When Jenna Greenman decided to start her own Michigan event for runners and their families, she brought to this new race director role years of personal racing experience.
She started out running 5Ks and 10Ks and eventually finished more than a dozen marathons as well as countless triathlons, obstacle races and warrior dashes.
“I did not start running until late in high school and college, merely as a way to get in shape,” she says. “I developed a love for running and the feeling that it gave me each time I ran.”
In 2009 her passion for the sport led her to organize, with her husband, the Escape to Belle Isle 10K & 5K. This year’s race is set for Saturday, July 18.
“We decided that we should start our own road race that could bring people back to the community of Detroit, benefit a charity, and also get kids involved so that they also could be motivated by the beautiful sport of running,” says Jenna, who has an 11-year-old son. “We did this completely by grassroots efforts, and each year the race has grown by approximately 200 participants. This race is a huge endeavor that we put on every year with the help of many friends and colleagues, and it is worth every ounce of effort every year to hear from the participants how wonderful the races and how much they enjoyed the venue and the swag.”
MRG caught up with Jenna to learn more about this year’s Escape to Belle Isle. Here’s what she had to say…and read to the end for information about a special reader discount when registering for this July race.
Belle Isle is a wonderful gem within the city of Detroit, and our race gives people from all over the state and out-of-state the opportunity to experience this lovely place in the summertime! It is a unique venue like no other. Whether you are running the 5K or 10K, you’ll see the beautiful view of Detroit and Canada while running the race. This is all while running around the newly improved and renovated Belle Isle park which includes the glorious casino and Scott Fountain. For either race, it is fast and flat, and makes for a wonderful early morning Saturday run where you can still enjoy your entire weekend. We have runners of all kinds, from young children who run the kids run at 10 a.m. to avid runners, people looking to get in shape. We even had the winner of the men’s Detroit Free Press Marathon from last year run our 10K as a training run! We welcome everyone to our race – those with strollers, dogs, etc.
How is this year’s event shaping up?
This will be the second year that we’ve partnered with the Ronald McDonald House charity of Detroit to donate our proceeds from the race. With their help and support, we’ve been able to provide numerous additional, unique amenities at our race for all of our participants. This includes a sketch artist, face painter, a live DJ, and a fresh frozen fruit ice cream truck at the end of the race!! It truly makes it a unique experience and certainly a family and friends event if you want the whole family to participate! As we have done in the past, everyone receives a custom medal and dry fit T-shirt for participating in the race. The kids receive a trophy in addition to these items for participating in the kids run.
What are the courses like?
The 5K race and the 10K race both have the same start and finish at the wonderful Belle Isle Casino. The 5K race branches off through the middle of the island near the newly restored Conservatory and aquarium, and loops back around the island with great views of the Detroit skyline and the Renaissance Center. The 10K continues around the entire island, so that runners have every view possible of Canada and Detroit, the Detroit Yacht Club, zoo, and the MacArther bridge. Both races are flat and fast and result in an awesome finishers medal!
Some runners use this race as a training run before a fall race — can you talk a bit more about this?
Many people use this run as a training run for fall marathons and races because frankly there are few races other than fun runs in the summer months. Coupled with the fact that it is a fabulous venue and it is flat and fast, it provides a great training run and fun event for those looking to put in some miles. We have many participants that are training for local marathons including the Detroit Free Press Marathon, the Brooksie Way Half Marathon, and the Chicago Marathon.
Any training tips?
Hydrate, hydrate! We hold the race at 8:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning in July. It is a wonderful summer event, and although early in the morning, the weather can sometimes get very warm. We have 3 to 4 water stations set up for each course, and it is important that runners use their water bottle or take advantage of the water to make sure they stay hydrated!
If runners are making a weekend out of their trip to Detroit for the race, any must-see places to check out, or restaurants to try?
We get many participants that come in for the race on Belle Isle, and bring family and friends to enjoy activities around Detroit after the race! With the revitalization of Detroit, there are so many cool restaurants and places to see after the race is done – Campus Martius, Slows BBQ, Hopcat brewery, Ottava Via in Corktown— not to mention the wonderful Riverfront path along Jefferson Avenue near the Renaissance Center.
Why is it important to you to support Ronald McDonald House of Detroit?
The Ronald McDonald House of Detroit is such an important place for families of sick children that are receiving treatment at Children’s Hospital of Michigan. It is many times the only place the parents and siblings can go to be close to their child while they receive treatment, and even have their child come to the house with them to share a meal. Because of the expansion of Children’s Hospital, the old house had to be relocated to the old Hutzel Hospital site in early 2015. The space that was completely gutted and renovated for the new Ronald McDonald house is absolutely spectacular and rivals accommodations of a five-star hotel. This is all to provide a warm, safe, and comforting environment for families and children that need it desperately. The proceeds from this race go directly to the Ronald McDonald house to provide amenities and rooms for these families. Therefore, the more participants and runners that we have in this race, it directly increases the benefit to the house.
Learn more and register for the Escape to Belle Isle 10K & 5K here »
To receive $5 off your race entry, download the entry form here » (You will need to mail in the entry to the address listed on the form; please write ‘Michigan Runner Girl’ on the top of the form.)