If I Can’t Run Your Race, I’ll Make My Own: Ann Arbor Half Marathon

SUPPOSE YOU AND A BUNCH OF YOUR FRIENDS want to run a local marathon, and you sign up for it well in advance. But then the marathon reschedules, and you won’t be in town on the new date.

What would you do?

Well, if you’re this guy here, you create your own race and hold it on the original date.

Meet Troy, who conceived, designed, and conducted the Ann Arbor Trail Half Marathon at Bird Hills Nature Area today. The Ann Arbor Marathon, which was also originally scheduled for today, moved to May this year. Troy’s race wasn’t quite the same, of course. It was on trails instead of road, had no registration, fees, race bibs, or swag, and post-race festivities consisted of music streamed over a phone, and hot cocoa and cookies.

It was a blast.

Bird Hills Nature Area is a hidden gem in the north of Ann Arbor whose trails run through a mix of hilly forest and flat prairie. Troy mapped out a 13.1 mile route and marked it better than many professional trail races, even including distances on his turn arrows. My rough estimate is that about 40 runners braved a cold morning with bitter wind to run the course.

The runners take off into the woods.

My experience was mixed. I’m still recovering from the Land Between the Lakes 50-miler two weeks ago, and that combined with my Saturday club run meant my legs just weren’t all there. So I turned back early for a total of ten miles. It was a good reminder that just perhaps, I’m not (completely) indestructible. I really enjoyed the course, though, and the sunny day, and giving lots of free advice to a young lady (leftmost in photo below) running her first ultra at Trail Marathon Weekend next month.

And my free advice is worth every penny.

Afterward, I asked Troy what his motivation was for creating the trail half. He’s a member of the U-M Triathlon Club, and a bunch of them were looking forward to running the Ann Arbor Marathon. But its new date of May 20 is after the end of the semester, and he’s graduating and moving out of state. So this was how he coped. What a great example of taking lemons and making lemonade.

I don’t blame the marathon organizers for moving the date. The March races have been cold the last several years, and today would have been another miserable experience for race volunteers and spectators. And even while running, it took about three miles for me to thaw out completely. It’s a shame that a May date means many students can’t be part of the marathon, but you can’t satisfy everyone.

So thanks, Troy, for putting this together. It was my pleasure to supply some coffee and to make sure it was a Zero Waste event.

You’d grin like this, too, if you got a gift card for pizza. Yes, you would. Admit it.

P.S. Oh, and where is Troy moving? To San Luis Obispo, which happens to be the site of this year’s U.S. Trail Running Conference, and the home of Race SLO, which puts on some very popular marathons and ultras. I think his running future will be well served there!

3 thoughts on “If I Can’t Run Your Race, I’ll Make My Own: Ann Arbor Half Marathon

  1. This is so cool! I am not sure I realized you were an Ann Arbor guy! Apologies if we have discussed this before and I am forgetting!
    We were so glad to be back there this weekend and thought the 5k that ended in the Big House was a blast–although we wished they would push it and make it more of a dependably Spring (weather-wise) event. I know that would cut out the students–but I think they would get a lot more residents that way! As an Ann Arbor native–I am sort of partial to when the students get out of town, lol.
    So great that your friend put together his own race, that is really cool. I am not sure I will ever do the Ann Arbor marathon–I don’t think I’m a strong enough runner to do ones that don’t have a ton of crowd support the whole way through, it would be tough for me!
    Anyway, glad to read about this–so glad you commented on my post!

    1. Thanks! I guess I didn’t realize you were local, either. What races in this area do you have coming up? I’m either running or working Zero Waste at a good number of them. Would love to say hello in person!

      1. I am actually not local–just originally from! I live in Brooklyn now but was born and raised in Ann Arbor. Was there two weekends ago for a VERY cold 5k! Take care ;).

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