Starting Line Social
By Mike Andersen
In this day and age of social media and living life virtually, I have come to realize the most valuable social network is the unaltered one, thriving in a state of reality. The most vivid realization of this social group is that of a race starting line. The collection of wild personalities and bright colors of packed in humanity serves as a beautiful motif of our species finest. I recently came to this conclusion at the starting line of one of my favorite races, the Corktown 5k in Detroit, MI.
I rarely race anymore, as kids and life seem to demand more and more of my ever dwindling time, so when I do, I seek out the events that enrich me more than just the time on the clock. The Corktown 5k is one such race.
I started doing the Corktown 5k five years ago when the store I worked at became a sponsor and I was given a free entry. I had never been to Corktown in downtown Detroit, essentially home to the old Tiger Stadium. The first thing that struck me was the authenticity of the place. With cobblestoned road and a plethora of Irish bars, this was not simply a facade of a namesake, this was Irish-Detroit. Most famous for its formerly decrepit Michigan Central Train Station and Slow’s BBQ joint, this was the type of neighborhood that was on the rise with trendy millennials. As I warmed up that first year on an unseasonably warm day, I immediately felt a connection with the area. People lined the course clad in green from head to foot, tailgating for the race and parade to follow. If there is one the thing that unites St. Patrick’s Day partiers and 5k racers, it is the beer. Even at 10am, people were rowdy and ready for a good time. That year I would go on to win in a course record the first of three consecutive Corktown 5k titles that would further my love and connection with the race.
Now in my sixth straight year of Corktowns, I annually use the race as the officially kick off to my year of running and racing. It was the last race I ran before my first daughter was born and also my second. It sets the stage for the year to come and reminds me why I train all winter, to enjoy the pounding of pavement along the brick streets.
Every year I see the same faces crowding the starting area. I see Captain America ready to go out hard and lead for the first picture. I see the guy in the kilt and sandals that one year almost beat me (he’s a pretty fast guy in any footwear). I see my Romanian friends, former Olympic level athletes that I’ve shared many miles and stories with. I see Doug Kurtis, race director and World Record marathoner. These people and I share a bond that does not need forcing or constant monitoring for we suffer the same fate on race day.
Warming up this past year, I felt a warmth from within despite the cold weather as I ran with friends I only see a few times a year. These people that make up the eclectic starting line are true friends that I know would be there in an instant if I needed them. I believe this feeling is what keeps me coming back, the camaraderie and fellowship of the race, not the results. Perhaps instead of us all being addicted to running, we’re addicted the ones we run with.
I see a similarity when I watch the Team P groups training each week. The team obviously gets results and helps runners achieve their goals but I believe the true magic is in the team. People love having others share in their aspirations and to be a part of their success. People tend to call running an individual sport but I challenge them to stand at a starting line of any race and tell me they’re alone out there. We suffer together and even in competitive running, there is an understanding that me running my best does not mean you cannot achieve yours. This is where running brings out our best and I believe that nowhere is this more apparent than standing in a sea of quasi strangers about to take on the same challenge.