Northern Michigan runners have a new race to look forward to. On Saturday, May 28, runners will compete in the first ever Stafford’s Top of Michigan Community Marathon.

The scenic course starts in Charlevoix and will follow the shores of Little Traverse Bay through Petoskey ending in Harbor Springs (view the course map). The race will benefit Top of Michigan Trails Council and the Petoskey High School Track and Cross Country teams.

There will also be a 10K run and 10K non-competitive walk starting at the Top of Michigan Trails Council new Trails Center in Petoskey and finishing in Harbor Springs. You can register online for each of the events. Registration is open now and will end on May 27. There will be no race day registrations.

To learn more about the newest addition to the Northern Michigan running scene, we talked with Jeff Winegard, executive director of Top of Michigan Trails Council, about the upcoming Northern Michigan races.

What’s the inspiration behind the race?

“From downtown Charlevoix to downtown Harbor Springs, it happens to be 26.2 miles, depending on the exact start and finish locations. The other inspiration is having a marathon and 10K is a great way to raise money for the council and the Petoskey Track and Cross Country teams. We’re two nonprofit entities trying to raise money for our communities.”

Are there any challenges runners should prepare for on the course?

“The course is mainly an asphalt path except for a short section between Petoskey and Harbor Springs that’s on a rural road, but the trail is open (meaning traffic won’t be stopped). There are a few driveways that cross the path that runners should be aware of, but it’s a very safe route.”

What do you like about running in Northern Michigan?

“I was just in New York City and I had an opportunity to run in Central Park and by the river, and I just thought there is nothing like running in Northern Michigan. It’s remarkable how beautiful it is here. We can lose track of that when we live here. The marathon’s course has wonderful vistas of Grand Traverse Bay. Not a lot of people get that experience to see those views while running.”

Is there anything you’d like to add about the Charlevoix to Harbor Springs marathon?

“If you want to step it up and do a marathon this is a good race to do so. I ran one marathon, and I can tell you it’s very taxing. If I’d had this course as my first I’d have liked it. If you want a good time to qualify for other races, this is the race to do so. It’ll be as much fun as you can have while running 26.2 miles.”

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Photo(s) by Charles O'Neill