How to run a virtual race

The race you wanted to run has been cancelled. Here’s how to run a virtual race.

I was planning on running the Detroit Free Press Half Marathon this year, until it was cancelled due to COVID-19. Runners have the option to run virtually, which is something that most cancelled races are doing. Essentially, runners can sign up for a race, get a shirt, bib and assorted junk mail that comes with your race packet, and can run the race distance on their own.

However, this will not be the first year I’ve run virtually. Last year, I ran the Freep Half and had a disaster of a race. Everything went wrong; instead of setting a new PR, I barely made it across the finish line. Not wanting to throw away months of training, I decided to run 13.1 miles on my own, one week later. So I ran at Dodge Park (one of my favorite places to run) and smashed my PR by several minutes. Running a race on your own might not seem as fun, but with some preparation, you can get great results. Here’s how to run a virtual race.

Picture of me after I ran a virtual race (half marathon) last year.
Post-virtual race proof of life photo.

Plan your virtual race ahead of time

The most important part of running virtually is to plan just like you would for a normal race. Set a date, time and location, and stick to it. It will help you visualize your end goal while training. And since you won’t have the luxury of blocked off streets on your virtual run, it may be a good idea to scout out a few locations on your training runs ahead of time. Is your planned course too hilly? Does it cross any busy roads that may stop you? What is the condition of the path? A normal race will take care of these things in advance, but it’s important to be your own scout this time.

Create a refueling plan

Another great part of running races is the refueling and aid stations. Grabbing a cup of cold water or sports drink at a station can give you the required boost to set a record. Some races even hand out energy gels and petroleum jelly along the route. And don’t forget the porta-potties! These are all things that will not be provided on a virtual ruin, so think through your plan. I use a belt that has a pocket and space for two bottles, but you can also have someone toss you the water/fuel you need, or even hide it next to a tree along the way. Fuel is a crucial aspect of running, so make sure you aren’t neglecting a plan.

Have some support

I love the crowds that watch races; the cheering, costumes, cowbells, funny signs and occasional small cups of beer make a tough run a lot easier. While you can’t have a full cheering section, there’s nothing wrong with inviting a handful of friends and family to watch you run. It’s great moral support and something fun for them to do (or at least that;s what you need to convince them of). It’s also important to have someone who can help if you get injured. Make sure you have an emergency plan in case the race does not go as planned.

Reward yourself

One of my favorite post-race activities (besides a shower) is ordering a burger and bag of fries from Five Guys. It’s something for me to think about when I’m 10 miles in and wishing I was anywhere else. You can still reward yourself for finishing a virtual race, just like it was a real one. Maybe its a greasy burger, maybe its a bottle of champagne, or maybe it’s a bowl of ice cream. Giving yourself something to look forward to after the race might be the motivation you need to climb that one last hill before the finish line.

Are you planning on running a virtual race this year? Do you have any tips? Share in the comments!

Best Places to Run in Metro Detroit

When thinking of the best places to run in Metro Detroit, it all depends on what you are looking for.

Trying to run in isolated solitude? Among the hustle and bustle of a city? On a trail scattered with wild turkeys? Or maybe on an old rail line, surroundings with art? In the Detroit area, there is something for every runner. Here’s a few of my personal best places to run in Metro Detroit.

Downtown Detroit, MI

Stony Creek

Rochester Hills, MI. This former creek was dammed to create a great Metropark with trails and beaches. There is a 6-mile loop around the “Creek” with every half mile marked. The path is fairly hilly and without much shade, so running in the summer heat can be tough. If trail running is your thing, there are numerous trails of varying difficulty. I highly recommend the Shelden Trails if you’re looking for a great mix of woods, hills and fields. See if you can spot Detroit from the view at the top of Mt. Sheldon.

The Detroit Riverwalk and Dequindre Cut

Detroit, MI. One of my favorite runs starts on the Detroit Riverwalk between Hart Plaza and the Detroit River, and works it’s way onto the Dequindre Cut, a former rail line, now converted into a beautiful paved trail. The Riverwalk provides incredible views of the downtown skyline and water, and the Cut feels like a secret passage through Detroit, decked out with art all over the walls.

Dodge Park

Sterling Heights, MI. An underrated place to run in Metro Detroit; this path loosely follows the Clinton River, starting at a recently renovated park, winding through the woods and ending at a wooden bridge near a popular place to kayak. The path is well-paved, does not cross any roads and is very scenic.

Paint Creek Trail

Rochester, MI. Starting in downtown Rochester, this trail was also a former rail line in some areas. Great shade, and a large portion of the path is paved with some kind of soft rubber material that is very easy on the feet. Watch for cars when crossing a few of the roads; they don’t like to stop!

Indian Village Neighborhood

Detroit, MI. I’ve run the Detroit Marathon twice and the Detroit Half Marathon once, and I am currently 3/3 on having borderline meltdowns. But despite my inability to run a good race, Indian Village has always been my favorite part of the course. I highly recommend cruising up and down Seminole, Iroquois, and Burns to check out tree-lined streets and beautiful homes. If you’re running the Freep Marathon in the future, watch for people handing out Dixie cups of beer along the route, for a quick refreshment.

Lake St. Clair Metropark

St. Clair, MI. Otherwise known as Metro Beach, this park offers a very scenic view of Lake St. Clair on a path around a peninsula. I love the view, but I also love that the main portion of the path is closed off to all traffic. There are plenty of paths to run in the Metropark, but the trail continues for about ten miles along Metro Parkway and Schoenherr Road.

Woodward Avenue

Detroit, MI. I love the energy of a city when I’m on a run, and starting at Jefferson and working all the way to New Center along Woodward is a great absorb some of that Midwestern city energy. You will no doubt stop at numerous crosswalks waiting for traffic, but use that time to check out some incredible architecture, from the Guardian Building, to The Whitney Building, to the DIA and ending at The Fisher Building. Hop on a MoGo bike and head back.

Kensington Metropark

Milford, MI. A well-marked, 8.5 mile loop around Kent Lake reminds me a lot of Stony Creek. There are also some good trails to run. Slightly hilly, but nothing too difficult.

Belle Isle

Detroit, MI. This island in the middle of the Detroit River has so much to offer. Stunning views, a spot to grill, an aquarium, a tropical greenhouse, a maritime museum, a driving range and the field where I struck out in kickball. It’s also a great place to run, with all kinds of nature, the river and skyline views that you can’t get anywhere else.

The view from Belle Isle, Detroit, MI.

Where do you think are the best places to run in Metro Detroit?

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Track Etiquette 101

How to run on a track without making everyone mad

Forget that Zoom cooking class on Airbnb, as a society we need a good track etiquette lesson. I love running on the track. It gets my adrenaline going, as memories of close finishes and nervous anticipation from high school track meets come flooding back. But nothing subdues that energy like a me monster who has no regard for their surroundings.

A high school track in Madison Heights, Michigan

There are rules, even if they are not officially posted on a rusty sign outside. The key to proper track etiquette boils down to one concept: respect. Applying a basic amount of respect will go a long way to ensuring everyone has a good time.

The track etiquette rules

What is “respect” exactly? Well, let’s find out what it means to me.

Run Counter-clockwise

Running the opposite way like a lost deer will only get you into trouble. A track is meant to be run counter-clockwise, but there’s sometimes that one person who wants to watch the world burn. Running against the flow of everyone is disruptive, and puts your hot breath directly in the face of someone else’s hot breath. No one wants that in 2020. Run the normal direction; no one is above track etiquette.

Don’t walk or jog on the inside lanes

It may be tempting to gravitate towards the inside lane, as it is the shortest distance, but remember to be mindful of faster runners. Giving faster runners the inside lane is common courtesy. You can’t call “dibs” or “lane save” on a track, so be kind and scoot to the middle lanes.

On the flipside, if someone is hogging the inside lane and you’re flying like Balto on his way to Nome, it might be tempting to make a reckless pass on the inside like Jeff Gordon at Talladega, but swinging wide and passing on the outside with plenty of room is the right thing to do. (Feel free to give a few over-the-top “did you see me” looks back to drop a hint).

Leave the bike at home

While it would be fun to dust off the old Schwinn and treat your local track like a personal Olympic velodrome, but it’s just a bad idea. First, the track is for runners and walkers, not Lance Armstrong wannabes. Bikes also bring a lot of wear and tear on the rubber surface of a track, which will cost you tax dollars in the long run, and cost me another twisted ankle. And finally, no one wants to run behind your spandexed rear end.

Signs at a high school track that prohibit bicycles, roller blades and pets

A track isn’t a concert venue

Bringing your Beats Pill to the track and blasting Buckcherry at max volume can sound like a good idea to some, but keep that to yourself. We’re all out here trying to get some work in; not everyone wants to hear your Linkin Park-centric Spotify playlist. Do everyone a favor and get some headphones. Same goes for phone calls. Yes, calling your entire family to air out drama from Christmas last year is a great way to pass the time while walking a few laps on the track, but not everyone wants to hear about Aunt Sally’s new haircut.

No cones on the track

Don’t be the person setting up a full-on NFL Draft combine in lane three, as most of us aren’t trying to win the local flag football rec league. Keep the mini cones, rope ladder, box jump and monster truck tires off the track. Mel Kiper Jr. ain’t showing up to watch you prepare for the Come Play Detroit co-ed league this season, buddy.

No Country for Old Dogs

I realize the risk of criticizing doggos on Al Gore’s internet, but people, leave your mutts at home! Can’t have them pooping and barking all over the place. Not everyone is super comfortable with a random, unleashed dog marking his territory (my water bottle) like he owns the place.


A track is a shared, public space where people of all skill levels and motivations can come together and get their sweat on for free. Showing some basic self-awareness and respect is the key to practicing good track etiquette. Happy running!

Have some track tips? Complaints? Ideas? Drop a note in the comments!

Nike React Miler First Run Review

From the shoebox to my feet, here’s my Nike Miler first run review

UPDATE: Here’s my review of the shoe after 200 miles.

Summer is a time for lemonade, hot dogs and long runs, and the Nike React Miler seems to be a versatile option to get you from point A to point B (or point A to point A, if you run out and back). This first run review is based on one run of six miles, at just over 8:00/mile pace, on the sidewalk in a suburban and downtown area.

Nike React Miler in the Black/Laser Crimson/Oil colorway
Nike React Miler Black/Laser Crimson/Oil

When the Nike React Miler first came out, I was slightly skeptical. It didn’t appear to get Nike’s typical massive marketing push or fanfare. However, this model has the opportunity to become a hidden gem, suitable for a lot of people.

Nike React Miler Review – First Impression

My first run in these shoes was a six-mile run at 8:00/mile pace. After lacing them up, it was apparent that this is a chonk of a sneaker. The React foam, the thick outsole and the strong upper material all work together to make this a heavy trainer. Throughout the run, it was obvious that this shoe leans more into the “stability” category, especially when compared to a Pegasus. It’s firm and you can really feel the React foam protecting your feet from the ground. I’m sure it will get a little more flexible as I break it in.

Nike React Miler Top View

The Good

This shoe is very comfortable, but firm at the same time. I’ve run in cushioned shoes in the past, and it was obvious that many of them sacrifice a lot of stability in the name of comfort. However, this shoe felt well-cushioned without sacrificing necessary firmness.

I also like the tongue, which is a nice mix of Nike’s newer, thinner tongue design and a padded tongue. It didn’t slide around or rub on my ankle too much.

Even though I only ran in these once, I get the sense that this shoe will last a long time. The outsole is thicker and the materials appear to be durable enough to go 400+ miles.

Since the Nike React Miler has been out for a few months, it is starting to go on sale, so investing in a durable shoe below $100 is a great opportunity to finish your summer running strong.

Nike React Miler Back View

The Bad

If you are looking to set a PR on the track, qualify for the Boston Marathon or outrun a grizzly bear, these are probably a little too heavy for the task, especially compared to a Pegasus or Alphafly NEXT%. Bring the bear spray.

I also care about aesthetics, and this isn’t exactly the prettiest shoe in the world. It looks kind of bulky, and the color options aren’t exactly inspiring.

Finally, the shoe’s apparent durability might also mean your feet get pretty warm during a long run in the heat. It doesn’t have the greatest breathability, so maybe leave the wool socks at home.

The Final Brew

After one run, the Nike React Miler felt great. I also didn’t get that new shoe leg tiredness commonly associated with the first few outings. I fully expect this shoe to be a great addition to my rotation, specifically for long runs. It isn’t the fastest shoe on the market, nor will it win a beauty contest, but it will definitely keep your feet feeling good for miles and miles. My Nike React Miler review awards this shoe with a Seal of Freshness.

The Nike React Miler

Have you tried the Nike React Miler? Have a question? Drop a comment below.

A Fresh Brew, For You

The Fresh Brew Run Club is a blog for the everyday runner.

We get up way too early. We put on short shorts, and head out to dodge cars, bikes, pedestrians and local cats in the blistering heat, cold and rain. And we do it all for extremely strange reasons, like crossing a line painted on the cement before a giant clock strikes a certain number, or to earn a piece of cheap metal attached to a ribbon with a bank’s logo on it. Or maybe we just want to get out of the house for an hour or so. Does that sound like you? If so, welcome to the Fresh Brew Run Club. Congratulations, you’re a member. Don’t expect your information packet in the mail anytime soon.

Photo of my wife and me after the 2018 Grand Rapids Half Marathon.
Nothing more comforting than a cozy aluminum foil blanket on a brisk fall morning.

Running writing is weird though

Don’t get me wrong, there’s tons of great running-related work out there. But for every Running with the Buffaloes by Chris Lear, there are hundreds of tasteless “race day” recipes, useless fad workout ideas, reviews of gimmicky running “tools” like organic multi-directional space foam rollers, and flat out narcissistic running influencers bragging about their splits or how perfectly their outfit matches in a perfectly framed and edited photo on Instagram. Oh, you ran 10 miles and didn’t break into a disgusting sweat? Must be nice. It is incredible seeing people take something simple and turn it into a complicated, exclusive hobby for snobs.

That’s why I want to start writing again. Well for one, I miss writing. But I mostly want to bring a little fun to the running blogosphere. I’m not the fastest runner in the world; my fastest mile was in 10th grade (5:09, second place in the slow heat of the Anchor Bay Classic, thank you very much). But I’ve come to re-enjoy the sport over the past five years, and I have some thoughts.

I want to hit on the elements I enjoy, the random things that make me laugh in the middle of a long run and the stuff I like to use. Maybe bring up a few timeless debates, like running in the cold vs. the heat. Or the time that I thought it was a good idea to eat at an Italian fast-food chain the night before the state XC meet. I’ll also review some products I use and show some of my favorite places to run. Maybe interview a couple sled dogs. Who knows.

So what’s with the name?

Fresh Brew Run Club? What’s up with that? Before every run, I do two things: apply a thick layer of Body Glide and drink a cup of coffee. I never liked coffee, but I picked up the habit after a few years of working in the corporate world. It’s not so much the caffeine, but the idea of a liquid comfort blanket that I enjoy. I used to down a glass of C4 EXXXXXPLOSIVE LIQUID RAGE FUEL pre-workout before every run, but I don’t think artificially giving myself a heart murmur is a healthy way to start the morning. So I brew a cup of coffee.

For me, that first cup of coffee is as much a part of my running routine as tying my shoes or dodging a Jeep driver that thinks stop signs are optional. So that’s the name. Do I envision printing a limited run of t-shirts and giving them as Christmas gifts to my family? You bet. A brand is born. Happy trails!

If you have any topic ideas, questions about running or general commentary on proper sidewalk width, comment below. Operators are standing by.