We’re all missing our summer races — races that may have become annual traditions for us, with our family and friends. Thankfully, a few of these events have gone virtual, allowing us to still support our favorite races (and receive race bling!) by running the distance on our own. And in some cases, all-new virtual races are popping up, providing even more opportunities to keep running and racing all summer long. The Michigan Harvest Challenge, a virtual run series celebrating the harvest seasons of famous local crops, is one of these — and even carries on into the fall.

Race organizers Kat Paye and Alex Zelinski join Heather to talk about this run series, which allows runners and walkers to participate in four different runs. The most popular option? Take on all four events — these Harvest Challenge spots are capped at 500. Kat and Alex also give an update on the longstanding Festival of Races, which normally take place each July during the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City. As of today, these races tentatively are set for Sept. 13.

To listen to this episode, click on the player at the top of this post. Or, download the episode (and subscribe to the show!) using your favorite podcast app.

The National Cherry Festival Foundation, which is behind northern Michigan events including the National Cherry Festival (canceled this July because of the pandemic), Iceman Cometh Challenge mountain bike race in November, and Leapin’ Leprechaun in March, is launching this virtual run series. The event is open July 15 through October 31 online and allows runners and walkers to choose from races including the Cherry Run, Apple Dash, Hop Trot, and Grape Stomp. Participants can also sign up for the Harvest Challenge and complete all four races. 

Each individual race participant will receive a themed t-shirt for their race, a finisher’s pin and other goods. Harvest Challenge participants will receive a Finisher’s Medal, a pin for each race, a special Challenge-only t-shirt, and other race bag goodies. In addition, each participant that logs their virtual run time will be eligible for a door prize. Door prizes will be drawn one week after the conclusion of each race.

“We spend our whole year finding the best way to celebrate cherries, we thought why not celebrate some of the other amazing crops our state produces as well,” says Kat, who serves as National Cherry Festival Executive Director.

The Festival Foundation will also be collecting donations for the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy (GTRLC) as part of the event with a goal of raising $10,000. The goal can be reached if every participant makes a minimum $3 donation. Registration and other race information is online here.

The Michigan Harvest Challenge Run Series is sponsored by Sam’s Club. Learn more and register here.

If you enjoy what you’re hearing on the Michigan Runner Girl show, we’d be so, so grateful if you’d take a few moments to write a review on iTunes. This will help more runners and Michigan lovers like yourself find the podcasts. Thank you!! Also, the quickest way to get the podcasts is to subscribe to the show via iTunes or via Stitcher or your favorite podcast app. 

A special thanks to Mike Moran, Mike Youker and Jonny Tornga of Quarter After Productions in Traverse City, Mich. for producing the show.

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