Courtesy of Elizabeth Yoon

On Oct. 24, 2021, like in years before, the writers of The Michigan Daily Arts stretched out their hammies to participate in a grueling challenge of mental fortitude and physical fitness: the Probility Ann Arbor Marathon. A little pretentious, a little weird, Daily Arts had a writer running the half-marathon and two relay teams: A-Side and B-side (a reference to the special themed B-Sides that Arts publishes bi-weekly). Read the initial race impressions from our 2021 runners here. Additionally, you can read reflections from B-Side runners and the half-marathon runner here.

Leg 1: Cece Duran, 7.1 miles

In light of Halloween, nothing felt spookier than running seven miles in 32-degree weather. The night before the Ann Arbor marathon, I tossed and turned the same way I did when I took my SATs three years ago. Getting three hours of sleep and waking up to a still dark morning didn’t scream “run = fun.” I got up with enough time to do laundry, which says something. After the fourth layer of clothing, two oat protein balls and a warm cup of tea, I was ready to meet up with everyone in the Diag. The walk there was chilly, giving me premature winter vibes, and suddenly I dreaded having to run the race. 

However, once we got to the starting line, that changed. I took it upon myself to get rid of all negativity once my legs started moving. The zebra-patterned sunrise was a beautiful shade of pink, and the energy around me was vibrant — people drinking their last sips of Gatorade, taking pictures to capture the moment, stretching their calves against the curb — all in preparation for the starting whistle. 

I had the pleasure of running alongside my good friend Ross London, fellow Arts writer and Helicon Haus companion. I knew he’d set a reliable pace; he’s as good a runner as a conversationalist, so I took the money and ran — literally. Before I knew it, we were halfway through the leg. We talked about art, life and shared anecdotes while appreciating the scenery. The crunch of red leaves under our feet, the distant cheering from people we admired coming out to support on such a crisp morning, the fog that extended beyond our plain of view.

As I was running, I realized it wasn’t all that bad. In fact, we ended up running almost two miles more than we had expected. Yes, my knees hurt, and my stomach churned, but when we crossed the relay line, all I felt was pride. The big smile gave it away, as did the hug I gave Ross. On Sunday, I exceeded all my expectations, but most importantly, I beat all my records. 

Now, this doesn’t mean I will start running marathons — my hips and back still ache. But it means that I should allow myself to be surprised more often. Ann Arbor at dawn on a fall Sunday is beautiful, and I know I wouldn’t have been able to see this beauty without the run. Good company and good conversations will get one far. 

— Cece Duran, Daily Arts Writer

Leg 2: Drew Gadbois, 6.1 miles + the Arb hill

I’m not quite sure when it was that I found out my role as an alternate for the relay had been promoted to participant, but I’m confident when I say it was close enough to the actual race day that I felt way in over my head. In fact, it wasn’t even until a week before the race that I found out I was capable of running the distance required of me. You see, my running style up until this point had been high tempo and short distance, exactly the opposite of what one is supposed to do for marathons. Part of the problem is that my own ability to pace myself is fundamentally flawed; without hesitation, every time I begin a run, I fire out of the gates far too quickly for my own good.

Of course, this time was no different. Partially rattled by my 20-second struggle to put on my relay belt, I shot out of the handoff like a frightened horse, passing my running partner in the process. 

My goal for this relay: try and get under an eight-minute mile pace. 

The plan: hang around an eight-minute pace for the first half so I don’t burn out and then pick up the tempo for the final stretch. Instead, I started things off at a rapid seven-minute mile, realized I made a grievous error, and gradually dropped my tempo over the course of the relay. In hindsight, I’m kind of shocked at how well that worked. Besides my battle with the massive incline at the Arb (at one point, I slowed to a snail’s pace and a runner beside me attempted to humiliate me by pointing out I was only running a portion of the marathon … it worked), everything flowed pretty smoothly.

We hit a snag when I reached the end of my relay portion and realized that I would not, in fact, be ending at the start of the race — where my relay partner was patiently waiting. The relay hand-off was instead about a block south. This resulted in one out-of-breath phone call letting her know she might have run a tiny bit more than she expected. 

As it turns out, I accomplished my goal of getting under an eight-minute mile, cranking out something around 7:50 total and even taking fifth place for my leg. I also didn’t die in the process; another upside, I suppose. Was it all worth it? Yeah, I would say so. I experienced a beautiful day with great company. Am I going to upgrade to a full marathon any time soon? Ha. No.

— Drew Gadbois, Senior Arts Editor

Note: Leg 2 was previously going to be run by Senior Arts Editor Kari Anderson but injury and the Michigan Marching Band foiled her plans of participating. Read her reflection on the race here.

Leg 3: Kaitlyn Fox, 7.1 miles

It wouldn’t be a proper race day without some sort of mishap. Some days it’s the inability to find a parking spot minutes before the race starts; other days, it’s a debilitating cramp or ache that sticks with you throughout the entire run. For this race, it was being in the wrong place when my team member Drew arrived at the relay exchange. 

I knew something was wrong when I saw that he was calling me, and my stomach dropped as he breathlessly yelled into the phone, “You’re in the wrong place!” Turns out the relay exchange was a couple of blocks away from the start line that I was stationed at, so as soon as I got the call, I sprinted over to where Drew was recovering from his six-mile leg and dashed away before I even had the chance to tell him “good job.”

Perhaps it was the adrenaline from my minor panic attack, or maybe my legs were feeling exceptionally good that day, but my seven-mile stretch went by surprisingly fast. This is what I love about racing: Your body can surprise you in amazing ways under the pressure of a race environment. That day, my GPS watch was glitching. Thus, I told myself I would just run at a pace that felt good and focus on enjoying the race, and I found that my running was much smoother and faster without the stress of pacing. 

People often ask me why I pay money to participate in races, running on public roads and trails. Why wake up early and put my body through an immense amount of stress? My answer is always the running community. There’s a special kind of energy that exists at the start line, and I find that I perform at my best when I’m surrounded by hundreds of other runners who are also striving for new personal records. As I made my way down East University Avenue, I was greeted by a roar of spectators cheering me on in the early miles of my leg. When I got into the thick of the race down Geddes Avenue, I was encouraged with chants of “Keep it up!” and “You’re doing great!” from fellow runners on the course. One man in particular yelled, “Girl, you’re FLYING,” as I passed him, and I couldn’t help but laugh despite how out of breath I felt. 

The end of my leg took me to the Huron River, where I ran alongside a beautiful landscape of autumn trees and still water. That final mile is a moment I’ll remember forever. Winding around the streets of Ann Arbor and taking in the people, colors and energy of the city has me fired up to sign up for the next one. 

— Kaitlyn Fox, Music Beat Editor

Leg 4: Brenna Goss, 6.1 miles + the Arb hill

The only race I’ve ever ran was a 5k nearly a decade ago, so I didn’t really know what to expect when I woke up in the dark, scarfed down half a bagel and headed out the door. To be honest, I was just glad it wasn’t already raining (the weather forecast had been threatening it all week). The whole city was drowned in fog, though, and the 25-minute walk to our designated meeting spot on the Diag felt eerie and bitterly cold. Needless to say, I was already regretting my decision to sign up. I imagined waiting for hours outside, shivering, with only the apple I’d thrown in my bag at the last minute to keep me going. (Yes, I know this is melodramatic, but I’m not exactly a morning person.)

After I met up with all my teammates, though — meeting some for the first time — I was in much higher spirits. And even my grouchy early-morning self couldn’t deny how good the energy felt at the starting line. Everyone was talking to one another, hanging around booths, or stretching silently with their earbuds in and game faces on. As for the Daily Arts team, we said farewell to our first-leg runners and then got to work drawing all over our poster. (I contributed a very poor approximation of a cat and something that may have been a panda.) All in all, when it came time to actually run, I was feeling pretty good despite my lack of sleep and food.

I made it to the handoff location with plenty of time, which I was unnecessarily concerned about after a tech malfunction led me to believe that Kaitlyn was somehow running five-minute miles. I didn’t run anywhere near that pace — and I ran slower than her actual pace as well — but I ran the whole thing. In a month and a half, I’d not only shaved a few minutes off of my mile time, but I’d increased my distance from one mile to six.

That doesn’t necessarily mean I enjoyed all six of those miles. To put it simply: Mile one was alright, mile two sucked, mile three sucked even worse (I may have sent an expletive-laden text to my teammates when I reached the Arb hills), but by mile four, the “runner’s high” had hit. In the last segment, I felt buoyant — and further buoyed by strangers’ supportive comments as I ran past them on campus. Crossing the finish line, I was even a little disappointed I hadn’t gotten to run another mile.

And then we got brunch at Avalon, which is worth going through just about anything for.

— Brenna Goss, Daily Arts Writer