Dirt beneath our feet. Is there anything better for a runner than experiencing that after months of icy, snowy roads?

Spring feels like it’s truly here, and if you’re like me, getting out on the trails is one of the best things about the season. Admittedly, I am not running on the trails as much as I am hiking them (injuries stink), but I’m as thrilled as always to see cleared paths and budding branches. And I know soon enough all of my patience and rest and cross-training (hello, pool!) will pay off and I’ll be back out there.

13043383_778949448916075_8239665627660089916_nWhich leads me to a springtime running event that’s become a favorite of mine: the Run the Ridge Team Relay in Traverse City. The annual race takes place in May — Saturday, May 14 this year — and it’s a great way to enjoy the trails. This race, organized by Lisa Taylor, who is behind the Farmland 5K each December, is a family-friendly racing event that involves teams of two runners taking on a 10K course at Timber Ridge RV & Recreation Resort. Each runner completes a 5K.

MRG is again partnering with this race, and race organizers have generously offered up one free entry to this race (see details at the end of this post). ALSO: the campground is offering free camping to runners over race weekend. Simply reserve your site, run the race, enjoy the cookout and beers, then rake your site and sleep under the stars. Sounds perfect to me. (More lodging details below.)

10170769_431087827035574_2607154452063578527_n-2More reasons to love this race:

A race for everyone. Runners of all ages and abilities are welcomed at this race. I’ll forever treasure last spring’s race with Alex, then 9 years old. It was his first time running this particular 5K and we had so much fun running together.

Alex and me, about to cross the finish line together at the 2015 Run the Ridge Team Relay. (We were on different teams, but ran the same leg together)

Alex and me, about to cross the finish line together at the 2015 Run the Ridge Team Relay. (We were on different teams, but ran the same leg together)

“I have been really excited to see such great intensity from all the runners,” race founder and organizer Lisa Taylor says of her event. “I love seeing the look of effort in people’s faces, and especially love the ‘family’ feel of the event. It is so much fun to see the way parents with little kids would tag off to each other, both to run or to watch the kids .. and it has been especially exciting to see the expanse of the ages.”

Pre-race photo of the relay teams. Pre-race photo of the relay teams.

Great lodging specials for runners (and their families). If you’re interested in pitching a tent or setting up your pop-up/camper, reserve your spot for FREE on race weekend. We’ve tent camped there in the past, and also have booked one of Timber Ridge’s Basic Cabins for the night for a special race weekend rate. It included beds for all five of us, bunk-bed style, plus space heater, microwave and small fridge. It was perfect for a night’s stay. We had friends close by, too — a family who decided to tent camp and another who chose the cabin behind us. It was a great set-up for the kids to hang out and for us to have one campfire for all of us to sit around.

On-site lodging for the 2016 event at Traverse City’s Timber Ridge Resort:
Tent sites for FREE when you clean your site!
Camper/rv/popup sites are FREE when you clean your site!

Basic Cabin for $45, sleeps 5
Deluxe Cabin for $60, sleeps 3-5 people
Call 231-947-2770 to reserve your site.

Age-group winners received these cool wooden "medals."

Race winners in several different categories received these cool wooden “medals.”

Cool use of the natural surroundings. Directional arrows on the race course have been made of sawdust, and awards and finisher’s souvenirs are crafted from wood. “I am glad we are able to create an event that uses almost entirely natural materials,” Lisa says. “This requires a lot of creativity and time, but it is so much fun to go foraging for birch bark, and to collect the fallen timber that helps block off the ‘wrong turns.'”

Yep. That's my daughter smoking me at the finish.

Yep. That’s my daughter smoking me at the finish (2014).

Superb volunteer and crowd support. Each runner runs two 1.5 mile loops — we circle through the start/hand-off area, which provides a great spot for spectators to watch for family and friends. Volunteers are positioned throughout the course to make sure runners don’t make a wrong turn. There are a few hills on the winding course, but nothing overly treacherous.

Festive post-race vibe. Each runner is given two drink tickets along with a ticket for a burger or brat in the race packet. The kids also enjoy the s’more kit also part of the race packets, thanks to the bonfires going nearby. “As I’ve hoped, people really stay around for the awards,” Lisa says. “We try with our races to make the ‘post-race’ worth waiting for, both with great food and super unique awards. I have been glad people enjoyed our wood medals, and our wood trophies, all collected from the forest we ran in. It’s fun to see people get excited to climb up to our tree stump awards podium, which is actually quite gigantic and a little difficult to climb!”

A few of my favorite pictures from this event, over the years:


20140513-135745.jpg Emma and me, after crossing the finish.20140513-135757.jpg Look at these sweet girls! A & A, my dear friends’ little girls who ran together and won for youngest relay team. They were all smiles — before, during and after the race.



Two of my friends and running partners, Katie and Pam, who teamed up and ran strong and fast! Love these ladies.20140513-135841.jpg Hey, look at us! Krista and me, savoring our combined age-group win.

Giveaway details: To enter to win one (1) free team entry to this year’s Run the Ridge Team Relay (two winners/one race team), please let us know what you like most about springtime running in Michigan. Please leave your comment in the comment section below. The giveaway ends this Thursday, May 5. The winner will be announced here on the blog. Good luck, everyone!

Learn more about Run the Ridge Team Relay here »

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