Eastshore Drive: one of the many beautiful stretches of the Bayshore Marathon and Half Marathon routes.
Eastshore Drive: one of the many beautiful stretches of the Bayshore Marathon and Half Marathon routes.

Regular followers of Michigan Runner Girl know this is a BIG week for me. I’m just three days out from my sixth marathon, the Bayshore Marathon, and this time around I’ve been training hard – really hard. And best of all: I’ve been feeling great—strong physically and mentally. And dare I say, a tad faster. I tackled a more ambitious plan this time around in hopes of nailing a PR and, in my most perfect scenario, re-qualifying for Boston. There it is. I’m putting it all out there.

This means I need a 3:45 or faster finish time. I’ve done this twice before –- 3:42:55 in 2011 (BQ’d) and 3:41:02 in 2013 (didn’t BQ because of the change in qualifying times) – and on this very course. Here’s hoping I can do it a third time. (Because I’m entering a new age bracket – hello, 40s! – I am back to the 3:45 qualifying time.)

Alright, so enough about that (for now)…What I’m really excited to bring to you all today is some cool info about this weekend’s Bayshore races in Traverse City. I spoke with race director Daniel Siderman recently and we had a great talk about this year’s events, which include the 26.2 race as well as a 10K and the incredibly popular half-marathon (this 13.1-mile event filled in 38 minutes!). Read on for more about the Bayshore, now in its 32nd year and a longtime Memorial Day weekend event that has grown to include a field of 7,200 runners and about 1,000 volunteers.

Just around the corner!

First, anything new for this year?  

We make small changes here and there, all positive things. We’re using Gatorade at aid stations instead of Gu Brew. This happened because Gu was out of the drink we were going to use. It was within the last month, so it was a little bit of a scramble. But the Gatorade people were great. We’re also giving out bumper stickers this year — one for the marathon, one for the half, one for the 10K. When you get a shirt, you get a sticker. I think it’s cool, I’m waiting to see how they’re received.

So what’s the flavor of the Gatorade — and out of curiosity, just how much Gatorade do you need for the event?

It’s Gatorade Endurance Lemon Lime. And we’ll have 850 gallons of it.

A lot of people are talking about the new half-marathon route — the first portion of the course is different from previous years. Can you tell us a little more about that?

Well, first, within the first two miles you’re back on the old course. We’re now starting at Bowers Harbor Road, near the intersection of Bowers Harbor and Seven Hills. It is a change, and you’re starting out on a hill. There’s no way to sugarcoat that. Your first mile is basically up a hill, and your second mile is a downhill. You do have that punishment at the beginning … It’s just a necessary evil with where we had to put it — unavoidable, but it’s not like we’re taking you on McKinley or Wayne Hill [two well-known hills in Traverse City.] It’s literally the first mile.

And this change was a result of no longer having access to the privately-owned field at the end of Bluff Road, where the half had previously started, correct?

Yes. Last year, the week of the event, that property went into foreclosure. There was a scramble last year, literally, to use that property. But this is something we have discussed for years — “What are we going to do when we can’t use this property any longer? What’s our backup plan?” Because that area is really starting to develop out there. It was a nice smooth transition with Peninsula Township [to move to the new starting spot]. They’ve always been great to work with, and they were great to work with on this. It’s a much better spot to stage a race from, for people to warm up and hang out before race. It’s a larger park, a beautiful park not everybody knows about.

This year's finisher's medal.
This year’s finisher’s medal.

Has the number of running participants changed this year, especially given the race’s popularity?

There are 7,200 total. That seems to be our magic number to be at. There are more people in the half-marathon than we’ve had in year’s past. We did this by knocking down number of 10K runners. The half-marathon is the one everybody wants to be in. But we’ve got to be able to get everyone out there, with the busing. [Half-marathon runners are bused from the base of Old Mission Peninsula to the start at Bowers Harbor Park.]

The half-marathon filled in a record time of 38 minutes, and the marathon filled within a couple of weeks – there were waiting lists, yes?

Yes. We capped the marathon at 2,750, and everyone on the waiting list was able to get in. We’ve reached what we know is our max number for the marathon. The half-marathon … there was 800 people on the waiting list, and very few people had the opportunity to get a spot.

There aren’t many races that fill so quickly, it seems. Why do you believe these events are so popular among runners?

The only race I can compare it to is our local bike race, the Iceman. That’s the only thing that comes to mind. I know the M22 Challenge closes quickly … Part of it is where we live. It’s a gorgeous place to run right along the bay. And that half-marathon distance is a lot more attainable for people [compared to the marathon], especially in the spring, especially with the long winter we had. You’ve got that coming into play. And then obviously I think the event is wonderful. We have a great reputation. But the popularity is because it’s such a great area to come and visit. It’s a holiday weekend, it’s early in the holiday weekend, it kicks off the tourist season up here — we have a lot of things in our favor. And it has sold out every year, so that builds it even more.

A lot of runners are coming from outside the Traverse City area, right?

We get about 20 percent of locals that run the event — that’s historically how it’s been, if you go back five years.

Has there ever been a thought about having a larger race expo?

Central High School has been great hosting us for decades. It’s still the same thing, we have the short window there and wait for the students to be done with school. We have talked about it – having a bigger expo — but we haven’t explored all that much. Part of it is the small-town feel, small-town race. We want to keep some of that in there as well. It’s just so convenient to have it at the high school where you’re having the event. [The Bayshore Marathon and 10K start next to Central’s track and then finish on the track itself.]

How about having pacers?

We have pace corrals for all three events, with pace signs. Pacers — that’s been discussed for quite awhile, but it’s still in that stage.

Anything spectators should keep in mind? 

Roads will be closed out there, and for the half-marathon there’s no parking out there — there’s just not enough parking, so that remains the same as always. The spectating areas are the same, we have spectator busing available. And the finish line is the area to be. One thing we added last year that will gain in popularity this year is you can track your runners on your phone or computer. We’ll have splits along the course. That’s something cool I think, especially for spectators. There’s more police and emergency personnel presence, and that’s comforting [following the tragedy at the 2013 Boston Marathon]. They’re more visible. There’s a lot more behind the scenes. The positive part we got from runners was it was obvious to them that they were there … The downtown Running Fit will have photos [of runners] plastered all over the store starting Saturday afternoon. They are free for people to pick up.

How are you feeling overall about this year’s Bayshore?

I’m nervously confident. Everything is in place right now. Everything is done. It’s just a matter of everything falling into place — not just by chance, but by planning. We’ve got wonderful volunteers who have been doing this for a number of years. And new volunteers who step right in.

Want more insider info about the Bayshore races? Check out this MRG post featuring runners’ favorite parts about the course, tips to have your best race, and great spots for post-race eating (and celebrating!) in Traverse City »

Learn more about the Bayshore races here »





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