When I heard about this new marathon in Northern Michigan, I just couldn't resist. Not only do I love this area, but it starts just footsteps from our little place in Charlevoix. I fell in love with Charlevoix after running the Charlevoix Marathon in 2012, and have returned every year since to run their half marathon. I was happy to hear about this new May race, Stafford's Top of Michigan Community Marathon. I enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone looking for a fast, scenic, smaller sized marathon (or 10K) that is USATF Certified. Also a great place to visit after the race! The route is beautiful. Its a point to point running north from Charlevoix to Harbor Springs, along the west side of Northern Michigan. Much of it runs on the Little Traverse Wheelway which is a mostly paved trail that weaves in and out of wooded areas, waterfront along the Bay, parks, through the quaint towns, and along some quiet wooded back roads. The course was open, but it was never an issue as there was plenty of volunteers holding traffic for us.
There was about 75 marathoners, and 55 10K participants. The race was the day before Memorial Day and the same morning as a popular race nearby, Bayshore Marathon. Not a bad turnout for an inaugural race. Initially at signup I thought I'd attempt to better my BQ here for 2017. But race day brought temps similar to this year's Boston. It was 70, humid, and partly sunny at the start. I decided it was not the day to go for it. I also had a flight out to visit my son in New York City the next day. I needed to be sure I wasn't hurting too much afterwards as he had big plans for us that included lots of miles walking around the city. While I did consider not starting, I figured if I took my time and enjoyed the views I'd be good to go the next day. I really wanted to run and see this course! I had a great time running despite the heat. There was water, gatorade and food/Gel at every 2nd mile, but I still wished I had carried water that day. The course was fantastic. It is mostly flat with the exception of a longer hill around mile 9. There is one area of turf that is maybe a 1/4 mile. One of the best parts of the day was with 2 of ladies I met around mile 5. We ended up running together until around mile 16 or so when I dropped back. They were interesting, hilarious, and the miles flew by as we chatted.
The finish is a stretch along Lake Michigan into downtown Harbor Springs. I talked with some runners at the finish line, exchanged info with the women I met, then I caught a ride back to Charlevoix with some friends from where I live. They also offer a bus that runs back and forth, as well as bag drop. The big races are fun, but there's something special about a small hometown race where you meet some new people. I was doing pretty well in New York City with my son. You would never have known I ran a marathon the day before. Until I had to go DOWN the stairs of his top floor walkup apartment. Ouch. *Pictures and images courtesy of Stafford's Top Of Michigan Community Marathon