Friendly? Damn Right I’m Friendly!

The 43rd annual Dexter-Ann Arbor Run is this Sunday, and thousands of people will turn out to run and watch the 5K, 10K, and half marathon along the Huron River. The races all end in the heart of downtown, right next to the Taste of Ann Arbor festival, where local restaurants set up on the street with samples of their best stuff. Basically, it’s a day-long street party with running thrown in.

DXA2 2013 finish lineThe 2010 DX2 was my first-ever half marathon, and it remains among my favorite races due to the great turnout and positive energy everywhere. It’s one of the events that shows how strongly the Ann Arbor area embraces running.

And along those lines: Ann Arbor recently received the “Outstanding Runner-Friendly Community Award” from the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA)!

Ann Arbor Outstanding Running Community Plaque

What makes us so runner-friendly? One is our extensive and growing number of trails and multi-purpose paths, including the Border-to-Border Trail and a new trail opening this month in the Waterloo Recreation Area. Also, many local companies offer incentives or support for runners, and the Ann Arbor Track Club hosts races (like DXA2) and offers running scholarships. And runners are everywhere. On Saturday mornings it’s not unusual to see water stops for at least three large running groups, including, of course, PR Fitness.

Runners themselves are a friendly bunch, too. The groups I’ve run with have been, without fail, very welcoming. Want to run with us? Cool, come along. You’ll be asked what you’re training for, or how far you’re going that day, just out of curiosity. No one will think less of you if you’re not a racer, or are just starting a couch-to-5K program. In fact, people new to running often get the most encouragement. Joining a group was a big part of how I changed from an occasional, short-distance runner into a marathoner and beyond.

How about a big, sweaty group hug?

How about a big, sweaty group hug?

So, will I be at DXA2 like I’ve been every year since 2010? Well, no. I’m in Wisconsin this weekend taking part in a slightly more challenging race – the Kettle Moraine Trail 100. The start is 6:00 a.m. Saturday, and if all goes well I will cross the finish line sometime Sunday morning.

So why would I give up one of my favorite events to run for 24 hours or more on trails in the middle of nowhere? All I can tell you is there’s something about trail running that I find incredibly fulfilling, even as I splash through swamps and slog up and down hills, tripping on rocks and roots and getting incredibly sore.

Happy Trail Runners 2And trail runners are the most friendly and supportive people I know. I’ve written before how three runners walked me to the aid station when I bonked during a 50-miler last year. At Kettle I expect to hear (and give) lots of encouragement along the way. Does saying “Good job!” or the like to every runner I pass get old? Not so far. Never get tired of hearing it, either.

And the Kettle Moraine welcome email had these as the first two reminders to runners:

  1. No littering
  2. Help your fellow runners be successful

So in the minds of the race organizers, the two important things are: take care of the environment, and take care of each other. Sounds like a good recipe for life, doesn’t it.

Update after the race. If you feel like sending some emotional support, go right ahead. Make a new friend, or be kind to a stranger. I’m sure the karma will reach me!

In running, even the Devil is friendly!

In running, even the Devil is friendly!

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