Christie Phillips hasn’t exactly loved running. Far from it, actually.

“Running was always something I hated, but did to stay in shape,” says Christie, 49, who found that after dealing with some injuries, switching to run/walk intervals allowed her to remain injury-free.

“I’ve never really considered myself a runner — I’ve had a love/hate relationship with running since high school.”

Christie Phillips and friends
Christie and her friends at a trail race earlier this year.

She acknowledges that she nearly gave up on running altogether, but a friend helped change her mind.

“My last-ditch effort at running was accepting a friend’s invitation to run with her group,” says Christie, who lives in Holland, Mich. with her husband Mike and their daughter, Mia, a high school senior, and son, Mason, a sophomore. “Four years later, I’m a regular and now it is all about the social aspect.”

These friendships grew stronger throughout the past year.

“During the pandemic, a core group of six of us continued training and running together. It became an everyday thing since we were all working remotely and had more opportunity during the morning, though not as early as normal. It brought us even closer.”


Serving as a race ambassador

Christie is one of two race ambassadors for this fall’s Holland Haven Marathon, Half Marathon & 8K — an event that is planning an in-person experience for runners (Holland Haven also took place in person last September, with modifications and safety precautions in place due to COVID). Christie’s good friend Michelle Foss also is serving as an ambassador (learn more about Michelle in an upcoming blog post!)

“I thought it would be a great way to highlight the different groups that I run with — Team RWB and the Holland Running Club,” Christie says of signing on as an ambassador. “This will be my fourth year running a Holland Haven event and I’d say the half is my favorite distance — there’s not the pain of the full and there’s time to enjoy friends along the way.”

Christie earned the race’s Trifecta medal for running each of the event’s three distances over the past three years, says Eddie Kline, race director. As ambassadors, Christie and Michelle are sharing their training with runners participating in the Holland Haven Marathon, Half Marathon & 8K. “They’re Holland locals and long-time supporters of the race,” he says.

Holland Haven Marathon

MRG caught up with Christie to learn more about her involvement in the Holland Haven races, thoughts on racing during the pandemic, training tips, and what she loves most about running in the Mitten.

What are your thoughts about racing right now during the pandemic, whether it’s virtual or in-person? 

I definitely miss the in-person events that we turned into a girls’ weekend (ShePower, Hot Chocolate, etc). We usually sign up as a group and run with a friend. I walked the last ShePower in-person half with a friend who was injured just to have her come for the girls’ weekend. We did all run the virtual ShePower half together last fall and made our own event out of it. When it’s been virtual, we’ve been able to run and support each other even if not signed up for the race. While I miss the energy, excitement and swag of in-person races, I still participated in just as many races the past year. Holland Haven still held their event in-person last September and this spring I participated in the WTF trail in person. It hasn’t been as big a break for me not being able to race in-person as for others. So to sum up, racing (I use the term VERY loosely) virtual vs. in-person hasn’t had that big an impact. I am disappointed that some races have already cancelled or postponed for 2021.

What do you like best about running the Holland Haven races? 

I love that it’s local. Before I ran, I volunteered with my kids. Love that so many friends are involved in some capacity. Either running one of the races, volunteering, or just stopping to cheer. I also love that it’s point-to-point so no loops and mind games with yourself to quit. Once you start, you’ve committed.

Holland Haven 8K and half marathon

How would you describe the race experience at Holland Haven? 

For the full, it’s a little quiet the first half, but you can take in the scenery and “settle in.” The second half is relatively flat and while not in the city until the finish, you’ll start passing more and more locals supporting/cheering you on. Prior to last year, there was always an after-party that was catered with live music. Family members were also encouraged to come, eat, and celebrate with their runner.

Do you have specific race goals for this year’s event? 

Not really. I haven’t decided if I’ll run with friends or to actually run for a better time than my first full.

Any training tips you’d like to share with others? 

Don’t give up on yourself. If you find you’re always getting injuries, maybe try intervals or just slow it down. Just finishing is a win.

What do you love most about running in Michigan? Do you have a go-to route? A place you hope to run in the Mitten at some point? 

I love Michigan fall weather best and running along the lakeshore. I’m very lucky to live in Holland with the snowmelt system downtown. Love or hate, the snowmelt is our go-to route all winter. When planning runs around my house, I’m usually out along the lakeshore for part of it. Someday, I’d like to run one of the Mackinac Island races.

How important is your running community? 

Having a community of runners makes all the difference, whether it’s community, friend or team-based, you always have a support system and some accountability to keep active.

The Holland Haven Marathon, Half Marathon, and 8K takes place in Holland on Sunday, Sept. 12. Use the code MRG12 to take $12 off your race entry. Prices go up April 26 — get registered before then and use the special MRG discount code to maximize your savings. Register here.

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