Costumes, colors, glowsticks, and even yoga—here are some athletic events in Michigan to get you moving by adding extra fun.
MICHIGAN—We might have the Motor City, but there’s more to races in Michigan than automobiles.
Outdoor recreation is big business in Michigan. In 2021 alone, activities such as hiking and cycling helped generate $10.8 billion for the economy, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Michigan certainly has plenty of local, state and national parks to get out and enjoy recreation.
But sometimes, you want to do a little more than to just go outside. Sometimes, you need to diversify the experience and maybe add a little competition. That’s what races like 5Ks and marathons are for.
Turns out, Michigan has plenty of races to satisfy Michiganders of any fitness level and help get them moving outside. We’ve rounded up a few of the most remarkable ones.
Run for Beer Series (Multiple Locations)
Date: June 25 (Oak Park), July 29 (Saint Johns), Aug. 12 (Traverse City), Sept. 10 (Oxford), Sept. 23 (St. Clair Shores), Sept. 30 (Kalamazoo), Oct. 14 (Ferndale), Oct. 29 (South Lyon), Nov. 4 (Dexter)
Pricing: Starting at $35
With over a hundred craft breweries including the ever-popular Bell’s and Founders, Michigan loves its beer. But the Michigan Brewery Running Series takes that love of beer and runs with it, so to speak, by combining beloved fun events like bar crawls, Oktoberfest, Halloween costume runs, and glow runs, all while celebrating some of Michigan’s best craft breweries.
The Run for Beer series is a national series of events that counts over three hundred live happenings per year. At least a portion of the proceeds from each run contribute to local charities.
In general, the Michigan Brewery Running Series starts and ends at a single brewery or bar, with a 5K-ish course mapped out to complete. At the end of the finish line, runners will find refreshments and entertainment, including food trucks, live music, giveaways and, best of all, a free craft beverage (if 21 or older). The runs are untimed and suitable for all levels of walkers, runners and joggers. The majority of them are also dog-friendly.
Participating Michigan breweries with events to come include Dog and Pony Show Brewery, Uncle John’s Cider Mill, Right Brain Brewery, HomeGrown Brewing Company, Dragonmead, B. Nektar Meadery, Witch’s Hat Brewing and Erratic Ale Company. There are a few special themes in the series. The event at Uncle John’s Cider Mill runs through the apple orchard, while the Right Brain Brewery event is an extra-long run clocking in at around 7K and incorporating Traverse City’s TART Trails.
Both of the September events, hosted at HomeGrown Brewing Company and Dragon’s Landing by Dragonmead, are Oktoberfest-themed. Both of the October events, hosted at B. Nektar Meadery and Witch’s Hat Brewing, are Halloween-themed. For B. Nektar, one Ferndale neighborhood becomes “zombie-infested” while Witch’s Hat sees a portion of South Lyon become “haunted.” For the Erratic Ale Glow Run, participants are invited to enjoy the small town of Dexter after dark, bringing whatever accoutrements will help light the way. Finally, the Kalamazoo event is not hosted at one singular brewery; instead, it’s a self-guided 5K bar crawl, beginning and ending at Shakespeare’s Pub, where participants decide their stops.
Go to the Michigan Brewery Running Series official website for more information and to register.
Indian River Kayak Bike Biathlon (Indian River)
Date: July 23
Pricing: Starting at $70
Many Michiganders own a mountain bike and/or kayak, and love bringing their toys up north. If this sounds like you, you’ll love this fundraiser biathlon event. Typically, a biathlon combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. But here in Michigan, we tend to do things a little differently. According to the original Indian River Kayak Bike Biathlon organizer Jess Miller, it’s the only event of its kind in existence.
The Indian River Kayak Bike Biathlon involves a little over two miles of kayaking and nearly 12 miles of bicycling. The event has been raising money to help support the local trails for over 15 years. Competition is entirely optional, with plenty of room for participants to simply focus on their personal fitness or having fun.
Participants start at the DeVoe Public Beach, where they begin the kayak course, then take a bicycle ride along the North Central State Trail. To participate in the biathlon, participants must have their own bicycle (wider tires preferred) with proper helmet and their own kayak with paddle and Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
The biathlon is part of the Indian River SummerFest organized by the Indian River Chamber of Commerce. The festival involves plenty of attractions and food in downtown Indian River, including a craft show and children’s activities.
Go to the Indian River Kayak Bike Biathlon page at RunSignup for more information and to register.
Tour Da Yoop, Eh (Multiple Upper Peninsula Locations)
Date: July 28-August 6
Pricing: Starting at $170
Does the milestone of biking around Mackinac Island sound a little too easy? Try the entirety of the Upper Peninsula. It’s the longest loop event route in the entire country.
Michigan’s U.P. contains vast natural beauty that all too often goes unnoticed by Lower Peninsula dwellers. But if you’re a seasoned bicyclist, you can tour a grand total of 1,200 miles of Upper Peninsula glory with Tour Da Yoop, Eh. Every biker gets a donation pledge page to help raise money for Bike 4 Kids, a project with U.P. Lions Serve that assists U.P. families dealing with childhood cancer.
The massive course is split into 10 sections, with each section measuring a little over 100 miles. The entire course begins and ends in Manistique. You can attempt one section, multiple sections, the eastern or western half of the course, or the entire thing. Participants are said to be “Chasing Plaid” because of the rewards they get for finishing the course: plaid jerseys that signify the rider has completed the entire 1,200 miles, with different colors representing different time frames of either consecutive single days or multiple days per section.
Whose idea for a herculean task was this? Founder and Manistique native James Studinger, who didn’t let being blind in one eye stop him from biking across over a thousand miles of Upper Peninsula beauty. In 2018, he posted a message on Facebook saying he would brave this impressive bike trail and asked friends to join him. Sixteen people braved the trek with Studinger, and the rest was history. Now, he encourages others to reconnect with nature and overcome a difficult ride to prove their own strength.
Those who are daring enough to brave “Da Yoop” stay overnight in either host hotels or campgrounds.
Muddy Princess (Sturgis)
Date: August 6
Pricing: Starting at $59
Michigan already has a handful of women-only running events, like She Runs and Women Run the D, but Muddy Princess is a shade different from the others as it is a non-competitive outdoor obstacle mud run.
Muddy Princess is a 5K event that takes place in different locations across the country every year. Around 18 to 20 muddy obstacles present physical challenges for participants to overcome — including, as the name suggests, plenty of mud — as they and their teammates complete the 5K at their own pace. Muddy Princess partners with the National Breast Cancer Foundation to help raise money for breast cancer research.
The “girls’ dirty day out” event is inclusive for all women, including BIPOC women, plus-size women and trans women. Overcoming the course’s obstacles may require physical feats such as wading through mud, climbing ropes or nets, or moving under objects. But there’s no requirement for participants to clear every obstacle. The option is always available for participants to bypass an obstacle and walk through it, as participants are encouraged to learn about themselves and their own limitations and boundaries.
Participants create a team with any women in their circles who want to get dirty in the mud. Everyone is encouraged to get their princess on with costumes of their choice, with tutus, tiaras and glitter among some of the most popular costuming options. Younger ladies in the family can participate, too; girls as young as 7 years old can participate alongside a registered adult. Even if members of your crew can’t participate or prefer not to, they are welcome to spectate at the start and finish lines and/or enjoy the Muddy Princess Village.
Go to the Muddy Princess official website for more information and to register.
The Runaway Bride 5K Fun Run and 2 Mile Walk (Port Huron)
Date: August 12
One of the heaviest garments a person wears in their lifetime might just be a wedding dress, which makes it all the more fun (or distressing) to imagine running a 5K in one.
The Runaway Bride Fun Run is a 5K with a wedding theme. The opening ceremonies actually incorporate a mock wedding that establishes the backstory: Runners are chasing a “runaway bride” named Ruby who gets cold feet. Those same runners are also encouraged to wear wedding-themed attire, including white tulle veils and skirts. But since it’s a fun run, participants can take the course at their own pace and are given two-and-a-half hours to complete the run. Awards are given for the best times and the best dressed bride, couple and wedding party.
The Runaway Bride starts from the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel and runs along the St. Clair River. The event raises money for local nonprofit A Beautiful Me. This year, groups of four or more who register together will receive a $5 discount per registrant.
Go to the Runaway Bride 5K page at RunSignup for more information and to register.
Northern Lights 5K Fun Run (Traverse City)
Date: September 8
Many marathons and fun runs begin in the morning, which is not great for those night owls with running shoes. Fortunately for those folks, there are night-based fun run events like the Northern Lights 5K Fun Run.
This fun run is hosted by the Thomas Judd Care Center to raise awareness for HIV care and prevention resources. The course starts and finishes on the Munson Medical Center campus, beginning at 8 p.m., with participants encouraged to wear glow-in-the-dark, light-up, and other creative swag fitting the aurora borealis theme.
Although this is a non-competitive fun run, cash prizes are available for the top overall finisher and top three male and female placers. Additionally, $50 cash prizes will be given to participants with the best outfits. Free snacks will be available, including treats from Sno Great.
Go to the Northern Lights 5K Fun Run page at RunSignup for more information and to register.
Run Woodstock Festival (Gregory)
Date: September 8-10
Pricing: Starting at $29
This festival is a three-day running camp that’s themed around the hippie lifestyle of peace and love. Far out, man.
Whether you want your run to bring it home, daddy-o, or just go with the flow, Run Woodstock has a run for you. Serious runners will find a challenge in the infamous Hallucination 100M, a hundred-mile timed race. Other challenging races include the Happening 100K; the Peace, Love and 50M; and the Freak 50K. More traditional races include the Far Out 5K, the Feelin’ Groovy 5K, Funky Bus 5K, Free Love 5 Mile, and Flower Power 5 Mile. Three of these races — the Far Out 5K, Feelin’ Groovy 5K, and Free Love 5 Mile — are free to participate in.
If you’re more of a free spirit — or you’ve got an actual flower child on your hands — there are less competitive running events. The Mellow Full (two loops) and Hippie Half (one loop) give you 10 hours to take the trail at your own pace. The 1 Mile Fun Run and Kids’ Dash are the cheapest and shortest options. All races begin and end at Woodstock Camp. The races also have plenty of water, Gatorade and snacks at designated aid stations, perfect for a case of the munchies.
Throughout the weekend, the festival offers live music, including hippie rock and other genres. There’s plenty of yoga offered in sessions to help cool down from the races or just get out of your own head. Theme awards are offered for the individuals, campsites, and vehicles that really rock out with the hippie theme. Participants are encouraged to camp on-site at the commune for the fullest experience, but they can also pick a campsite nearby at Pinckney Recreation Area.
Visit the Run Woodstock official website for more information and to register.
Clio Can Do Color Run (Clio)
Date: October 14
Pricing: Starting at $25 (adults) and $15 (kids)
Color runs are running events in which participants are doused with non-toxic color particles, with the colors coating the runners as they complete the course. These runs are incredibly popular, with larger-scale national events such as The Color Vibe, The Color Run, and The Color Run Night planning as-of-yet-undetermined stints in Michigan’s biggest cities. But only one city in Genesee County will literally let you run rampant over an entire golf course — colorfully, at that.
Clio’s home-grown color run includes three optional color stations, all along the fairways of the Clio Country Club. Both runners and walkers are welcome, with paved paths available for walkers. The end of the race features a free health fair and free snacks, sponsored by licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.
The Clio Can Do Color Run supports the Compassionate Life Foundation, Clio Cross Country Team, Youth Sports Complex, and the Freedom 4 Veterans project. The color run is the third and final run of the year in the Clio Can Do series, with May’s Freedom 4 Veterans Race and July’s Clio Can Do 5K as the preceding two events in the series.
Go to the Clio Can Do Color Run page at RunSignup for more information and to register.
Michigan Spartan Event Weekend (Walker)
Date: October 21-22
Pricing: Starting at $25.99
If you’re ready for a challenge and would love to try something that looks like Ultimate Ninja Warrior, then you might want to try the Spartan Race (no relation to the famous Michigan State University Spartans).
The Spartan Race is an obstacle course race unlike any other, designed to build your inner resilience. These races are notoriously challenging, a true physical test for fitness gurus of all stripes, but the course is suitable for newbies to try as well. Spartan Races pop up all over the country. This October, they are coming to Millennium Park, located in the Grand Rapids suburb of Walker.
Michigan’s Spartan Race will give the option of either the 5K Sprint or the 10K Super, which has five more obstacles than the 5K. Obstacles featured include climbing walls, monkey bars, barbed wire to crawl under, and even spears. There’s also the option for a kids race that’s 3K or less. Newbies and casual participants can choose to register as Open or Early Morning to participate in the non-competitive categories, as opposed to the competitive Age Group and Elite entries.
If the participant becomes a finisher, they receive a number of rewards, including a medal and trifecta medal piece, a T-shirt, free beverage and professional photos. Discounts are also available for students, military, first responders, and health care workers.
Go to the Spartan Race official website for more information and to register.
Michigan Monster Dash (Milford)
Date: October 28
Pricing: Starting at $28
On this marathon trail, you’ll see witches, pirates, superheroes, and maybe even a dinosaur or two. That’s because this Halloween-themed run strongly encourages participants to run in full Halloween costume. And like Halloween itself, this event is totally family-friendly.
This run is hosted in Kensington Metro Park in partnership with Make-A-Wish Michigan. The featured runs are the 5K, 10K and Half-Marathon. These runs all have a four-hour time limit, giving plenty of time for walkers to complete the race. There is also a special 1K Kids Dash that awards medals for first, second and third place for kids who want to compete, and trick-or-treat stations along the route for the kids who don’t.
Dogs are allowed on the course provided they are well-behaved and kept on a short leash. Strollers for small children are also allowed. The course has water and Gatorade stations, as well as first aid stations. Runners who cross the finish line will find snacks, drinks and music. Runners who participate in Early Packet Pickup will also receive a 20% off coupon for Dick’s Sporting Goods.
Not in the Oakland County neighborhood? Can’t make it the day of the race? No worries — virtual alternatives are offered for all races, so you can run it in your neighborhood at your own convenience wherever you’re comfortable.
Visit the Michigan Monster Dash official website for more information and to register.
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