A summer tradition for me and many others. Want to make it one of yours?
A summer tradition for me and many others. Want to make it one of yours?

One of my most favorite days of summer in my hometown of Traverse City is the final day of the National Cherry Festival. Also known as the day the Festival of Races takes place.

There’s nothing better than getting up early on a summer morning and meeting up with fellow runners to run out Old Mission Peninsula, along East and West Grand Traverse Bay and through downtown Traverse City. Added bonus: as you make your way through the final stretch of the 5K and 15K events, you’re treated to lots of cheering spectators who are out early to snag a spot along the parade route.

Post-race you can stick around downtown to re-fuel (cherries!) and also grab your own spot to watch the talented marching bands, elaborate school floats, and myriad other entrants in the couple-hour-long Cherry Royale Parade. It’s family-friendly entertainment at its best.

I ran my first Cherry Fest 5K back in 2007, not long after falling in love with running. I ran it with a friend and we ran it hard—I’ll always remember her turning to me at the start and saying, “Want to see how fast we can go?” It was my third race ever at the time—I’d run the Bayshore Half a month earlier, and the Riverbank 25K in Grand Rapids a month prior to that—and I was feeling strong. We ran it in 22:51—a scorching pace that today astounds me. I realized after that race that 5Ks could be very hard…and that I was more of a longer-distance runner.

In subsequent years, I ran the 5K with Joe and Emma, our now 13-year-old, and most recently, as a family. I will always treasure our first 5K all together during last year’s Cherry Festival.

Our first Cherry Fest 5K all together, in 2012.
Our first Cherry Fest 5K all together, in 2012.

The 15K is an awesome course—scenic because you’re along the water much of the course—but also very challenging because of a significant hill midway through the race. “Mt. McKinley” – McKinley Road – is tough, both on the uphill and on the steep descent, but it’s also a satisfying challenge if you’re up for it.

I am thrilled to be able to give away one free entry to the Cherry Festival race of choice, thanks to Event Director and local running coach extraordinaire Lisa Taylor. Here’s the deal: in the comments section below, if you’re interested in winning this free entry and you’ll be here in Traverse City on July 6, please share a Cherry Festival memory. Maybe it’s running this race. Or perhaps it’s the live music at the Open Space, awesome arts & crafts fair downtown, the parades, or the fun activities like sand sculpture and cherry pit-spitting contests. Haven’t been to the Cherry Festival yet? No worries, you can still enter. Just let me know why you’d like to run the race—and what other things you might like to enjoy at the festival.

I’ll pick a winner at random, using random.org, and announce the winner early next week. This contest will close at 5 p.m. EST Monday, June 24.

And a few more details about this great race, now in its 40th year (it’s known as the “original Traverse City foot race,” having started in 1973 as a 10K and then in 1978 shifting to a 15K. The 5K was added in 1989—the city’s first 5K—and over its entire history, more than 50,000 participants have crossed the finish line):

  • Pace Corrals for start line flow
  • 7:30 AM 5K start
  • 7:50 AM 15K start
  • 5/3 Bank Golden Mile Elite races
  • $15 technical shirt upgrade option
  • Active Sports Images on course and finish line photography
  • Team Bob’s Team Challenge Category

I look forward to reading everyone’s comments. Good luck!


[Some fine print for this fine prize.] This giveaway is open to residents of the United States and Canada. It begins on 6/20/13 and ends on 6/24/13; the winner will be announced on 6/25/13. One entry per person. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Void where prohibited by law. 

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