Detroit Free Press Marathon Race Report – Emily Alley

Photo: Detroit FreePress 2023

Race: Detroit Free Press Marathon

Runner: Coach Emily Alley

Race Date: 10/15/2023

Location: Detroit, MI (USA) -> Windsor, ON (CA)

Results: 3:29

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  • Mild weather
  • International race

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

  • 2023 race nutrition (Clifblocks)
  • Long stretches through quiet neighborhoods

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

You run through border control officers during the race. Don’t carry a back pack and keep your number always visible.

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

This race takes you from the USA to Canada and back! You run over and UNDER the Detroit River. The first 5k brings you to Ambassador Bridge, a majestic climb over the Detroit River. After a short tour of the Canadian riverfront, you return to Detroit through an underwater tunnel.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

Do not take the bridge and tunnel elevation for granted. The rest of the course (2023 update) is nearly pancake flat. Considering the overall elevation profile, it appears to be an easy course. However, the only two inclines hit early in the race when adrenaline is pumping and you know you are going faster than you should. Force yourself to take it easy on the bridge-both up and down. If you don’t, you risk trashing your legs early in the race.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

Ambassador Bridge and the tunnel are the highlights of the race. With the exception of a few blocks when you loop downtown, the rest of the race is run through neighborhoods. They are pretty with the fall colors, but unless you know the history of the landmarks, they won’t catch your eye. The final 6 miles is an out and back on an unremarkable road with little crowd support. Be prepared to self-motivate and keep the downtown skyline in sight when you turn around!

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

On a scale of 1 being a downhill paved course and 10 being a mountain trail race, I give this a 4. If you run the bridge and the tunnel smart, the course rewards you with a flat, fast finish.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

There is plenty of pre-race communication and a great security presence. This race felt safe and well organized. Join the race Facebook group to get insider tips from the knowledgeable race appointed ambassadors.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

This does not draw a strong field for being a big city race. There is a small prize purse for the lead runners.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

  • You MUST have ID to cross the border. Michigan residents can use a Real ID license. Most people use a passport. They will check this at packet pickup.
  • Along those lines, you must also be preapproved by Canadian border control. During registration, you complete a questionnaire similar to a background check. If something is flagged, you may be rejected or required to appear before the officers in the week preceding the race.
  • Parking downtown is easy if you are willing to walk. All of the casinos offer free parking in their massive garages. The trade-off is the 3/4 mile walk to gear check.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

2023- They offered ClifBlocks. I hope based on the feedback I heard they offer something else in the future.

Fluid was offered about every 1-1.5 miles. There were two fuel stations.

Weather and typical race conditions

Perfect. Mid-October in Detroit is generally mild (40s-50s).

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?

You must carry your government issued ID during the race. If something happens while you are in Canada, you do not want to be stuck without proper identification. Many people used a fanny pack or belt. I taped mine to the back of my bib. If you tape it, use a strong shirt. The weight of the passport ripped one of the safety pins 5 miles in.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

This is a fantastic race to watch a friend! Within a couple of blocks, you can see the runner 4 times! Start, coming from the tunnel, the loop back to downtown around mile 16, and the finish.

How’s the Swag?

Great long sleeve shirt, mylar blanket, medal.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

4- Definitely worth doing once to cross a border during a race! The tunnel is a little claustrophobic and the neighborhoods a bit too quiet to tempt me to do it a second time.

Emily Alley is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about her or to work with her, check out her coach profile.