This weekend marks the official start to summer(!), a much-celebrated event for us Michiganders who, lovers of all seasons that we are, also eagerly look forward to sunshine and warmth after months of snow and (sometimes) long stretches of grey sky.
Memorial Day weekend also signifies a long-held tradition for many runners in this region—and beyond. It’s the Bayshore, a longstanding and increasingly popular Saturday event that includes a 10K, half-marathon and full marathon. More than 7,000 runners will participate in the 31st Annual Bayshore races that take runners on a scenic tour of Old Mission Peninsula with its sweeping views of East Grand Traverse Bay and lush cherry orchards.
Many of you know I’m running my second Bayshore Marathon—my fourth 26.2—and that Joe and our son Andrew, 10, have been training for the 10K. I’ve also run the half and 10K, and can say that each race is a great one.
With so many Michigan Runner Girl readers planning to run this race—readers from throughout Michigan—and because this race holds a big spot in my heart, I reached out to numerous runner friends here in northern Michigan to ask what they like most about this event. These generous friends (again I am reminded of the awesomeness of the running community) shared not only their favorite parts of these races, but also things to look for, what you can expect, and also—most importantly perhaps?—where to go in Traverse City to celebrate your race.
Whether you’re running the 10K, half or full, or even if you’re a spectator coming to the races to cheer on friends and family, I think you’ll love this excellent insight. Here’s their advice:
Soak up the scene
Dave Taylor, longtime Bayshore runner and a former Bayshore race director, remembers the early years of the event. The marathon start stands out as a cool sight to see, he says, especially “for those of us who have been in Traverse awhile and remember when Bayshore had 500 marathoners and we thought it was a big deal. The line-up of athletes that now curve around towards the Dennos Museum [on the Northwestern Michigan College campus] is amazing.”
Dave, who is running the half this year, signaled out the following miles along the marathon route as favorites:
- Mile 7-8- out and mile 18-19 back: “The whole course is beautiful but I’ll bet this stretch against most courses in the country.”
- Mile 22-25: “We’ve seen the crowds and the bigger aid stations. Things tend to get quiet here, time to get serious in the mind, look ahead, and count down those miles.”
- Miles 13-16: “This is a crowded stretch due to runners going in both directions. It is fun to see the other runners making their way to the turn around but pay attention to the aid stations. They are really crowded and they are crucial aid stations to make sure you are getting fluid and aid. Slow down if necessary if it means it will make sure you don’t miss your fluids.”
Katherine Brege, who ran the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco with me and our friend Beth in 2011, ran last year’s Bayshore Marathon. She says her favorite part of the race is the beautiful course. “I love running along the water and seeing this great place we are lucky to live in. I also love being able to train on that stretch with our fantastic running group. It helped me get a feel for what I was in for when I did the marathon last spring. Look up at your surroundings, not at the asphalt in front of you. Enjoy it. We are runners for a reason!”
Meagan Alvarado, who ran the marathon in 2009 and has also run the half, says “the very best part of the race” for both distances is the turn at Bluff Road onto Center Road. “When running the full, the Bluff road turn signified nearing the half way point. When running the half-marathon, that turn from Bluff onto Center Road, with fans cheering was such a boost to take it on home! It ignited my endurance to push it the last stretch. Be sure to take in the beauty around you at each point in the race, from the beautiful shoreline to the cherry blossoms popping in the orchards. Simply take in the beauty and let your legs do the work. Embrace the beauty—it makes the race so much better.”
Amy Farmer, who has run the 10K and half numerous times, says her favorite part of the half route is Bluff Road, the first stretch of the race for those running 13.1: “East Bay is always so peaceful and beautiful.”
Half-marathoners: Have fun on the bus ride out
For those running the half, catching a ride on a school bus is part of the race experience. “The Bayhshore Half just feels more celebratory from the start,” says Dave, who says the ride out Old Mission Peninsula provides an opportunity for runners to get to know each other and take in the scenery. “Enjoy the bus ride through really beautiful territory, hopefully with some cherry blossoms still left on the trees. Lots of jokes and conversation amongst fellow runners all the way out.”
Even the waiting at the end of Bluff Road—the half-marathon race start—offers a festive vibe. “Waiting for the start is also fun, hanging out in the field, enjoying each other’s company,” Dave says.
You might want to bring along something to sit on, suggests Holly Schurg, who has run Bayshore the past four years: “If you think you will want to sit down while waiting for the half marathon start, take something to sit on – the grass is pokey.”
Cheer on your fellow runners
With the marathon an out-and-back course, and half-marathoners bused out to the half-way point for marathoners for their start, runners in these two distances end up passing one another. As a marathoner, it’s pretty amazing to watch the super-fast half-marathoners whizzing past. And as a half-marathoner, you get the chance to see the speedy 26.2’ers, too. Also, it’s just fun to pass other runners—in 2011 when I ran the marathon for the first time, I was thrilled to pass friends running the shorter distance.
Friends agree this is a cool part of the race. “Seeing the half-marathoners on their way into the finish while we (the marathoners) head out to the turn around is always fun,” Katherine says. “I like being able to see, cheer on, encourage and be encouraged by the other runners.”
Adds Trisha Ager, who ran the marathon last year and is running the half this year: “I love the shouts of encouragement that are heard for those couple of miles. It gives me a boost to keep going. Whether you’re running the marathon or the half, there are people there to encourage you to press on. It’s really neat to be able to actually see the marathoners—whether it is the leader being escorted by police, or the last one who really is seeking energy from other runners, it gives all the marathoners a chance to connect and to see one another run a portion of their race.”
Amy cites this as a favorite part of the race, too. “I love it when the full marathoners start to cross the half marathoners. I love searching for friends running the full and cheering them on! It always gives me goose bumps when the first women passes—seeing her kick butt like that is inspiring!!”
Enjoy the homestretch
“My favorite part of the course is when you enter the final stretch along East Shore Road,” says Beth Price, who is running the half. “Tons of cheering and sense of community and it gains momentum, as does my adrenaline, from here on out until the finish line. A bonus is a local resident, Bill Howard, with an antique fire truck squirting water on those who want a cool off. I hope he’s out there this year! Take time to enjoy your surroundings. Northern Michigan amazes and inspires me daily.”
Holly likes the Playmakers tent set up just before turning onto Eastshore Drive during the half-marathon. “I love the oranges and music there,” she says. “I guess you get them twice for the full!”
Holly points out the curvature of the road on this stretch—miles 9-13 of the half—can be tough. Some runners stick to the middle of the road while others run along the shoulder for best footing.
Savor your finish
The Bayshore races all end at Central High School’s track (near the start of the 10K and marathon), which means that the grandstands are full of cheering spectators. “There is no better feeling in the world then turning the corner and entering the finish line at the track—with fans cheering, you can’t help but stand up straight and fly across the finish line,” Meagan says. “Take it all in and enjoy each and every minute of that last lap!”
Dave also believes the Bayshore finish area—actually, from mile 25 to the end for marathoners—is an amazing experience: “You can hear the finish line over to your right, but there is still a mile to tackle. There are lots of little segments to break up this mile: The corner of Eastern and Bayshore to a quick bend to the right (1/4 mile at most); a quick 200 yard with a left turn/right turn; a straight stretch to the entrance to NMC (less then a quarter mile); from the entrance of NMC to the small hill by the NMC gym—perhaps the toughest mental part of that last mile; make it to the top of that hill, a hill that is so small on most days but feels a lot bigger here, and you’ve almost made it home, the finish line sounds are front and center now and you’ve got less than a 1/4 mile until you’ll see the track; The 26 mile point—soak it up, the party of .2 two miles away. Whether this is your first marathon or your 20th, allow yourself to revel in the fact that you’re in a special club called A Marathoner.”
Holly also says the final stretch has its challenges and offers this advice: Once you turn onto the NMC campus, you still have about a half-mile. You can hear the finish but can’t see it. Don’t start your final kick too soon, especially because there is a slight incline before you get to the track.”
Amy offers this sage advice about finishing your race: “My advice would be to embrace the beauty and to know that you have logged the miles. Be content with the outcome even if it falls short of you goals. If we define ourselves by each race we might be disappointed, but if we focus on the journey it took to get to each one we will be amazed at the miles we have logged and the strength it took!”
About that first meal post-race …
I heard from several people that Bubba’s is a top choice. I, too, love this casual restaurant and bar that’s at 428 East Front Street, downtown. (Order the sweet potato tots! Yum.)
Katherine: “We head to Bubba’s for Bloody Mary’s and a good big breakfast after pretty much any local race. We deserve it! Then it’s home for a nap.”
Meagan: “Grab a local microbrew and pair it with the Thai Fish tacos—you order as many as you’d like. Also, their sweet potato tots with special Bubba sauce is a perfect appetizer. We love our post-race meals at Bubbas!”
Boone’s Long Lake Inn, 7208 Secor Road, is another local favorite. It’s where Trisha ended up with a group of friends who also ran last year’s marathon. “It was a perfect evening to sit on the deck and listen to some live music. We ran into several other runners from the Bayshore and all of us discussed the days events, our ups and downs of the race, and we were able to congratulate each other. The food was good—who wouldn’t crave a big salad and a nice-size portion of steak or fish after a long race?”
Beth recommends The Towne Plaza, 203 Cass St.: “If it’s a nice day they will have a full patio set up and you may sit outside in their courtyard. They also have a dietary range including vegetarian. Don’t let the pig logo fool you!” I agree with Beth—I recently ate lunch here for my sister’s birthday. Delicious food and ample outdoor seating.
Amy celebrates her races at 7 Monks Taproom, 128 South Union St, downtown. “They have the best French fries (a post race treat) and turkey burger, and the best selection of beer in town. A great combination of carbs and protein!”
Good food and brew also can be found at North Peak Brewing Company, 400 West Front St. in downtown, says Holly: “If the weather is good, the North Peak patio usually has live music and yummy beer, of course!” (And another great fuel pointer from Holly—something to consider pre-race: “If out-of-town runners are looking for yummy pre-race bagels, Oryana Natural Foods Market, 260 East Tenth St., are the best. Plus the Justin’s Almond butter packets.”)
Another spot for delicious post-race Michigan craft beer: Brewery Ferment, 511 South Union, one of TC’s newest breweries. If you stop by, please be sure to say hello to Carly, Kirsten and Dustin for me (Dustin is my younger brother, Carly is his longtime girlfriend, and Kirsten is my younger sister). Tell them I sent you!
There are so many great places to eat in Traverse City — if you have any questions about a spot or need more recommendations, let me know.
Finally, I’ll end with one of my favorite race quotes:
“I tell our runners to divide the race into thirds. Run the first part with your head, the middle part with your personality, and the last part with your heart.” – Mike Fanelli, running club coach
Wishing everyone the most fantastic Bayshore race day!