Touring Crim - Entire Version
In response to an overwhelming demand (was there a demand?) I am publishing the entire version of “Touring The Crim Course” in a single post. I hope this will be of some aid to some runners out there.
I look forward to your feedback and thank you in advance.
Pre - Race
Normally the prerace 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.
If you were fortunate enough to catch your split and get a drink, you need to continue to run smart and keep your head up! Continue to watch the crowd of runners ahead of you. Note their path and the turns to the left onto Robert T. Longway Blvd. This is a very nostalgic turn for me. The small office building on the corner once was the home of the Flint architectural firm Nelson McKinley Reed. I visited this office during my high school years and after completing my Master of Architecture degree, ended up working for them, but at a different location two blocks exactly west of the Crim finish line!.
The nostalgia bug continues to bite me as we run along Robert T. Longway, just after running over the Flint River, the runners pass a high rise residential building surrounded by low rise residential buildings. This housing initially was named the Doyle Housing Project, and I worked on many of the low rise buildings, again during my early years as an architect working in downtown Flint.
Next, just before you cross Saginaw St. the race organizers were kind enough to offer you a very brief short cut on the course! You make two gentle left turns and then suddenly you are once again on Saginaw St. and looking ahead at the starting line you left just minutes ago. As a 30 year runner I get a 15 minute head start on the field. So, when I arrive at this point on the course I see the mass of runners lined up and prepared to start.
The view of the starting line is not a long one for next you will make a right turn and will be running on the original Crim route as you pass the 2 mile mark!
This is where you return to the balance of the “old Crim route”. You likely begin mile 3 at least a few seconds faster than your goal pace. No fear another hill is near J This time it’s of the long and slow rise variety. Between the 2 and 3 mile marker you likely will not realize it but you conquer a 60 foot rise in the course too. In case you either forgot your breakfast you can likely take advantage of the Krispy Kremes or similar treats being offered to runners at some point along this part of the course!
During this mile you will likely start to encounter the back of the pack members of the 30 and 40 year clubs. You can’t miss them as they will be wearing the number that represents their years of running Crim. Be sure to offer encouragement and congratulations to each of these runners. I promise you will be rewarded with special runner karma later along the course J
Be careful here as there are several small traffic islands in the street. You will need to stay to the right of these islands and for the entire distance along University. You do NOT want to ever be running along the left side of University!
You will be on this street for nearly a mile. If you are not having a good day, this stretch will do nothing to make it any better. It begins with a hill, flattens in the middle a bit, before another long gentle slope up to the 3 mile mark at the corner of Chevrolet.
Two of my favorite sites along this stretch are the locals who stand along the street curb to cheer and Atwood Stadium. Odds are you will be much closer to your goal pace at this point, but don’t be surprised if you begin to question your ability to maintain your pace for the next 7 miles. You will really need to maintain a positive mental attitude as you run this long, straight, and gently rising mile stretch. Do not let this stretch of the race beat you mentally.
If you like long essentially straight routes you will love miles 3 and 4. Mile 4 along Chevrolet Ave may have a gentle bend to it. You need to mentally prepare to run straight line and not become focused on your tired legs. There is a reason they are feeling tired now, beyond the obvious, Chevrolet is also a very gentle but seemingly constant rise to the next turn at Cashew Point. It also is not perfectly straight either! About mid way, if you are paying attention and know how to run tangents properly, there is an opportunity to save a few strides here too!
Cashew Point, this is perhaps one of the more recently famous turns in all of road racing? This is where in the past the tradition was that you were offered free (and likely warm) beer to wash down that Krispy Kreme you had! But following the 2012 Crim it was announced that the homeowner at this famed corner was going into retirement and 2012 was his last year. The thousands of devoted Crim runners missed this thrill. However, Cashew Point returned in 2014! Be prepared to be greeted by a rowdy crowd, enjoy the crowd for after this point (no pun) the race really begins and you need to rely upon your mental strength too!
This is also the point at which you want to begin to regain your stride and pace for as you turn the sharp left corner you also begin a very welcomed downhill! It is a very subtle downhill so you might otherwise miss it, but trust me, this is an excellent point to gain some time!
You are now moving thru a little better area of Flint, not only for the houses but also for the welcomed shade. Most of mile 5 is downhill and meanders thru several streets. Despite the Bradley’s that lay ahead, this is not any time to slow to rest for them! Keep the faith and keep running hard. To help you keep that faith, there is a gospel choir as you make your right turn onto Sunset before heading to Bradley! Somehow this group is very appropriately placed J
Up next, the Bradleys’! You can’t miss them. First, you will undoubtedly overhear other experienced runners talk about the Bradleys’ as you approach them. Second and impossible to miss is the giant blue entry balloon gate. The Crim tracks runners for 1 mile of the Bradley neighborhood. Next, one quick left turn and before you know it you are facing the first of three rolling hills.
The first is actually the toughest, in part because to the uninitiated you mentally break down thinking they all are this bad! Not really, stay to the left side of the road and use the people cheering you on as motivation, remember the arm and upper body action, keep your head up, and visualize flattening those hills with each foot strike. Pretend your legs and feet are a steam roller rolling down the size of each hill.
As you reach the peak of the first hill you may think, is that it? For it seems like just as soon as you hit the first hill you are headed down and to the actual 5 mile mark. Congrats you are halfway home!
Halfway? Not so fast!
Crim history has proven that it is a race that is extremely difficult to run a negative split. So odds are you are not half way home in terms of time, but give it a shot and go for that negative split! So far you should at least be running smart if not fast.
The second and third Bradley hills are not as terrible as the first. However, it is because you just finished the first hill that these two seem so terrible. The Bradley’s are not so much about the ability to run hills as they are about the ability to recover from hills. Of course to recover you must first actually run a hill!
Successfully conquering these three hills may seem like a victory but as you might guess, there is a theme here. As you cross the next major intersection at Corunna Rd. there is (IMHO) the worse hill on the course. There is actually a 4th Bradley! This is not a hill, hill, but rather a long steady climb that takes you just shy of the 6 mile mark. For many years a group of residents have passed out cups of ice cubes for the runners. I highly recommend you keep the back of your shirt tucked in your shorts. Then take the ice cubes and toss them on your back. They will rest between your skin and shirt, in the small of your back and provide a very nice albeit short lived cooling effect.
Make a right turn onto Court Street and in a few hundred feet you will not only be at the 6 mile mark but also on an overall downhill slope to the finish!
Just kidding! Yes from mile 6 to 10 the course drops, but along mile 7 on beautiful Hawthorne and Parkside Aves you will see your share of rolling hills, mostly shaded route and the many huge stately homes of Flint! Stay to the left side of the shady Hawthorne Ave.
The views are nice, many neighbors are out to support you, there will be a band playing as you approach the mile mark, but do not get too distracted. This is a very critical stretch to pay attention to the tangents! This is especially true once you make the 90 degree left turn onto Parkside Ave. Here the shade is gone as your view opens up to the site of Swartz Creek Golf Course.
Yes, mile 7 might have felt short as hopefully you have been able to pick up your pace again as the course is flat to downhill. There are two immediate tangents to pay close attention too immediately following this turn. Along scenic Parkside you will receive encouragement from a high school band and cheer team may get your juices jumping a bit but you still need to pay attention to the curves of the tangents, work the hills (they are all short so run hard and get them over with!) and stride down the hills when given the opportunity.
There are many twists and turns along the last half of this mile that prevent you from seeing too far ahead. The result is you may think you only have one more bend in the road when in fact another bend and another hill await you. Your pace is likely slower than a few miles ago so your brain teases you by making you think the route is longer and harder. Remember, a mile is a mile.
As you approach the end of mile 8 there is a large house on the right, you are on a shaded part of the route, and there will likely be a hose spraying water for you to run through. There is another very mild hill to get over and again, your mind begins to play tricks on you. Be mentally tough, don’t slow down, plow through this point and turn the corner onto Miller Rd. only two more miles to race!
However, sneaky mile 8 decides to jump up and steal it all back again! Enjoy this stretch of road for as you turn right onto Court St, you will be likely be greeted by sunshine with the resulting hot pavement. The sun, the heat from the pavement, the vast width of the road, your tired legs, all combine to make this part of the route this writer’s least favorite. The best part of mile 8 is completing it, for now there are only 2 more miles to race!
Mile 9 is really the character builder, for as you turn right onto Miller, you will be likely be greeted by sunshine with the resulting hot pavement. The sun, the heat from the pavement, the vast width of the road, your tired legs, all combine to make this part of the route this writer’s least favorite. Continue to stay to the right for there is a welcomed aid station ahead. After your drink of choice (Gator Aid or water) you will need to move to the left side of the road.
Appropriately placed about the mid-point is a group of young cheerleaders on your left. You will also be greeted by members of the Flint Sunrise Rotary Club, be sure to thank these wonderful volunteers giving their last Saturday of the summer to support you!
Somewhere along mile 9 on Miller, the Karma Gods may reward you for your diligent effort, support of the 30 and 40 year runners, and greetings to other volunteers by boosting your mental effort or by dismissing those aches you feel in your tired legs.
You will know when you are about to hit the 9-mile mark when you see a large crowd of support to your right. The supporters from Flint Powers High School will be there to cheer you on to Court St as you stride into the final mile!
You crossed the last blue mile mark line for the race and you can begin to sense the finish. This is where it is critical to at least maintain your steady pace! At least until you hit the White Horse Tavern on your left and at about the 9.5 mile mark. You can’t miss this place, it’s at a traffic light, has a loud boom box and DJ, and off course a statue of a small white horse in front! You will want to move to the left side of the street at this point.
Be sure to smile as you reach the roadway over the Swartz Creek, for there are always several camera people there on the right side of the road, nudge ahead of the next runner so you can have an opportunity to score a great race shot of you J
If you have been holding your pace, this is the spot to slowly but surely begin to step it up a bit, not too much too soon but begin now! Yes there is one more seemingly long slow hill, but tough this one out as it is the last one you will notice!
Court St. meanders a bend onto Fifth St. as you negotiated the tangents in the early miles you must continue to run with your head up and pay careful attention to these final few tangents too for if you do, you will ultimately be rewarded with a faster finish time
Soon you will see the next traffic light ahead, stay to the left as you hit Grand Traverse and continue to concentrate on your effort, relax and be efficient too! (I know much easier said than done). At this point in the race I literally race from traffic light to the next traffic light, After Grand Traverse is Church St, then the next is Saginaw St!
As you approach Saginaw Street you can hear the bongos booming from the corner of Fifth St and Saginaw in the distance and you are soon at the curb of Saginaw St. It’s important to cut this corner as tight as possible, stay to the left side of the course and focus!
As you make this turn, begin to turn your legs even a bit faster, it may hurt, but it will pay dividends in just seconds!
Pound the pavement hard now! Ahead there is the first iron archway, the old Montgomery Ward store on your left, Churches, and BRICKS !
Run run run! You are on the bricks and running downhill in the middle of Saginaw Street as fast as you can, use every last bit of energy to push your arms and legs and hold nothing back!
Don’t forget to SMILE! With a few hundred feet to go there will be plenty of folks in the middle of the road taking your picture again!
Be sure to listen too! About every 5th -6th runner’s name and where they are from is announced, they just may pick you too!
Finally, be sure to RUN PAST the finish line! You would be surprised how many do not do this and in a race like this is can mean a new PR or even a spot or two in your age group!
DONE! A Crim success story! There are many things about the finish that make Crim special. Years ago it was their well organized chute system, then came chips, they were one of the first major races (if not the first?) in the country to use the chip. Their finish line technology continues to innovate each year.
You are greeted by a crew of volunteers offering you your finish medal and the awesome cold wet towel you get to use! While many like the beer and pizza afterwards, my favorites are the Popsicles (purple are the best) and cold towels! And it’s not over! You will greet your friends and be greeted by friends. You may even have the opportunity to congratulate another runner whom you battled throughout the race.
Next it’s time to head to the festival area. This is where you can get in the line to receive your choice of beer or soda and pizza in the festival lot. Soon the air will fill with caloric stuffed odors from the festival tent while runners meet family, friends, and reminisce about the race. Shortly thereafter while even more runners join the festivities the band begins to play and the whole place is a celebration.
This year my family will join me and my running friends from our Running Fit 501 training group will continue the celebration at the Team party. This is where you and eat as much as you like and share your celebration with your running buds from 501. This is about the time that I start planning next year’s race too! Thank you for reading this I hope it helps you through the tough, challenging, and fun Crim course.
I was working downtown Flint in 1977, the year of the first Crim but was not aware of the race. It was not until 1984 that I ran my first Crim. For me Crim is a very personal annual event. In some ways it’s a homecoming. This is where my running career began back in the spring of 1965 as a “fast runner” on my junior-hi track team in Grand Blanc. I also ran cross country and track for GBHS in the late 60’s. Our team of distance runners was well recognized as among the best in all of Michigan! In more recent years the tradition of excellent runners from GBHS continues with the likes of USA Olympian in the 800m Geena (Gall) Lara and Grant Fisher who became only the 7th high school runner ever to run a sub 4 minute mile, and two time Footlocker National Cross Country Champion and has since become a NCAA Champion racing for Stanford.
In the early days of Crim, the start of the race was on the Campus of Mott Community College. From that start area in 1984 I remember standing and looking towards the upper floors of St. Joe’s Hospital and the window of the intensive care unit where I was with my father during the last hours of his life just a year prior and asking him to look over me during the race. In more recent years the Crim has become an opportunity for me to connect with many of my old school pals. I have been told that my old school mates look for my results each year too. I now have new motivation.
Thanks again for your interest and time in following this post.