Kemba N’Namdi’s words from our interview (see Gallery story)
reverberate in my thoughts. Use your city in order to understand what
you have and how to make improvements. The same thing applies to the
body - so despite the below freezing temps, I’ve been running
through the streets of Detroit.
On foot one sees the city from a new perspective: From the flatlands
of Eastern Market to the canyons of downtown –everything looks
different. Having stepped outside of the box that is the car, I view
the peaks of buildings stretching to the sky, and realize that people
do indeed inhabit the shops and offices on the street level. I am free
to make my own path and understand the connections between places that
often seem impossible separated by a maze of one-way streets and no
The Downtown Runners and Walkers have been running and making connections
in Detroit for two decades. Created in April 1983, the group was formed
in conjunction with the Central Business District Foundation (publishers
of Destination Detroit) to promote downtown bars and restaurants by
bringing runners in on nights when business was slow. That relationship
lasted until 1988, but the DRW races on, held together by camaraderie
and the de facto leadership of original member and accomplished marathoner
Ralph Judd, who says his role is just “keeping it going.”
The group meets every Tuesday at a different Detroit bar or restaurant.
After the night’s run, members gather in the meeting place for
food, drink and conversation. In addition to the weekly events, DRW
members often come together for social outings - from summer solstice
and Christmas events to a recent Super Bowl party, these people know
how to have fun as well as they know how to run. In fact, over the past
20 years, 20 marriages take place between couples who met through the
DRW, which has truly become a close-knit family.
Yet it is hard to imagine people more accepting of new faces. On my
first run with the group, I ran in light snow from Captain’s Bar
just east of the Ren Cen to the Belle Isle Bridge and back with Henry,
a former All-American track star. When we got back to the bar, I was
in for a “Cheers” reception: Suddenly, everyone knew
my name. Immediately people were telling me stories about different
runners, the group’s social events, the courses they had run and
the injuries they had suffered. Despite being a “newbie"
I already felt like part of the gang.
Using the city, new facets and connections reveal themselves immediately.
What began as an isolated act - running through the city alone - brought
me in touch with a larger community that I might not have discovered
otherwise. I'm looking forward to running in Detroit whenever I can,
and discovering even more about the city one step at a time. The Downtown
Runners and Walkers meet at a different site each Tuesday at 5:45 p.m.
to run (or walk) 4 to 8 miles. Participants range from serious marathon
runners to people just out for a walk with friends. Membership is free.
For more info visit their website here.