Lilac Festival kicks off a trilogy of races
By Glen Young
Tom Largo, a long time running enthusiast says that running is the most economical way of seeing Mackinac Island. Largos family has summered on Mackinac Island since the 1970s, so he and wife Peg visit regularly from their home in Dewitt. Largo says the best features of running on Mackinac Island are not having to worry about cars, the solitude, and the scenery.
The Largos are not alone. More and more runners are recognizing the allure of Northern Michigans famous island. John Gault, whose Gault Race Management provides timing services for the three main Mackinac Island running events, can attest to the rise in numbers.
Gault will help stage this years 10K Lilac Festival Run/Walk on June 6, the Mackinac Eight Mile in late summer, and a half marathon, slated for October 24.
The Lilac Festival Run/Walk heads east through the historic downtown, then up a steep hill through the wooded center of the island before heading back along the shore and a view of the Straits. A kids run is also offered with a quarter-mile course.
Gault says the Mackinac Eight Mile run, the Saturday after Labor Day, has 1,600 to 1,700 finishers every year. He admits Mackinac Island might be inconvenient to get to, but says you cant find prettier scenery anywhere. The Mackinac Eight Mile traverses the Islands perimeter along M-185, with the start and finish in front of Mission Point Resort.
Gault says the first eight-mile event in the mid 1970s saw seven runners. The informal gathering has grown because of runnings popularity, as well as a general emphasis on health.
The running community is growing, he says. Pre-registration numbers are up for this years events. Gault adds that over the years runners have come from across the country to compete.
Largo, who is also a golfer and competitive tennis player, says first-time Mackinac runners should not worry about getting lost. The island is small enough that eventually youll see a sign pointing toward town.
While the organized runs stick to the well-marked roadways, runners seeking solitude can easily find such on the interior horse trails. Spider-webbed throughout the island, the trails offer a lower impact experience, helpful to those who find pavement unforgiving. Largo says he and his wife Peg try to avoid encountering horses head on, but late afternoon starts typically minimize such encounters as the horses are headed to the barns for the night.
Rick Holt, a public school principal in Lewiston, agrees that one of the best things about running on Mackinac Island is the most obvious: There are no cars. Holt, who is recovering from knee surgery, but typically logs five running days a week when hes on Mackinac, says he prefers the trails to the roads. I enjoy getting out on the trails; its just magical.
Holt, whose family roots on Mackinac Island reach back nearly 100 years, says on the trails, he can forget about mileage. He instead appreciates how you can get lost in your thoughts. Ive never been anywhere else like it.
Of the trail system, Holt welcomes the opportunity to explore. When you run the trails, you see parts of the Island that unless youre on horseback or an avid mountain biker you never see.
Some trails bear local family names, like Croghan and Blodgett. Others are marked by Native American monikers such as Allouez and Oneida. the trail system weaves the island together, from the East Bluff to the West Bluff, and up into the rocky interior. Runners can keep to the trails and avoid the crowds, even on the busiest days of mid summer.
A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
A couple years ago, while rehabilitating the anterior cruciate ligament in my right knee, my orthopedic surgeon declared, no more running. When my physical therapist concurred, it appeared a non-existent running season would follow an abbreviated hockey season.
This was February, so, like a thoughtful patient, I lamented but agreed. When April rolled around, however, and I headed back to Mackinac Island, I did what any self-respecting patient would do: I ignored the professionals and started running again.
My own knee recovery gave way to shoulder surgery. Rehab, thankfully, has kept me running. With any luck, most of this summers miles will be run on Mackinac Island.
For more information about Mackinac Island running, including the June 6 Lilac Festival 10K Run/Walk, visit Gaults website runmackinac.com, or call the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau at 906-847-3783.