I (Sue) live about 150 miles from Sault Ste. Marie (MI/Canada) and I have family living there, so adding the Sault International Festival of Races to my schedule was a no brainer. I drove over on Friday and my step-daughter Erin and I headed to bib pick-up. This is a relatively small race (less than 70 half marathoners), so it was basically grab our bibs & shirts and out. Except for something pretty awesome. Spurred by an article earlier in the week in the Sault Evening News, the race director had contacted me and asked me to look her up as they wanted to make a donation to our ALS TDI fundraising. Imagine my shock and elation when, on Friday evening, she handed me a check for $500! What a great win for the fight against ALS!
When we left there, Erin and I drove the race course, so that I could see where we’d be running the next morning, as some of it had changed from the previous years I’d run this race. A good part of the course is the usual route Erin runs several times a week and I will run with her when visiting, therefore, much of it was quite familiar. But there were a few turns I wasn’t aware of and glad to have the heads-up since I was pretty sure there would be times I’d be out there without another runner in sight. We then went back home, ate dinner, visited and settled in for the night.
Saturday morning I was up more than an hour before anyone else…as usual. Lots of morning prep time works well for me, even if it means a 4:00 am wake up. I’m not so sure my roommates agree sometimes, but I try my best to be courteous. We left Erin’s house at 6:30 and drove the couple miles to the race start at Lake Superior State University. It was nice to be able to wait inside a warm building and head outside just in time for the 7:15 start. I briefly saw a man toward the front of the start wearing a Defeat ALS shirt but lost sight of him quickly.
The start gun sounded and we were immediately running. Down the hill, onto the ramp leading to the International Bridge that connects the two Sault Ste. Maries. I have no qualms telling you I don’t like that bridge. I’ve run it three times and it has never become any easier. There’s the up/down – up/down heading toward Canada; just before you hit the border is the turn around to repeat it back to Michigan. The Bridge Run (7.1 miles) participants had started 15 minutes after us and I was passed by several of them before I made it off the bridge. But I knew not to push my body that early in the race as that portion of the course takes a lot of my energy with the cement, cooler weather, and incline/decline. The saving grace…it’s beautiful! Then it was off the bridge, up the ramp, a right turn and the rest was flat. I maintained my 2:30/:30 run/walk intervals and just enjoyed the run through familiar territory.
Somewhere around mile 8 or 9, the man with the Defeat ALS shirt passed me saying, “Hey, I like your shirt.” My response: “I like yours too!” A couple miles later I caught up with him and we started talking and ended up finishing together. Even a small race like this and I run into someone with yet another amazing story of a connection to ALS. Kenny lost his mother to the disease a few years ago. As a stay-at-home dad at the time, he was able to care for her throughout her illness. He is now preparing to enter nursing school in a few months with plans to become a hospice nurse. Chatting and running with him made those final miles fly by! It was so enjoyable that I’d lost track of my intervals and we had been walking for quite some time when he said, “You think we should try running for awhile?” OOPS! We discovered we had run the Air Force Half Marathon “together” the prior Saturday and at least one other race this year so far. I have a feeling our paths will cross again.
I’m getting pretty good at predicting my performance. I’d told Mary Jo, the race director, to look for me finishing around 2:25 for the official check presentation. My official time? 2:26:18.