The Crim Is Coming, The Crim Is Coming !!
The Crim 10 Mile Road Race is perhaps the best 10 Mile race in the entire world! What makes it so great is it’s heritage, the organizers, supporters, volunteers, runners, and all of the people of Flint Michigan!
You can’t truly understand what it means to be from Flint unless you have lived there. I did spend much of my adolescence and early adult life growing up in the area between 1964 and 1977. The Flint Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) awarded me with scholarships that made it possible for me to realize my life long dream of becoming an architect. I likely never would have been able to pay my entire way without their support. The Flint area is also where my running career as a middle school runner from Grand Blanc. More on that later.
Thus, the Crim for me represents a very special homecoming. A homecoming event that began in 1984 and continues through this day. About 10 years ago, I was enjoying my “second” glass of wine one evening and started to write an email to my running buds about how to run the Crim course. It has evolved into an annual publication titled “Touring The Crim Course” . Each year there are unique edits.
This year rather than sharing to a limited number of running friends, I choose to publish sections of this report every day until Crim week. This is the first of such posts as I guide you with some background and along the first mile. Be sure to return each day as I continue to guide you each mile. I hope you will enjoy.
Pre - Race
Normally the pre-race events start for me about a week in advance. I follow the event’s website, enjoy a mild taper, and travel to and from Flint Friday to attend the expo. Race morning begins while most normal people remain in their dream state. I awake hours before the race, enjoy my coffee, toasted bagel with PB and jam, get dressed in my race gear, pack my food and race goods into a bag and head out to meet other runners from our Running Fit 501 group to caravan from Novi to Flint. We arrive in downtown Flint before sunrise and just as the race grounds begin to awake.
If we are lucky, the weather is clear, cool, and dry. However, this is Crim weekend and the weather is rarely ideal for running a 10-mile world class race. Traditionally the weather is hot, sunny, and very humid. Nonetheless, many world and American records have been set for the 10-mile distance on this now prestigious course.
This is perhaps the best place in the racing world to people watch for there are all types of individuals all with one thing on their mind, either finishing the race or to watch their family member or friend finish a race. While this part is fun, it’s also time to get serious. Runners need to continue to hydrate and that of course leads to the inevitable trip to the port-a-john. Get to one soon for it may not be the last time to need to use one! Somewhere about this time you will also be hearing several reports from the PA announcer. They will welcome you to the Crim and remind you who the sponsors are. In the midst of this you will also be aware of the first official start of the Crim 10 Miler. The wheelers will be the first to start a full 30 minutes of your start. This is always an inspiring moment to witness. I highly recommend you find your way to the starting line to experience this event and get your blood flowing a bit before you start your warm-up.
Next up are the true elite runners, those who will be running their 30th Crim or more! New this year new to Crim will be the first ever class of 40 year runners! 19 inspiring runners have participated in every Crim race since the first back in 1977. This group of special elite runners will be honored with a 15 minute head start ahead of the thousands of other runners. I am very honored and proud to join this group for the first time too! It seems like just yesterday that I was counting down the final few years until I could join this group. Now I can claim being a member of the 30 year club and looking forward to running my 33rd Crim. Think of it, how many other clubs have a 30 year waiting list?
Perhaps one of the most important things a runner can do prior to a race such as Crim is to warm-up those cold muscles. There are plenty of opportunities to jog along the city streets that parallel Saginaw St. Mix some slow running with a few quicker strides, stretch a bit, get loose, get your heart rate up, and then find your place in your starting corral at the last possible moment (3-5 mins ahead of the start).
After weeks if not months of training there you stand in a crowd of people on the bricks of Saginaw St. between the Citizens Bank Building and the Flint U-M Student Union. Several years ago they started the race in waves. This means the elites and faster runners (approximately 7 mins per mile pace or better) are the only ones who now actually start at the official start time. Other runners will be held back a minute or two for each corral or group of corrals. There is very little time and distance between each wave. It will not take long for the entire mass of 10,000 or so runners to blend as one long parade line running through Flint.
The weather is probably sunny with a bit of an over cast, deceptively humid, and warm. Not to bad for the 4th Saturday in a Michigan August. The air is still as the PA announcer finally realizes there is nothing more to say, nobody left to recognize, and turns the mike over to Riley McClincha to sing the nation anthem. There may be a hot air balloon over the near horizon, perhaps a television helicopter, and certainly at least one drone hovering above you!
Finally the Mayor of Flint will ask the runners and walkers to get ready, pause, then announce the runners and walkers to START. The gun! or more accurately the horn sounds! You begin to move from a being anxiously still for the past 10 - 20 minutes or so to a mild shuffle that quickly turns into a walk, a jog, and a slight run. Before you know it you are stepping over the chip mat, you click your watch, the crowded field begins to disperse, and you are a Crim participant!
Being a participant is nice, but you want to succeed! Success in the Crim is a very individual measurement. Whether it is to simply finish without walking, win a medal, set a PR, or even a national record makes no difference, it’s all about knowing that you achieved your best today! To help you achieve your best the following is a brief outline of what to expect, perhaps suggest a strategy to attain it, and hopefully help you celebrate your Crim success!
Despite the shoulder to shoulder start, you will want to be sure to line up on the right side of the street. Within the first two hundred feet or so there is a traffic island barrier in the road. you will remain on Saginaw St. for the first quarter mile and then the course will take a 90 degree turn to the right. If you take the left side of the traffic island you will be adding unwanted distance to your very first mile. It may not sound like much but the Crim course gently winds in many places and you need to run all of the tangents as efficiently as possible to help ensure your best finish time.
Think of the first turn in the route as a giant hair-pin turn for before you know it you will make another 90 degree right turn and head once again over the beautiful Flint River as you run south along Harrison St. That 9 story tall office building on your right brings back many memories for this writer as I was the project architect for the State Office Building in 1980-81 and oversaw much of the construction activity as well.
Harrison St. parallels Saginaw St. and will offer the opportunity for spectators to line the street and cheer you along the start of your Crim adventure for 2019. The newer route no longer crosses over Saginaw St. where the crowds previously gathered, but like earlier years, you need to be very careful along this part of the route and not to get too excited, avoid any adrenaline rush, and keep running nice and relaxed. It’s very OK, in fact it is even very smart to run slower than your intended pace at this point in the race. Begin to work your way to the left side of Harrison as your next turn is onto Kearsley St.
Kearsley St. also brings back many fond memories for this writer for where the route turns left once stood the old Palace movie theater. I saw many movies here as a kid, the last one being “Woodstock” way too many years ago. Kearsley was also the name of a Flint area school that was the nemesis of my high school track and cross country teams, again too many years ago. Like years fly by, so will you along this portion of the route. It is straight with a very gentle slope that you will likely not perceive but one that will affect your pace. Keep relaxed, the cheering crowds are likely to extend along Kearsley St., the border of Flint U-M’s campus as you begin to approach the 1 mile mark.
Take this mile easy and relaxed. Remember 10 miles is still a long way and you likely did not have much of an opportunity to warm your muscles, including your heart! Focus on being relaxed, don’t work too hard by passing too many too soon. The crowd will soon begin to spread out. Keep your head up and look ahead at the mass of runners, look for how the mass will turn, you will want to move to the side of the street where the next turn will move you. Smart racers focus on running the shortest distance possible! Be aware of the next tangent ahead!
Before you know it you are out on the wide open Chavez Dr. you approach the one mile mark. Odds are that you will run your first mile faster than you would like too, do not fret too much, this is a race and the beginning of mile 2 will quickly reel you back to reality.
Thanks for following me this first mile, be sure to check back tomorrow for Mile 2 !