Running ‘Round West Michigan

Running ‘Round West Michigan

Running — it’s a word some people love and others dread. Personally, I’m on the “like it” side of the spectrum.

There really is no better place to run in the Mitten than in West Michigan. From a morning stroll to a marathon, the reasons, options and opportunities to lace up and get active are endless.

What’s so great about running in West Michigan? We have the Upper Macatawa Area, Riley Trails, and the heated sidewalks of downtown Holland in the winter months. We have a 4+ mile loop in Gaslight Village around Reeds Lake, sidewalks and paths throughout downtown Grand Rapids, and plenty of parks. Plus, we are blessed that we are so close to the Big Lake because a cool dip in the fresh water after a hot summer run is the best post-run experience!

Here in the Mitten State, like in most others, we have runners of all shapes, sizes, speeds, and styles. Some wear those tiny running shorts and even smaller tank tops while others rock striped workout capris and neon sweatshirts. We even have hats, gloves, jackets, and special socks to help keep the rain, snow, and cold wind from mixing with our sweat. The changes in weather don’t hold us back!

People run to stay fit. People run to get fit. More still, people run to clear their mind—to feel that immense sense of accomplishment after each minute and push themselves beyond known limits.

Melissa Helder-Schrotenboer, a Girls on the Run coach, High School Cross Country coach, and pacer for local races said, “I think Running can be very empowering, it is a way for us to take care of our selves, a way to relieve stress, a way to accomplish something like a new PR (personal record) or just finishing a longer race then what you have before.”

Melissa Running the Park-2-Park Race in Holland, MI. Photo Courtesy Melissa Helder-Schrotenboer
Melissa Running the Park-2-Park Race in Holland, MI. Photo courtesy of Melissa Helder-Schrotenboer.

Melissa is a “love it” runner and someone who talks the talk and walks the walk. In addition to running, she is a firm believer in cross training. She’s into yoga at Funky Buddha Yoga (a hot yoga studio in Holland), total body toning at S&S Fitness (a fitness studio in Zeeland), and Groove (an easy and fun dance workout meant to loosen up your body, the mind and allow you to just let go and feel the music).

“I truly believe that if you run you have to cross train,” she said. “Running is great for your body and a great cardio workout but if you don’t take care of your whole body you are more prone to injuries and getting burned out.”

One of the best ways to get your run on in West Michigan is to sign up for a local race with friends, neighbors, coworkers, and family. A race is a great way to accomplish something bigger than yourself; you can challenge yourself and challenge each other with encouragement and support every step of the way.

The overall goal ... keep moving! Photo courtesy of Katelyn Sandor.
The overall goal … keep moving! Photo courtesy of Katelyn Sandor.

It’s guaranteed that you’re going to end up smiling, laughing, highfiving, and cheering on the people in front, beside, and behind you all along the race course. Plus, the majority of races end with a beer tent … run a few miles and get a free beer!

From the beginner to the expert athlete, we have top notch running groups and stores that guide, support, and encourage Michigan runners. Visit local stores and group slike RunGR, Striders, or Gazelle Sports for all of your running needs.

Regardless of your pace or your goals, West Michigan is a runners paradise. The next time you’re in the Mitten … go for a run!

The Awesome Mitten would love to hear about your favorite running spots in Michigan. Post them in the comments below and you might see one in an upcoming feature article!