It is rumored that those who run are crazy, and those who run in the winter are insane; but there is no feeling like running through freshly fallen snow in temperatures so cold that nostrils begin to freeze. The annual Monroe County Lake Erie Muskrat Run started in 2005 and takes place in February every year. This year, the race will be held on February 2nd and I cannot think of a better way to celebrate the Day of the Groundhog than to run this frigid, delightful race. The Muskrat Run is held in Sterling State Park, which is located right on Lake Erie, promising gorgeous views and quick changes in weather conditions.
John Patterson, head of the Monroe County Tourism Bureau, started this event in response to the Michigan DNR’s request for more active participation in GO (Get Outdoors) Weekends during the winter months. There are events for all age groups and approximately 150-200 people participate each year. The Muskrat Mile starts first at 10:30AM, which is geared more towards children and the 5K walk/run starts at 11AM. All participants receive a T-Shirt for registering. The race takes place solely on state park trails, therefore runners are deeply immersed in nature and do not have to worry about traffic.
Considering this race takes place in February each year, the weather is bound to be fairly intense at times. As Patterson mentioned, “The crazier, the better!” Taking place on Lake Erie, weather conditions are known to change and surprise runners without warning. Snowfall, sleet, and rain are all definite possibilities for race day; fortunately, there are fire pits all around to keep runners and spectators warm. This race is a great opportunity for those who have never experienced winter running and a wonderful way to enjoy Michigan’s winters from a different point of view.
Running enthusiast and Monroe resident, Rachel Bates, says the Muskrat Run is one of her favorite races. It is heavily family-oriented and the entire course is absolutely stunning. She describes it as a “very peaceful run” and loves the community support. Her favorite part of the run is coming over the final bridge at the end and seeing the town cheering everyone on at the finish line.
After the race, participants and spectators are invited to Mugsy’s Grille and Bar for the award ceremony and some hot, freshly hunted muskrat stew to celebrate. Owner Jerry Held prepares a number of wild game dinners each year, but also has a full menu of less daunting entrees for those who aren’t as adventurous with their palates.
The entry fee for Monroe’s Muskrat Run is $20 if you sign up ahead of time and $25 the day of the race. The Muskrat Mile registration fee is $10 no matter when you sign up. The entry form is available on Facebook and the Monroe County Tourism Bureau’s website. This is a great event to get the community outdoors during the bitter cold months. Even if you are not a runner, it’s worth stopping by to cheer on your neighbors and dive into some muskrat stew!
Jennifer Hamilton, Feature Writer