By the MRG Team

This year’s Festival of Races — a half marathon, 15K, 10K, and 5K — that are part of the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City returns in just two weeks. This summer race tradition is one of our absolute favorite running/walking events — and we’ve got a race discount to share for this year’s event if you haven’t yet signed up! (Discount shared at the end of this post!)

We caught up with race organizer Alex Zelinski, director of corporate partnerships with the Festival Foundation, to hear about this year’s race distances that take place Saturday, July 9, the second Saturday of the weeklong festival kicking off on July 2.

How are things shaping up for this year’s Festival of Races? With just two weeks to go, what is the team focused on right now? 

I can’t believe that we are so close to the 96th National Cherry Festival! We are extremely excited. The team is focused on many things (as you can imagine)! The top priorities are always safety and delivering an amazing experience to all runners and all those who participate in the National Cherry Festival as a whole. At this point in time, the main focus is fine tuning the details — making sure everything is on track for July 2-9! 

What can participants expect from this year’s event? Have there been any changes they should be aware of? Anything spectators should keep in mind? 

We have placed the order for great weather and awesome views along the route — participants can expect an amazing and classic Festival of Races experience! 

The Priority Health 5K is the definition of a fun run! The 5K is a run/walk race perfect for those running
beginners and those who want the whole family to join. This race starts at Northwestern Michigan College and the course travels through the heart of Traverse City.

The Michigan Planners 10K is about 6.2 miles of beautiful Bayfront scenery. This race that begins at
Northwestern Michigan College takes the runner on a wonderful tour of not only one but two bays.
Crossing the Peninsula, runners will start looking over East Grand Traverse Bay and then they will finish
running along West Grand Traverse Bay until they end alongside those running the 5K and 15K on the
West End of Front Street Traverse City.

The Michigan Planners McKinley Challenge 15K holds a longstanding heritage with the National Cherry
Festival. This race has been part of the Festival for over 40 years and is the foundation of The Meijer
Festival of Races presented by Cherry Bay Orchards. There is no surprise why runners and non-runners
alike enjoy this race every year. Views include both East and West Grand Traverse Bay, the Old Mission
Peninsula, and Beautiful downtown Traverse City.

Cherry Festival
Photo courtesy the National Cherry Festival / John L. Russell

The Half Marathon begins at the Old Mission Peninsula School. Runners will spend the first 2 miles
having a true Traverse City experience running through a working cherry orchard. After those sights,
runners will spend the rest of the race descending into Traverse City with gorgeous views of West Grand
Traverse Bay ending with the rest of the races in the heart of downtown Traverse City.

Last year the races ended in the Open Space, but this year’s thee finish line returns to Front Street downtown. Tell us more about this change.

The 2021 Festival of Races did finish in the Open Space, which was great! However, this year we are going back to our old playbook with the parade coming back downtown. We wanted to embrace the whole experience and who doesn’t want all those spectators cheering them on? The finish line will be on Front Street, where it was in 2019. We are really excited to have the Finish Line back on Front Street! 

At the end of the race route all participants will receive fresh cherries to aid in the muscle recovery
process. Cherries are known for their anti-inflammatory qualities. They aid in repairing and reducing
inflammation in muscles. The Meijer Festival of Races presented by Cherry Bay Orchards is the perfect
way to end a week celebrating and promoting cherries because cherries truly are the super fruit of health and wellness.

What are you most excited about with this year’s Festival of Races, and also with the overall Festival? 

We are excited to be back in full! After a few wild years, we are back to where we need to be. We are excited to have the Finish Line back on Front Street – the energy is amazing! 

You can register for the race of your choice or just learn what else is going on at

Be sure to use the code 22MIRUN5 at registration to take $5 off your race entry!  

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