Grand Rapids is three hours north from Chicago on the Grand River, just east from beautiful Lake Michigan. The Grand Rapids Marathon and Half Marathon is a local favorite, on a well-organized and fast race course for runners who want to set personal PR, or those who just want to enjoy the autumn colors in southern Michigan. This is my favorite season to run and I truly enjoyed the vibrant reds, yellows, and orange on the trees.
Downtown Grand Rapids is small enough to get around with ease and the race starts and finishes at the YMCA downtown. There are plenty of hotels but be ready to pay hefty prices for the downtown experience. Or you can stay in the surrounding neighborhoods for more reasonable lodging options. Downtown Grand Rapids has a lot to offer and I was quite impressed with the restaurant selection and local coffee shops. Parking around the city was limited and a bit confusing on race day due to street closures and lack of planning on my part. I ended up parking at the Children’s Museum garage, which had plenty of spots and was a short walk to the start.
As I mentioned earlier, It was a gorgeous weekend. The weather was perfect for running on race day, with highs in the 40’s at the start and 60s at the finish with plenty of sunshine… perfect for spectating and cheering. This race offers pace groups for all paces from sub-3 to 5-hours-plus. They named their pace group with famous people, which made it fun. These pacers do a phenomenal job making sure runners stay in pace to achieve their individual goals.
I have ran the marathon in the past, but this year I did the half marathon as a training run and it was exactly what I needed. I was able to enjoy the beautiful scenery and practice some mindfulness in the process. The course takes you thru a forest preserve for several miles, there are a few rolling hills along the way (400 feet of elevation for the marathon and 250 for the half). The race director (Don Kern) has done a great job with this race, with aid stations every two miles with plenty of water, Gatorade, and gels. Since this is a small race, the crowd support is limited.
The finish line had such a great selection of food including fruits, chips, pickles, chocolate milk, and even ice cream. Runners enjoyed three free beers at the mile 27 celebration tent. I was personally disappointed with the race tracking system for this race which required you to have your phone with you during the race.
Cheers to Team World Vision who had a huge group of runners and walkers. Team World Vision is a fundraising program for charity runners who raise money for World Vision projects.
The Grand Rapids marathon and half marathon did not disappoint, if you are looking for a fall race with a unique experience this is it. I highly recommend it.
- Richard Williams 2:35:08
- Ashley Higginson 2:43:45
Half marathon winners:
- Todd Buckingham 1:08:24
- Sara Jean kerwin 1:20:50