Put your excited pants on: it’s race week. Saturday, October 7th, is the return of the Sleeping Bear Marathon, Half Marathon, and 5k. As I discussed in a previous post, I am not doing a fall marathon. But that just means I get to check out the half marathon this year. All three races are out and back courses. Last year, I did the marathon and the half follows the same route (obviously turning around at the 6.55-mile mark).
This course is perfect; it has all the things that make up a scenic race. Runners start in Empire and head towards Glen Arbor. For the majority of the half marathon and marathon, runners are on the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail. Almost immediately, you head into thick forestry. As this race is October 7th, fall colors are starting to peak. Half marathoners remain in the woods for almost the entire race.
After the half marathoners turn around, marathoners head past Little Glen Lake for picturesque views of its beautiful shades of blue. While Little Glen is showing off on the right, the famous Sleeping Bear Dunes Dune Climb stands in splendor to your left. Runners then veer off the trail onto M109. This is a steep climb, but you will pass the majestic DH Day Barn as you go. This historic building is so stunning that the hill becomes an afterthought. And just wait until you get to the top of that climb. Lake Michigan sprawls out as far as the eye can see. And marathoners get to soak it in as they coast down the back of that hill.
Upon entering Glen Haven, runners take a right into DH Day Campground. After winding through the campground, it’s time to navigate through the portion of the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail that sits at the bottom of Alligator Hill. Runners exit the trail and cruise the backstreets of Glen Arbor before turning around and completing the return 13.1. The route back varies just slightly, but it’s a pleasant variation that eliminates at least one hill.
I say, if you’re running 26.2 miles, you might as well do it in the most beautiful place in America. Hope to see you there full those race day jitters!