friends crossing their finish lines also. What a race this WWFOR has become!
I looked at my GPS and was amazed to see that I just recorded a PR! It was a 2:22:27 finish which was a 10:52 average pace. This was ten minutes faster than the USAF Half Marathon a few weeks prior! I couldn’t believe it!
While this finish time may not seem fast at all to you, believe me, it was a nice result for me. I was pleasantly surprised.
I felt so good. The training has been starting to make a significant difference in my runs. I was not really that tired. My legs and heart felt just fine. My breathing was even and not panting. It was a nice, strong finish yet without the usual pains I expect to endure.
As I walked it off back to my car, I reflected back on how the training had started earlier in the year and what a struggle it had been at times. I was satisfied that I was on course and that the MCM would be a great experience.
As I drove home, I had some water, a banana, and three more Shot Bloks. I was not hungry or thirsty, but I gulped it down knowing how important a good recovery was needed so I could keep up my training.
It was a great race, the WWFOR! I appreciate all the support and good cheer from all my running friends around the world. I hope your experience was fantastic and satisfying as well.
Next up is the Marine Corps Marathon on October 25th in Washington, DC. I can’t wait. It will be a great adventure! It will also be a fantastic occasion to meet a lot of fellow runners in person.
Till then, run together my friends.