It's the morning of the Dexter-Ann Arbor Run, and I wonder how I will do. Did I train enough? Will I run better than last year? How will I place in my new age group, women 60-64?
At Dexter Middle School, hundreds of runners are already gathered, warming up, stretching, talking to family and friends. Faster runners go to the front of the pack. I amble toward the back.
The starting gun fires, and we are off! Three thousand runners jockey for position — not pushing but seeking a spot, trying to get comfortable running. We know we have a long way to go.
During the two miles through the green countryside of Parker Road, we spread out and calm down. By the time we reach Dexter, we have hit our stride and are feeling confident. We get water, hear calls of encouragement from people's porches, and head down Central Street to Huron River Drive.
Ah, Huron River Drive — about eleven miles of scenic, winding road along a beautiful river. Around mile 5 we pass a few fans gathered at the corner of Zeeb Road and the entrances to Loch Alpine. The children are on bikes, and the adults have coffee cups in their hands. They cheer as we pass.
At Delhi Metropark, rows of portable toilets attest to the 10K race that started here about the time our half-marathon left from Dexter. Soon after, at mile 7, we come to the first of the run's three big hills. I hug the inside of the steep curve and hope I won't have to walk. At mile 9, near Maple Road, friendly spectators give out water and offer us a run through the sprinkler or a dip from the bucket.
At Bird Road, near mile 11, we run through a secluded, tree-shaded stretch of road. I wish I would run faster, but I cannot, and I just continue, preparing myself for the two big hills and the end of the race.
Signs for the curve near Camp Hilltop mark the first hill. To cheer us on, an aid station here dispenses loud music and outrageous snacks. I run by, declining the food. I know that after the flat stretch on North Main, the last hill awaits.
The fast finishers are walking down the hill, heading for home, as we make our slow but steady ascent. When I finally cross Miller Road, I am elated to see the Finish banner ahead. People line the streets, and an announcer is calling out our names.
I cross the finish line, look at the time clock, step on the carpet so that my "chip" is registered, take off the chip, and collapse on the curb nearby. I wish that I had run faster, but I always feel satisfied. There is no better way to spend a spring morning than running this race along the Huron River and enjoying every exhausting minute of it.
This year's Dexter-Ann Arbor Run is Sunday, June 1.