Going to Detroit felt like a big deal. The big city. A strange feeling for someone raised in New York City. But the way people here speak of Detroit has instilled in me a fear I can't quite shake. Stories of white flight, abandoned building, crack houses. "Just avoid those areas," I'd been repeatedly warned. But without any sense of the city, I wondered how I would know where to go and where to avoid. Then the voice of reason would kick in. "People said this about New York City for years," I would remind myself. Still, I waited for a good "safe" excuse to check out the city for myself. I was in for a treat.
As it happened I had signed up for the inaugural race benefiting the Detroit Tigers Foundation, so the 10k started and ended at Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers. Now it's been awhile since I've been to a MLB field but this is the first one I've ever seen with a carousel and ferris wheel in the park. Pretty cool. Security seemed to be pretty lax and runners were allowed to wander around, so I made myself at home.
The 10k course went downtown, where the city's impressive architecture took me by surprise. Further on we hit the waterfront and ran along the RiverWalk, which continues for several miles and reminds me of Hudson River Park in New York, except across the water is not New Jersey, but Canada. Perhaps the best part was the last leg which took us out onto right field at Comerica Park, around and along the first base line to cross the finish at home plate. Even without 45,000 screaming fans filling the seats, it was a thrilling feeling.
I had considered spending more time in the city, but soaked with sweat and doused with water at 9am, I was ready for a shower. I left Detroit knowing that I'd be back. There's a pulse and energy there despite the empty buildings and demolition crews. And after spending a full month in a small town, I was reminded how exciting the city can be.
I hope that future outings to Detroit will include more arts and culture and eating (not that I'm complaining about the post-race Sabra hummus sample). Right now within the food movement, all eyes are turning to Detroit as a model city for community farms and gardens farming, food justice work and local food initiatives. And with a rich history and lots of determination it's not hard to imagine that in a few years the empty buildings will be converted to pricey lofts and condos, that young people will flock there in droves on their bicycles to raise chickens and goats. Or maybe it's already happening.