When it comes to scenic races, the longstanding Mercy Health Seaway Run & Lake Michigan Half Marathon in Muskegon is a runner favorite.

It’s the event’s 35th year, and organizers are celebrating the milestone with “anniversary promotions” each month leading up to race day, June 25, 2016.

“We’ll also be adding the Celebration Tent at the finish line, where we will have some special post-race treats for all finishers,” says Joe Doyle, race director. Another addition to this year’s event: all Seaway Run 15K registrants will receive a tech shirt (available in women’s sizes, too); previously the race shirt was a cotton tee.

Thousands of runners and walkers are expected to take part in the 35th annual Mercy Health Seaway Run & Health Expo. The event features a half marathon, 15K, 5K run, 5K walk and a free health expo.

The area’s beautiful landscape plays an integral role in the events–a definite attraction for those signing on to participate.

“The Lake Michigan Half Marathon and our traditional 15K take runners out to the Lake Michigan beach and back along the Lakeshore Recreational Trail,” Doyle says. “Our most popular events are the 5K Run and Community Fun Walk winding through historic neighborhoods with views of beautiful Muskegon Lake. From a 5K fun walk to a challenging half marathon course, the Mercy Health Seaway Run has an event for everyone.”

2015-MHSR-3MRG is partnering with race organizers for the second year — expect lots more fun information about the event in coming weeks, including a special podcast episode. To kick things off, MRG caught up with Doyle and event co-chair Chris Burnaw. Here’s what they had to say about this annual summer tradition in Muskegon:

This is the event’s 35th year — a big milestone! Can you share some background on how this race got started and why, and also what it means to organizers and the community to have this longstanding running tradition?

The Chronicle Seaway Run was started by Rick Fitzgerald, a Muskegon Chronicle employee, as a marketing promotion for the newspaper. In 2012, the Muskegon Rotary Club’s 1 in 21 Healthy Muskegon County initiative and the Muskegon Family YMCA became partners to continue the Seaway Run tradition, with proceeds benefitting those groups. Mercy Health came on board as a signature sponsor, and the race became known as the Mercy Health Seaway Run.

The very first Chronicle Seaway Run started in downtown Muskegon and ended about 6 miles later at Lake Michigan in Pere Marquette Park. The only refreshment was fountain soda pop and you had to find a way back downtown if you didn’t want to walk or run back. The early years saw a number of different courses, eventually settling on a 5K loop and 15K loop taking runners out to Lake Michigan, with the addition of a Community Fun Walk in later years. Today’s courses highlight both Muskegon Lake and Lake Michigan.

The Lake Michigan Half Marathon was added in 2013, to create a full roster of events for participants. We have something for everyone with the Community Fun Walk, 5K, unique 15K distance, and the Lake Michigan Half Marathon. We’ve also grown the Healthy Lifestyle Expo to over 35 exhibitors, with demonstrations throughout the day. The event has truly become a community commitment to healthy living.

2015-MHSR-2For those runners who are new to your events, what can they expect in terms of overall race experience? 

“The Race with a View” tells it all! Participants will experience the beauty of Muskegon Lake and Lake Michigan. The courses are mostly flat and fast (with a few hills to keep things interesting). The Community Walk and 5K route winds through a historic neighborhood; the 15K and Half Marathon courses feature historic neighborhoods, plus woods, dunes and the natural settings of the Lakeshore Recreational Trail.

Tell us about this year’s health expo…  

The Healthy Lifestyle Expo features over 35 business and organizations and is offered at no cost to the community. Attendees can explore healthy options and learn how to optimize their family’s health. Visit the expo for health screenings, food, music, kids activities, prizes, demonstrations and more! Runners can also pick up their bib numbers, T-shirts and other race goodies at the Expo.

2015-MHSR-5Last year you shared some great ideas for sight-seeing and eating/drinking for runners who may want to make a weekend of it — any new places or spots that have cropped up in the last year that we should definitely check out? Any good places to recommend for lodging? 

The Shoreline Inn and Muskegon Harbor Holiday Inn are both in downtown Muskegon, close to the start/finish of the event and packet pickup. We have great places to eat and grab a drink with friends downtown, including our two craft breweries, Pigeon Hill and Unruly. Our Convention and Visitors Bureau has put together some fun itineraries that feature Muskegon’s best spots – you can check them out at visitmuskegon.org under Discover Muskegon. The website also has connections to lodging, dining and shopping.

A new juice bar has opened in downtown Muskegon since our 2015 event, in the Rootdown Yoga studio on Western Ave. They offer healthy juices and smoothies, along with organic salads. Check out the selection here » 

2015-MHSR-6Anything else you’d want people to know as they consider signing on and training for one of these races?

If you want to experience the unique beauty of Lake Michigan and the historic city of Muskegon, this is the race for you! It’s a great place to spend a summer weekend. The Mercy Health Seaway Run and Lake Michigan Half Marathon really does have something for everyone at every pace. Just pick your distance, get registered at seawayrun.com/register, start training, and we’ll see you in June on the sunny shores of Lake Michigan!


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