Plenty of runners enjoy early-evening, sunset or twilight runs. But how about running through the night? As in, the entire night.

This is what a few dozen northern Michigan runners will do next month as part of the Solstice Run, a non-competitive, fund-raising endurance event that treats participants to a scenic point-to-point route starting at sunset and ending at sunrise on the beach.

The event, which begins in Northport in Leelanau County and ends in Traverse City, is open to all runners, from those wanting to tackle the 40-mile distance to those seeking a shorter distance or wishing to participate as a relay team. Runners may opt to run 20 miles or jump in for the final 10 miles to support friends and help them finish strong.

Traverse City-based nonprofit On The Ground Global is behind the Solstice Run. On The Ground aims to support sustainable community development in farming regions across the world.

Organizers have a goal of 100 participants this year.

“We are at 36 runners, with three relays, totaling 45 participants—the most in the history of the five Solstice Runs,” says On The Ground’s Randi Stoltz.

I have friends planning to participate in the Solstice Run, and I just may jump in for part of the run myself, to support one of my BRFs, Katie, who is tackling the entire 40 miles. I recently caught up with Randi to learn more about the Solstice Run and how runners can get involved.

Please tell us a little bit about the mission of the Solstice Run.

The goal for the 2014 Solstice Run is to raise $30,000 for women in coffee farming communities of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo(DRC), launching Project Congo with On The Ground. More specifically, Project Congo will focus on gender equality and women’s economic empowerment within the re-emerging coffee sector of the eastern DRC. Thanks in large part to our overnight 2013 Solstice Run participants and strong supporters, we raised over $19,000 to complete the Hase Gola Library project. A library is so much more to this community than we can realize. It works as a community center in an area where 39% of the population makes below the international poverty line of $1.25/ day. The literacy rate hovers just under 50% and average life expectancy is at 59 years. The library houses nearly 1000 books that meet Ethiopian Ministry of Education standards and is home to adult literacy classes, serving not just students but the whole community.

How do runners raise money exactly to participate in this run, and is there a minimum amount to participate?

In order to reach our goal we ask participating runners to fundraise and solicit pledges. In some cases it’s as easy as sending email to friends and family letting them know of the runners involvement and why they chose to run through the night for the cause. Other ways to fundraise include sponsorships from local businesses, hosting an event or sharing their Razoo page through social media. Razoo is an online fundraising site, specifically designed for non-profits. Each runner has the ability to set up their own personal page as a team member of the 2014 Solstice Run allowing friends and family to donate online and have funds sent directly to On The Ground’s Project Congo. Participants can also have donations sent directly to On The Ground(PO Box 694, Traverse City, MI) for their efforts, while adding the runner’s name as the memo.

Last year's Solstice Run participants enjoyed time together on the beach after completing the overnight run.

Last year’s Solstice Run participants enjoyed time together on the beach after completing the overnight run.

Runners can do the entire 40 miles, or they can join in at certain points, right?

A majority of participants are aiming at the 40 miles, but there are other options to participate. There’s a 20-mile option which allows a participant to either start with the team at Lighthouse Point in Northport and end near Suttons Bay or start in Suttons Bay around 1 a.m. when the team comes through and end in Traverse City at the beach near Clinch Park as the sun rises. Another option includes the last 10 miles. We added this after last year’s run having a few folks join their friends as they finished. They meet the runners around 4 a.m. with 10 miles left and finish strong with the team. The fresh legs and energy of the last 10-mile joiners, was extremely uplifting last year and we’re looking forward to the same this year. Another option is a relay in which 4 team members complete 10 miles of their choice, covering the 40 miles as a team. The team raises funds collectively, passing along their Razoo page as a team. We currently have “The Slugs” in the lead for fundraising right now.

What kind of feedback have you gotten from runners who have done this in the past?

Here’s some of what runners have told us they liked about participating in the Solstice Run:

  • Time together: running, aid stations, after party.
  • Great conversation with the other runners, getting lost north of Suttons Bay (“seriously, straying from the plan was kind of fun,” one runner says), the aid stations, the finish at the beach.
  • Running in the moonlight with the coyotes yipping and howling at the moon…
  • It was non competitive and everyone was there for the same reason, to raise a little money for a great cause and otherwise just run through the night and meet some new people with the same interest. Loved the finish, the beer, the brats, and the conversation.
  • Running along the most beautiful coast on earth on a perfect starry evening with my favorite people cheering me on.
  • Camaraderie, photography at the start, providing everyone with directions, water and supplies at aid stations
  • Pretty much every part. Night running. Awesome co-runners. Well-placed aid stations. Perfect weather

Here’s a link to the ‘winter’ solstice organizers held a couple years ago while training for the Run Across Palestine. “It’s another example of what this run is all about. Camaraderie, good times, great causes, running through one of the most beautiful areas in the world, that we’re lucky enough and blessed to call home,” Stoltz says.

Interested in signing on to the Solstice Run? Learn more here »

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