There might not be a big crowd at the starting line or a starting gun to send them off, but that isn’t stopping many runners from participating in Detroit Free Press marathon this weekend – even if they can’t set foot in Detroit.
“It’s a gift to be able to run, virtual or live – I’ve got to do this,” said first time marathon runner Rose LaFlamme, from her starting line at Sandpoint Beach on the Windsor waterfront.
“When you put your mind [to it] that you have to do the marathon, you’ve got to be prepared, rain or shine, it’s a mind set, right?”
The race appeals to many because it typically crosses an international boundary, with runners passing over the Detroit river by bridge and under it through a tunnel. Border restrictions mean that crossover can’t happen this year, and organizers announced back in July the race would be taking place virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s the first time since 1978 that the Detroit Free Press marathon isn’t happening in person.
Runners were told they could run virtually, get a 50 per cent refund, or defer their registration to 2021 or 2022.
“This is what we do, this is race day,” said Kelly Steele, who has run 34 marathons. “If the marathon was a go today, we’d be over in Detroit lined up so we figured why would we change that.”
There’s no crowd cheering you, you’ve got to cheer your own self, right?”– Rose LaFlamme
Runners who decided to participate virtually were able to start the race wherever and whenever they wanted, but were encouraged to do it on the usual race weekend, October 16-18.
Runners can submit their times online this year, and organizers say a virtual leaderboard will remain open until October 31. Participants received race medals and other race swag ahead of time.
Steele and LaFlamme have been training together for the last 16 months set off at 7 a.m. Sunday. There goal was to run the full 42 kilometre distance required for a marathon and end up in Belle River.
“You’ve got to push you’ve got to push yourself a little bit more, dig deeper because there’s no crowd cheering you, you’ve got to cheer your own self, right?” LaFlamme said.
Steele said that people could expect to see race bibs and runners all over Windsor and Essex County Sunday.
“Just because it’s virtual today, people are still out doing it,” Steele said. “You’re going to find them everywhere, you’re going to find them out in the county. I know they’ve all got these super unique routes planned for themselves.”
LaFlamme said she’s hooked on the sport and looks forward to taking part in a future non-virtual event.
“I’m already signing up for the next five years,” she said. “I want to qualify for the Boston [Marathon].”