October 22 2014
Mix up your racing season with super-fun races that buck tradition with spunky twists.
Give your legs and your drinking arm a workout at this Michigan marathon.
Originally settled by peach farmers and lumberjacks, Spring Lake, Mich., has a small-town spirit for miles. And you can cover 26.2 (or 13.1) of them at the Oktoberfest Marathon (oktoberfestmarathon.com). A flat, fast course around the eastern shore of Lake Michigan captivates runners with views of lapping water and vibrant fall foliage. If the distance drags on, close your eyes and think of the free pulled pork sandwiches, personalized beer stein and chocolate stout waiting at finish-line brewpub.
From the five-dollar pasta party to the complimentary post-race barbecue, the marathon provides plenty of noshing opportunities. However, if you’d like something slightly lighter than braised meats, head to the Fulton Street Farmer’s Market (fultonstreetmarket.org) in nearby Grand Rapids to shop for any kind of fresh, local produce. (Think hedgehog gourds and goose eggs.) Then stop at Front Porch Ice Cream Shop to satisfy your sweet tooth and rest your weary legs on the parlor’s quaint wooden swings.
Directly across from the start and finish line, Holiday Inn Spring Lake (higrandhaven.com) will get the job done with comfortable beds and riverside views. Runners in the market for something a bit less big box should make a reservation at the Boyden House (boydenhouse.com). This sweet bed and breakfast, located in Grand Haven’s historic district, greets visitors with a wisteria-lined deck and makes them feel at home with cozy rooms and fresh pastries.
Solidify your connection to the lakeside community by making a date with the Grand Rapids Running Club (grandrapidsrunningclub.com) for a quick shake-out jog. Newcomers are welcome to join the regular Wednesday and Saturday workouts. Or go at it alone with an easy jaunt on Sweet Sallie’s the Paul Henry-Thornapple Trail (thornappletrail.com), a shaded, paved railroad path that snakes along for 42 miles.
What good is beer without some hearty, stinky cheese? Refuel your lactose levels at The Cheese Lady (thecheeselady.net) in nearby Muskegon. Then, support the local running scene and pick up a pair of compression socks for the flight home at Gazelle Sports (gazellesports.com) in Grand Rapids. ■