When Andrew, our 12-year-old, said he was up for running the 10K with me during last weekend’s Festival of Races here in Traverse City, I figured we’d go out and have a great time tackling this distance together. He’d surely be up for it given his consistent summer training (3X/week, with fellow middle school and high school cross-country runners), and he had successfully run the Bayshore 10K this spring at the end of his track season.

The better question may have been, would I be up for this?

Andrew just keeps getting faster, as happens for our kids as they get older and train their bodies. I saw just how much faster this weekend. (Thanks for allowing this mama to be a bit proud, for just a moment — it’s an amazing thing to see your kids happy and strong and pushing themselves to be their very best.)

Andrew, at downtown's Open Space, after finishing the 10K this weekend. He ran a personal best and took second place in his age group!
Andrew, at downtown’s Open Space, after finishing the 10K this weekend. He ran a personal best and took second place in his age group!

A quick recap from me about the 10K, and then please keep reading for some fantastic thoughts from fellow Festival of Races runners, including a half marathon participant who set a PR, friends who “conquered McKinley” in the 15K, and sisters who made the 5K a family affair. Highlights from Saturday’s 10K, which I’ve decided is among my most favorite race experiences to date:

  • We decided we’d start out nice and easy, not push the pace until a few miles in, and we stuck with this plan.
  • The hill just before the mile 3 marker was tough — long and steady up, up, up — but we powered up and over, side by side.
  • Nearing the bottom of the long descent, Andrew picked up the pace a bit, and to be sure he was feeling alright, I checked in with him. “You’re doing OK, feeling good about going a little faster?” I asked. “Yeah, I’m feeling good,” he replied. Alrighty then…let’s do this.
  • We kept at it, hovering just under 8 minute miles at times, or just above.
  • It started to warm up, the humidity feeling thicker, and I really welcomed that water at the final aid station.
  • The final stretch of these races, running the parade route on Front Street, is so exhilarating. Crowds cheer you on, you can see the finish line…and this is where Andrew just took off. He put the hammer down and all I could think of was, “Wow, this boy has a kick!” I let him run ahead, always in my sight, and picked it up some myself. “You’d better get on it, he’s beating you!” Joe tells me with a smile as I pass my family cheering for us with a block to go. “I know it, he’s amazing!” I shout back, so proud. I cross the finish line about 15 seconds after Andrew and we hug and high five each other. I’m so happy for him, knowing he pushed himself. And he’s grinning so big. We both end up with PRs – 48:31 for him and 48:48 for me.

More runner recaps …

John Flesher after this past weekend's inaugural half marathon at the National Cherry Festival. He set a personal record of 1:56, a four-minute improvement over the Bayshore Half Marathon.
John Flesher after this past weekend’s inaugural half marathon at the National Cherry Festival. He set a personal record of 1:56, a four-minute improvement over the Bayshore Half Marathon.

Michigan runner: John Flesher
Festival of Races Distance: Half marathon

I’ve jogged pretty regularly since my teen years, but began competitive running only five years ago — early onset of a mid-life crisis, perhaps? Or maybe just an incentive to keep going and avoid hibernation during our seemingly endless northern Michigan winters, as preparing for long-distance races requires staying in shape all year. Regardless, I’ve found something of a niche in the half-marathon — a tremendous exertion, yet manageable for my 55-year-old legs, which have never quite forgiven me for the full marathon I managed back in 2010. So I was pleased to hear that the National Cherry Festival was adding a half-marathon to its lineup of races this year.

Conditions were ideal — temperatures in the 60s at starting time, overcast, steady breezes off Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay. We began at Old Mission School, but almost immediately veered northward off Island View Road into — appropriately enough — a cherry orchard. It was a delightfully colorful touch, our mass of humanity streaming past green, leafy trees, their branches laden with plump red fruit only weeks from the harvest. The sandy paths provided ample width for two runners, but the terrain was a bit uneven at times, making it advisable to glance down frequently to avoid awkward landings and a sprained ankle. The cross-country segment lasted 1.5 miles, ending at Peninsula Drive just south of Bowers Harbor. From there, it was a straight shot to downtown Traverse City along one of the area’s most scenic routes, with sweeping views across placid West Bay and only slight rises and dips. The closer to our destination, the larger the crowds, whose cheers of encouragement (and occasional squirts from water hoses) spurred us on. My achy, exhausting, lung-bursting, leg-churning dash down Front Street to the finish line was rewarded by a personal record of one hour, 56 minutes — and a welcome cooling-off period in the mist tent. It was an altogether terrific experience, one that I would recommend for any runner who values a beautiful and friendly setting and can do without the challenge of steep climbs. Here’s hoping the half-marathon remains a part of the Cherry Festival lineup from now on. If the inaugural running was any indication, it will be a classic.

15K finishers! Holly, far right, with Karen (middle) and Laura (left, who got 2nd in her age group in her first 15k!).
15K finishers! Holly, far right, with Karen (middle) and Laura (left, who got 2nd in her age group in her first 15k!).

Michigan runners: Holly Schurg and Karen Mueller
Festival of Races distance: 15K

My friend Karen and I arrived at NMC about 7:30 and had time to cheer the 5K + 10K runners off, chat with friends, stop at the porta potty and line up. Our plan was to run easy since she is training for the Detroit Marathon and I am just coming off of the Charlevoix Marathon. They announced that we were running with 300 of our closest friends at the start. The first mile followed the 10K route so we were able to cheer for the 10K runners going the opposite direction – including Michigan Runner Girl. Then we turned up East Shore toward the infamous McKinley Hill. East Shore is one of the most beautiful stretches to run on with lots of shade and great views of East Bay. The sun came out at mile 3 and the humidity seemed to be rising. By the time we reached the base of the hill, we were thirsty! Unfortunately the water was at the top of the 1/2-mile incline so we chugged about halfway up and decided to power walk the rest of the way to the water. We poured some on our heads and continued on. I said, “I missed the ‘You conquered McKinley’ sign.” And Karen said, “That is because we haven’t.” Oh yeah … the hill continues another ¼ of a mile before the steep descent.

Up and over we went to Peninsula drive, meeting up with the half marathoners. We were happy that another water station was added with friends manning it. One of the best parts of hometown races is seeing lots of people you know! We continued on down Munson Avenue, under the bridge, and onto Front Street. We run on Front Street a lot, but this race makes the five block stretch feel like FOREVER. I realized that we must have picked up the pace once we reached Front and with two blocks to go, I said, “I feel like I’m going to puke.” But we are on Front Street with lots of people watching, so I knew I was not going to slow down. I kept my eyes focused on the Finish Line banner right through the chute and heard our names announced. Then it was time to get ready for the Cherry Royale parade!


5K Finishers! Dena, Kaylee, Morisa and Tina on Front Street after the race.
5K Finishers! Dena, Kaylee, Morisa and Tina on Front Street after the race.

Michigan runners: Sisters Dena Johnson and Tina Schelich (and Tina’s daughters, Morisa, 10, and Kaylee, 8)
Festival of Races distance: 5K 

Dena: We ran with Tina’s girls. Our first race together this year was the Girls on the Run 5K. After that, we decided to sign up for the Cherry Festival 5K. I ran with Morisa and Tina ran with Kaylee. Morisa and I are very much alike, as are Tina and Kaylee. To make the event even more special, we decided to pick out matching outfits for our duos! Nothing is better that a cool new running outfit. We all did some training runs to get ready for it; the girls even took on some hill repeats. The Cherry Festival event is always a good one. It is great to see so many local faces running and cheering. Morisa was trying to beat her time last year. On the drive into the start that morning, we decided to look at the course just to refresh our minds. That is when we saw it was not the same one as last year! Once at the start, Tina told the girls they had 3 miles to think about what they wanted for breakfast after they were done. Morisa didn’t hesitate when she blurted out “bacon!” The start wasn’t as congested as I remembered in the past. Morisa started out strong and didn’t look back! She ran a very steady race. She is a tough kid and has the mental strength to push her through. We clipped off several people on our way to the finish! Just like every runner out there, she was surprised at how long Front Street really is! I had told her before the race, I thought she could go under 26 minutes. She crossed the line in 25:49! Almost a full minute faster than last year! She was so excited! And I was so proud of her! We are already talking about when our next one will be!

TinaKaylee was a bit nervous. But once we started she settled in pretty quick. The first mike went by fast. Once we were in the Civic Center she had a side stitch and needed some help pushing through it. She amazed me by her toughness. She was looking for Front Street and was hoping the finish was at the first block. Once she knew where to go and heard the fans cheering for her, she broke out in a smile. She crossed the line looking hot, sweaty, but accomplished! 28:51!! She may need a few rest days before heading out again….but I’m sure she will!! I am so proud of them!

Did you run one of this year’s four National Cherry Festival races? How’d it go? 

If you ran the inaugural half marathon, what did you think of the course?



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2 Responses to “Festival of Races in Traverse City: Michigan runners talk about the half marathon, 15K, 10K & 5K”

  1. So sad to miss the 15 K this year – I love that race! This blog post brought some tears to my eyes as it reminded me of how proud I felt last year when I ran the Carter’s Kids Run last year with my daughter. It was so wonderful to see her push herself and keep going even though she was hot and uncomfortable, sweaty and tired, with the sun right in her bright blue eyes… She did it and I couldn’t have been any prouder at that moment.

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