The Rapidian

Best Foot Forward: Road Races Not to Miss in 2011

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Race Notes

For some odd reason races are generally measured in metric distances, but splits along the route are called out in miles. Here's what the conversions are:

5k=3.1 miles

10k=6.2 miles

15k=9.3 miles


Marathon=26.2 miles

Half marathon =13.1 miles

Finish Line Grand Rapids Marathon

Finish Line Grand Rapids Marathon /Terry Johnston

Lil' Racer Grand Rapids Kids' Marathon

Lil' Racer Grand Rapids Kids' Marathon /Terry Johnston

Just as you've closed the log book on another year of running and added up the miles, it's time to start thinking about races for the new year. West Michigan has its share of great ones, some are classic "must do" races like the 5/3 River Bank Run and others are simply fun or unusual. Here's a listing of some West Michigan races coming up this year.

January: Racing options are thin during this long, cruel month. Over in Ionia County there is a 5k, aptly titled the Portland Winter Run on 1/15. It is one of a few dozen races sponsored by the Michigan Running Foundation, which supports youth running and scholarship programs throughout Michigan.

February: In Grandville on 2/19 there's the Winter Blast 5k, sponsored by the Calvin Christian High School athletic boosters. This race features an indoor finish and is endorsed by the Governor's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, which means you are eligible for the Mackinac Bridge Run lottery.

March: Things are finally thawing some and there are a few more choices for runners. In East Grand Rapids on 3/19 is the Spectrum Health Irish Jig 5k. This 28 year old race has two starts, one for men and another for women. Like the feel of a heavy finisher medal? Runners who complete the 15k Kent City Ridge Run on 3/ 26 will receive a medal and for those who can't manage the hills this early in the running season, there is a 5k run, too.

April: For 15 years now, the physical therapy students at Grand Valley State University have organized Wheel Run Together a 5k and a 10k to benefit Alternatives in Motion, which helps get people with special circumstances into wheelchairs. The race and a 1 mile walk is held on 4/2 in Allendale. For runners now in training for the 5/3 River Bank Run, the Strider's Saturday Classic on 4/23 is a 10 mile race that starts and finishes at Covenant Christian High School in Grandville and is a great practice run for the big one. Perk is a short sleeve tech shirt and of course, you don't HAVE to run the River Bank Run to join this race. The Calvin Spring Classic 5k is held on the campus of Calvin College on 4/30

May: The mother of all Grand Rapids road races The 5/3 River Bank Run  on 5/14 features 25k, 10k, 5k races and a walk. Everyone runs this one or knows someone who runs it. Training programs are underway now for the 25k and there's still time to train. Gazelle Sports offers a variety of training groups and clinics to get you ready.

June: An oddball race to remove the stress of the River Bank Run, try Beat The Grandma 5k on 6/18 at John Ball Zoo. Runners are encouraged to wear Grandma masks and there are cookies are among the prizes and the field is limited to 300 runners.  Another sweet race is the 6/25 Muskegon Chronicle Seaway Run with a 15k and a 5k. The 15k takes you out to Lake Michigan and Pere Marquette Park and runs along a 1/2 mile of boardwalk at the lake. You can feel the zeel (as they like to say) and zip through downtown Zeeland in a 5k evening race in the Zeeland Zoom on 6/29.

July: Hit the trails on 7/2 at Lowell's Fallasburg Park and check out the T Rex 10 Miler. This over the river and through the woods event promises to be hilly and fun. You can also have your photo taken with a cardboard cut-out T Rex. If you just happen to be out to the cottage or at the Lake on 7/30 you can jump in and run the Tri Cities YMCA Coast Guard Festival with a 10k, 5k or 1 mile fun run.

August: They say it is The One 2 Run and who can argue with Rockford's most beloved 5k run, Mitchell's Run Thru Rockford raises funds for Duchennes muscular dystrophy. Mitchell Peterson, a teen from the town has the disease and the race funds go toward finding a cure and treatments. More than 1300 people participated in the run and walk last summer. Held on 8/20.

September: Shoulder season for road racing, just after "too hot" and just before it is "too cold." A hometown favorite is the Grand Rapids Bridge Run on 9/18. This Sunday morning 5k and 10 miler takes runners along the Grand River and over a few of Grand Rapid's city bridges. The breast cancer fundraising race Race for the Cure is on 9/24. This well-attended and well-supported race is at River Town Crossing in Grandville. Check out Holland's Park 2 Park 1/2 marathon and 5k also on 9/24. This race travels the shores of Lake Macatawa and the always pleasant Lakeshore Drive of Holland near Tunnel Park.

October: If you made it through the 5/3 River Bank Run 25k you were probably thinking, "I could run a marathon."  The Metro Health Grand Rapids Marathon on 10/16 is a great event to test your mettle. Or if you're not quite  ready for that, the half marathon is a great option. The race starts and ends in downtown Grand Rapids at the David D. Hunting YMCA and running over the Sixth Street Bridge and down Monroe is a treat. Also the post-race beer from New Holland Brewing (for runners 21 years and older) is a Sunday morning treat.

November: Before the big meal on 11/24 and while things are still cookin' Rapidians head for the Gazelle Sport Gobble Wobble a 4.1 mile or 1 mile un-timed race that starts near East Grand Rapids High School. Afterwards a pie eating contest and other frivolity takes place.

December: Ho ho ho! no races around West Michigan this month. Time to recover and make plans for 2012.

Author's note: Some website links listed still are set for 2010 events. Dates have been confirmed with race organizers and websites will be updated as events draw near. This is not a comprehensive listing. Runners are welcome to add to this list in the comments section.




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