The Somerset Stampede (A.K.A. Pay Attention to Road Signs)

By: Scott McMahon

I woke up on Saturday morning ready for a race. I hadn’t run in a while, and had never run a trail race before, which made me nervous, but I was excited to get back into competition again.

A couple of months ago, my friend Michelle and I signed up for the Somerset Stampede at the Somerset Beach Campground, south of Jackson. This would be month #3 in my quest to run a race in each month for a year (a la Stanley Kulikowski’s 12 T-Shirts in the 2012 Keeper), and I had picked a run that meant something to me. Every year, the student leaders of the Michigan Marching Band spend that weekend at Somerset Beach, and many volunteer to play some Michigan traditional music at the starting line of the race. Michelle, a current member, and I, an MMB alum, wanted to surprise our friends and make the race more exciting for all of us.

We gathered into my car at 6 a.m. to get to the race by 7 and have time to stretch and warm-up before the race at 7:30. After a brief Meijer stop, we finally hit the highway and were on our way. For the majority of the ride, I talked Michelle’s ear off about a BBC documentary I had just watched about sports products, explaining the science behind the Oxford University study and the implications of their reports.

My eyes then caught a road sign for an entrance to McNamara Terminal at DTW airport. We were coming from Ann Arbor. It hit me: we had been driving over 30 minutes in the wrong direction.

By the time I had realized my mistake, it was already close to 6:45. The race started in 45 minutes, and we were 90 minutes away. The band would be gone from the starting line, and most runners would have already finished the 5K race that Michelle and I had both entered. We were out of luck.

The drive back was the worst part; passing all of the obvious landmarks that should’ve been dead giveaways that we weren’t going the right way (I-275, all of Ypsilanti’s exits) felt like looking at old pictures and wondering, “How could I have thought that looked good?” I was mortified. It was embarrassing enough that I had not noticed ANY of the signs that we were going eastbound, but I knew I would have to explain to my friends how dumb of a mistake I had made.

Michelle and I were able to salvage the morning though, by running in Nichols Arboretum on the University of Michigan campus. It was as close to a trail run as I’ve ever done, and it was amazing. I can already hear the Somerset Stampede calling my name next year, and this time, I’ll make sure I go the correct way on the highway.

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