Race Recap: Detroit Free Press Marathon

The Detroit Free Press Marathon is now ranked as one of my top favorite races! Here’s a recap of my recent weekend pacing the Detroit Free Press Marathon with On Pace.

Listen to “Race Recap: Detroit Free Press Marathon” read aloud by the author.

The Start of Race Weekend

I worked half of a day on Friday, October 14th, and then flew from Sacramento, California to Detroit, Michigan. I arrived in Detroit at about midnight and was met at the airport by my friend who transported me to her parent’s house where I stayed for the weekend.

Saturday morning we slept in and then headed out for a short shakeout run. We ended up running a relaxing 5k with gorgeous fall views. Quickly, I realized that race morning was going to be a chilly one since the weather in Detroit was 30 degrees cooler than the temperatures in California. No complaints from me, however, because I’d rather run in cold weather than in hot weather!

The Detroit Free Press Marathon Expo

Once eating a delicious homemade brunch post-shakeout run, it was time to head to the expo. The Detroit Free Press Marathon expo was held at Huntington Place which allowed runners to park in a parking garage close to the race expo.

Walking into the expo, we were immediately wowed by its size and organization! Bib pick up was clearly marked and picking up our bibs was a breeze.

Once we had our bibs, we checked in to the On Pace booth, grabbed our bibs, and explored all of the expo booths. I loved how one of the booths had a green screen set up which allowed runners to snap a pic with a fun background then receive a printed picture for free!

My friend and I had some time to kill before meeting up with our pace group, so we found a nearby place to celebrate our race weekend getaway. We found a swanky little restaurant called “Townhouse” where we split an appetizer and a bottle of bubbly rosé.

Finally, it was time to walk back to Hunington Place for our pace group meetup. It was so inspiring to see all of us 70 pacers together from all over the United States and Canada!

Race Recap: Detroit Free Press Marathon

Race Morning: The Detroit Free Press Marathon

My alarm went off at 3:30am on race morning. I had laid out all of my race gear the night before which made getting ready a breeze. By 4am, we were in the car and headed back to Hunington Place.

One of the challenges of race day can be finding parking. Thankfully, we easily found a place to park in a free parking garage located about 0.75 miles from the starting line. With temperatures in the 30s at 5am, it was a chilly walk from our parking garage to Hunington Place. Once there, we were able to wait inside with many of the other runners.

At 6:30am it was time to head outside to line up in our corrals. The excitement was palpable. Although temperatures were still in the 30s, I didn’t really feel too cold.

First Time Marathoners

Shortly after arriving in my corral, I met Juanita. With great excitement, she spotted me with my six hour sign and exclaimed, “Oh you’re Stephanie!” Since I’ve never seen her before I wondered if she knew me from social media or from somewhere else.

Juanita said she stopped by the pace both at the expo to meet the six hour pacer and someone in the booth said, “Your pacer will be Stephanie and you’ll love her!” Little did I know that Juanita and I would spend the next 26.2 miles together.

One of my favorite things about being a pacer, is hearing all of the runners’ stories and what brought them to their first marathon starting line. One thing that the Detroit Free Press Marathon did which I really loved is that all of the first time marathoner’s bibs were a different color.

All first time marathoners wore green bibs. Every green marathon bib that I saw, I excitedly cheered them on and said, “Woo hoo it’s your first marathon!”

Running into Canada

One of the things that sets the Detroit Free Press Marathon apart from other races is that it is an international race. This means that runners cross into Canada by foot via the Ambassador Bridge, run a couple miles through Canada, and then cross back into the United States via a tunnel underneath the Detroit River. The Tunnel underneath the Detroit River is called “The Underwater Mile”.

These first 8 miles were some of my favorite miles of the whole course! I have this thing about running over bridges: it’s my absolute favorite thing to do! To be able to run over the Ambassador bridge at sunset into another country was more than incredible!

Race Recap: The Detroit Free Press Marathon

When It Got Quiet

The marathon and half marathon runners ran together for the first 11.5 miles. We stayed together for over two hours! This was quite fun for myself since I knew the ladies pacing the three hour half marathon. We are all from California and pace other races together.

For this race, I utilized run/walk intervals. I ran for one minute and 30 seconds then walked for one minute and 30 seconds. The three hour half marathon pacers, on the other hand, did not utilize run/walk intervals. This meant that we spent two hours leap frogging one another which added to the fun.

At mile 11.5 I was sad to part ways with the half marathoners. I warned the marathon runners that this was the point in which the marathon would get quiet. Races that offer both a half marathon and marathon option often experience a surplus of half marathon runners and a lot fewer marathon runners.

Co-Pacers: The Detroit Free Press Marathon

Since starting my pacing career six years ago, I have paced several different marathons and only had a co-pacer one other time. Having a co-pacer is nice to bounce ideas off of each, get support, and know that someone else is helping to “keep the pace”. For the Detroit Free Press marathon, I was paired up with Kristen from North Dakota as my six hour co-pacer.

Prior to the race I reached out to Kristin via email to introduce myself. Sometimes I get a little nervous about having a co-pacer because I wonder if they will be okay doing run/walk intervals. Thankfully, Kristen said that she’d totally be willing to do a run/walk intervals.

Kristen and I had a great time running together. There were times in which I held her sign for her so she could take her sweatshirt off and then there were times in which she held my sign for me.

Sadly, at about mile 17, I turned around and I didn’t see Kristen. During the run, Kristen had a horrible pain in her leg which required her to fall back about 30 minutes. I didn’t see Kristen again until after the race was over. At this point of the marathon, it was all on me.

Time to Dig In

In every race, regardless of the distance, there becomes a time in which you must dig deep and dig in. In a full marathon, this tends to be around 20 miles.

I really like how the Detroit Free Press Marathon is set up because at mile 19 and 20 you get to see runners coming from the other direction. At this point, they are at about mile 24 and 25 of the full marathon course. I felt so inspired seeing all of the green bibs which meant it were those people who were running their very first full marathon.

Miles 21, 22, and 23 were quiet which required myself and the runners around me to truly dig deep. My voice began getting rough from the amount of yelling I was doing to motivate the other runners. I was determined to see the people around me finish strong.

The Finish Line of the Detroit Free Press Marathon

At mile 24, the marathon course merged with the domestic half marathon course. This played some mind games with us since we had runners around us who still seemed “fresh” at mile 11 as opposed to mile 24. Also, we had been running since 7am and the domestic half marathon runners started running at 10am.

As a pacer, I encourage my runners to run ahead of me within the last few miles. They’ve already done the hard part. Now it’s time to celebrate.

This is exactly what happened and I was so happy! I joyfully crossed the finish line at 5:59:49. It was a near-perfect race!

After crossing the finish line, I enjoyed a beer at a nearby bar with my fellow pacers and had a nice cool down 0.75 mile walk back to the car.

Final Thoughts

I had the best time at the Detroit Free Press Marathon as a pacer with On Pace and am already making plans to run it again next year! This was my 23rd full marathon and is now ranked in my top favorite marathons!

I highly recommend this race to others and said so in my BibRave race review.

If you’ve been wanting to run your first marathon, I say do it! Add the 2023 Detroit Free Press Marathon to your calendar now!

Love Stephanie, your cheerleader for improved mental and physical health
Race Recap: The Detroit Free Press Marathon


Christian, wife, mom/stepmom, no meat athlete, runner, teacher

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