“Use it.”
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 left turns.

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.
-Nick Sousanis
<<back to archives
©2003 thedetroiter.com