By Karen Kwan
Although it’s relatively close to Toronto (where the iRun editorial team is based), the Detroit Marathon seems to be a hidden gem to most of the Toronto running community. For a few years, though, I’ve had it on my destination race bucket list, and finally made it happen last weekend. And I’ve rounded up 10 reasons you should add this race to your goal-race list.
- Detroit is just a four-hour drive from Toronto. No jet lag to contend with. And four hours is a reasonable road-trip drive length (especially when you consider it can sometimes take an hour just going from downtown to midtown in Toronto!).
- The Detroit Marathon takes you across the Ambassador Bridge at sunrise. Although I expected it to be a pretty view, the view of the bridge and the golden rays peeking through the clouds is magical. So much so that you barely mind the uphill climb onto the bridge.
3. You run into Canada! I dare you not to feel patriotic pride as you approach the border lined with Canadian flags on either side and border patrol high-giving and cheering you on. I don’t know if there are many races that take place in two countries! “Be careful; we’re crossing into Canada; they’ll friendly you to death,” I overheard one runner say. “Do we run 20 percent faster there thanks to the exchange rate?” his friend replied. Oh, and the medal features a ribbon that is half American flag, half Canadian!
4. You take the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel back into the U.S. Hello, photo opp: in the tunnel, the border between the U.S. and Canada is indicated, so you can stand with one foot in each country if you’re inclined to stop for a picture (I kept going as I was trying to BQ).
5. The route is relatively flat. Although there are some decent hills along the route, the route is mostly flat and includes going into pretty and green Belle Isle and along the river so you have plenty to keep you visually stimulated. Also, besides the marathon, there is also an international half-marathon, U.S.-only half-marathon, a marathon relay, a 5K and a 1k race.
6. Cheers to multiple booze options along the route. I’ve never seen a race with so many drinks on offer. There were at least two beer stations, one with shots of hard alcohol, and another serving up Bloody Marys. The snack game was on point, too. I spotted M&Ms, Oreos and potato chips. This is in addition to the official race fuel (Gatorade and Clif Bar) , of course.
7. Hello, fun post-race festivities! Enjoy the live band as you gingerly move around taking photos, stretching and consuming the bounty of snacks and bevvies (from granola bars to Goldfish crackers, animal crackers and fruit cups, pineapple juice and bananas, and of course, water and Gatorade). Plus, the snacks that aren’t distributed to runners gets donated to a food bank.
8. You’ve got great hotels to choose from for your marathon weekend. At the Element, we enjoyed a huge suite filled with natural light, not to mention a kitchen (which would’ve been a good option for cooking out pre-race pasta rather than waiting 90 minutes for a table at a restaurant). They also had breakfast available as of 5 a.m. for runners so your race morning fuel is taken care of. And as a Westin property, the Element has the signature Heavenly beds, so like us, you can sleep like babies and were well rested for running 42.2k. Tip: the Element is steps away from a Drought Juice, where you can pick up cold-pressed juices to keep you well hydrated. Other than the Element, in the same neighbourhood, you’ve got the trendy Shinola Hotel and the wonderfully over-the-top maximalist design of the Siren Hotel.
9. Epic post-race meal options. Detroit is a fantastic foodie destination. We opted for a protein-rich feast at Slow’s Bar BBQ, which is a local BBQ institution, but there are so many more spots to explore, including pizza at Supino’s in Eastern Market or Karl’s in the Siren Hotel where the chef is James Beard Award nominee Kate Williams.
10. Great sightseeing post-marathon. You’ll find lots of arts and culture as motivation to keep those legs moving after the race. There’s the award-winning outdoor art installation the Heidelberg Project, the Detroit Institute of Arts, along with historic buildings with jaw-dropping architecture such as the Guardian Building and Fisher Building, to name just a few.
Have I sold you on running Detroit? I’m already thinking I’d like to run it in 2020 so maybe I’ll see you there!
Karen Kwan is a regular iRun fashion and travel contributor, and you’ll find her running fashion posts every Friday on Instagram. She contributes to a number of publications and you can also follow her travel and running adventures at Health & Swellness.