Mitten Running

Flickr Photo Credit: Thomas WarnerGuest Blogger Jessica shares the joy of running in any season, and her excitement for the beauty of Michigan running events in the spring.

At last, hibernation ends and the meltdown has put a smile on all of our faces and an extra skip in our…running shoes.

It’s worth noting that most Mitten Runners, myself included, have been outside all winter long (and I mean long), braving the dangerous ice, enduring the miserable wind, and cursing those evil neighbors who neglect to shovel their sidewalks on a regular basis. Winter running has all the charm of sand sprints without any of the warm sun.

Flickr Photo Credit: Ching-Fan Lin

P.J. Hoffmaster State Park

And yes, dear reader, who scoffs at this description of the I’m-barely-jogging-in-all-this-snow winter running, I can hear you shouting to your computer screen, “Winter running is amazing!” I’ll admit you have a point. When snow is lightly falling and the wind chill hangs above zero, and the trees are frosted, and crisp snow lays unstained by cars—winter running is beautiful. But deep down we all know that beauty is served up with a slip of ice, frostbitten ankles, and wet socks.

Yet, through snowfall after snowfall, whether we love winter or hate it, we run anyway, in preparation for one thing—spring. So, put away that headband, take off your gloves, pack up your fleece and long pants, take off those wet socks, and warm your wind-burned nose for the last time…because spring finally is here! Woohoo!

First things first: ease your tired shins and knees by taking to the trails! (What’s more stressful than pounding on cement week after week in freezing weather? I’m not sure, talk to your feet about it.) Some of my favorites are Aman Park, Pigeon Creek Park, and P.J. Hoffmaster State Park.

Second: use your rested legs to their fullest potential and enter one of the many races offered throughout the state. From shoreline routes, to trails, to city running, you can experience Michigan in your soles. The Muskegon Chronicle Seaway 15k run is a great choice and routes along Muskegon Lake and Lake Michigan. The Bay Shore Marathon in Traverse City and the Oktoberfest Marathon in Spring Lake both follow routes along Lake Michigan as well. Or spend Labor Day in Northern Michigan and enter the lottery drawing to be one of the 400 participants selected to run across the Mackinac Bridge.

Flickr Photo Credit: Kathy Hall

Lake Michigan

My first race for this year will be the Fifth Third River Bank 25k run. The first time I ran the River Bank was in 2009. Waiting in line, drizzle falling on (and annoying) everyone, dying to start the race, a young woman approached me and asked if I wanted a running partner. We were both shooting for similar times and had signed up for the race alone, so we enjoyed (endured) our first 25k experience together. To keep motivated we focused on a person in front of us, and on the count of…1,2,3, now!…we surged forward. It kept us from becoming complacent with our pace, and helped us focus on something besides our (achy) legs. I’m excited already for the 2011 race and have dreams of making it into the elusive 2 Hour Club.

Ahhh, yes, springtime is definitely here, and with it I gladly welcome muddy shoes, cool breezes, and fresh motivation. The most important thing to do now is enjoy these next couple months. Soon we’ll all be saying the same thing, I-can’t-believe-it’s-80 degrees-and humid-at-11:00am-and-there-is-sweat-in-my-eyes. That’s right, my fellow Mitten Runners, August is just over this next hill.

Jessica VenletJessica is a graduate of Aquinas College, an aspiring writer, a runner, and a beach bum. She lives in Grand Rapids. You can contact her via Twitter, @JessVenlet.