As northern Michigan’s trail and road running race season gets underway, you can expect to see even more of the region’s favorite distances back in person after a couple of hit-or-miss dates during the pandemic.
From fun runs with family and friends (dig out your superhero costume!) and flat and fast courses ideal for your next PR, to scenic miles on a pathway nestled in the woods, a team-racing experience around Crystal Lake, and others, there’s plenty of options to help fill out your race calendar.
Ready to lace up your shoes and walk or run your way to the finish line? Here’s a peek at some of the events making up the area’s spring and summer race scene:
The return of the Big Little Hero Race
The 7th annual Big Little Hero Race returns Saturday, April 23 to Northwestern Michigan College’s main campus with a theme of #MentorshipMatters. This race — a perfect primer for the Bayshore races over Memorial Day weekend, by the way, if you happen to be signed up for any of those distances — features a 10K, 5K, one-mile fun run, or walk, as well as a virtual option. The stroller- and pet-friendly race is organized by NMC business students, who are teaming up with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwestern Michigan and NMC College for Kids to give race participants an opportunity to help a child in need. This year’s donations will be helping Big Brothers Big Sisters “Littles” attend NMC College for Kids summer programs. Come dressed as your favorite superhero—prizes will be given for best adult male, female, and companion costumes, as well as for best child costumes, both boy and girl. Food, an inflatable obstacle course, live music by Drew Hale, and an awards ceremony following the race.
More details found here: Biglittleherorace.com
Take to the trails at the North Mitten
A beautiful combination of pavement, trails, and backcountry roads, the North Mitten Half Marathon takes place Sunday, May 29 at Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville (nope, you’re not running the slopes, just starting and finishing at the base of them!). This Memorial Day weekend event also features a 10K, 5K, and an all-new one-mile Run for the Birds fun run (all proceeds benefit North Sky Raptor Sanctuary). Celebrate your finish with a cold brew provided by Frankfort’s Stormcloud Brewery. Organizers of this spring event also are behind the Betsie Valley Trail Run, taking place Sept. 18 in Benzie County. This event includes a half marathon, 10K, 5K, and 1-mile fun run. All courses start in Thompsonville at the Webber Sports Complex (ballfield) and are out and back on the Betsie Valley Trail.
Learn more about the North Mitten and the Betsie Valley Trail Run at northmittenevents.com.
Run for cherries
The Meijer Festival of Races, always the second Saturday of the National Cherry Festival held each July in Traverse City, offers a distance for everyone: a half marathon, 15K, 10K and 5K (there’s a virtual option, too, for each of these distances). This summer’s race series is set for July 9, celebrating the beauty and agriculture here in northern Michigan. You’ll be treated to water views as your miles take you toward downtown. Grab your bag of dried cherries when you cross the finish line and share your pic on social media for a chance to win a case of tart cherry juice.
Learn more about the race and sign up at runsignup.com/Race/MI/TraverseCity/MeijerFestivalofRaces.
Big year for the Bayshore races
Following a two-year in-person absence, the Bayshore Marathon, Half Marathon, 10K and Kids Fun Run is coming back in a very big way—it’s the event’s 40th anniversary and the Traverse City Track Club is gearing up for an extra-special race experience this Memorial Day weekend. Race day is Saturday, May 28 and spots remain in the marathon and kid's 1.2-mile fun run (you can join the waiting list for both the 10K and half marathon). Capacity for each event includes those who had been guaranteed a spot after the cancellation of the 2020 and 2021 Bayshore in-person events. Also part of the 40th anniversary race weekend: a live podcast recording featuring professional running race announcer Ali Feller of the popular running podcast, “Ali on the Run,” an elite runner Des Linden.
Join the waitlist for this event, and learn more about race weekend, at Bayshoremarathon.org.
Running/walking + pancakes + kielbasa!
As part of the longstanding Leelanau County tradition that is the Cedar Polka Fest, the festival race event — the Cedar Polka Fest Run 4 the Kielbasa — returns for a second year on Aug. 27. This four-mile event begins and ends in downtown Cedar and includes a pancake breakfast for all participants. Runners, walkers, strollers, wheelchair racers, and dogs are invited to take part in this professionally timed event. Can’t make it in person? A virtual option also is available (you’ll still receive an awesome collectible t-shirt and support the Cedar community). New for 2022: the 2-mile Pierogi Fun Run, for those who want to participate in the fun “but four miles is more sausage than you want to bite off.” This run means fewer steps on your fitness tracker but the pancakes and sausage are included with this race entry, too.
Sign up for the race at runsignup.com/Race/MI/Cedar/CedarPolkaFestRun.
Celebrate the Solstice
A small-town race with big (stunning) views — that’s what you can expect when running the Glen Arbor Solstice Half Marathon and 5K on June 18 in Glen Arbor. The half marathon takes runners around Big Glen Lake in a clockwise loop, starting and finishing near downtown Glen Arbor. You’ll ascend Inspiration Point on the south side of Big Glen Lake where you’ll experience one of the most spectacular views of Leelanau County. The 5K course is flat and fast, and will take runners through tree-lined roads near downtown Glen Arbor.
More details found here: glenarborhalfmarathon.com.
Gather your people — and run!
Considered one of the most beautiful 26.2-mile courses in the state, the Crystal Lake Team Marathon takes place Saturday, Aug. 13 in Beulah. Sure, you can sign up to tackle the full distance yourself — or you can opt for a team entry. The individual race starts at 7 a.m. while the teams get moving at 8 a.m. The course takes you around the clear water of Benzie County’s Crystal Lake. However you decide to run this one, the prices are especially reasonable: just $30 for individual marathoners and either $80 or $85 total for team entries depending upon the type of team (options include open, high school, and family).
Sign up at: runsignup.com/Race/MI/Beulah/CrystalLakeTeamMarathon.