Lakeshore Miracle Run

“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” – John Bingham

LMR

Except when it is a miracle that I finished as well as started. Lakeshore Miracle Run, on July 11 this year, is billed as “The Toughest Race You’ll Ever Love.” This is the third year I have completed this race, so at least I knew what was coming.

The race starts out on paved roads, runs back through the ups and downs of a sing track trail, and then out to the beach, and up two sand dunes, back down and out again. It truly is a tough course.

For this year’s race, the temperature actually started off a decent 60-something, as opposed to the normal 70 or 80 degree day. It was lovely. I love having this be our group run every year. It encourages those who may not otherwise try it to give it a shot.

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At about 8:30, the gun went off, and me and around 350 other folks headed off down the road. It was bright, sunny, and beautiful.

About a mile in, you find the woods, and weave around through a single track path. It’s difficult to pass back there, so running through the leaves and sticks and brambles on the side of the path is sometimes necessary. There are a few hills, but you don’t really notice them this time through.

Out of the woods, we hit the beach. The first hill up to the beach is composed of sand, and many stop to take their shoes off here. But I do not. This year, as in previous years, I’ve worn a barefoot type shoe, and getting sand in them is not really a bother.

The beach portion is an out and back. The beach has eroded quite a bit this year, so those headed out are forced to run in the soft sand, while those headed back are lucky to run in the hard pack near the water. It’s always fun to see familiar faces along the out and back part. Many high fives and good jobs were exchanged. Again, passing on the beach is difficult, as it means running through the softer sand to get around someone. The sand tends to pull your feet in step after step, making it hard to continue forward.

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At the end of the beach you make a left. This year we had to scramble up an eroded bank to get away from the water and on to the first dune. I have short little legs, and this up was a bit of a challenge.

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And then comes the first dune. It’s a slog through the sand and sun. It’s fun to hear people who have never done this race before talking about it. “Oh, this is it? This is not so bad.” And “I don’t know what everyone makes such a big fuss about. This is pretty easy.”

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I just smile. This is not THE dune.

This is.

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Yep. That first picture is taken from the top of the first “easy” dune. The picture doesn’t even do it justice. There is no running. Just a slow ascent to the top. Many jokes are made this year, and words of encouragement are bandied about as well. “It’s just a hill, get over it.” “This is the worst part, once you get to the top it’s all down hill from there” (a lie, mostly). They gift us water at the top, and the view is stunning, and well worth the hike.

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And after water and a view. It’s time to head down – one of the most fun parts of the race. The downhill is almost as steep as the up. Almost. Running down is reminiscent of being a young child and running down the dunes at the beach. Of course, instead of running in to the lake, you have to continue along the trail to the end.

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You continue to run through sand for awhile before getting back to the hard packed trail.

One of the coolest parts of the race this year was chatting with a woman on the trails back to the finish. She was asking if another gentleman near us and I had done this race before. I replied in the affirmative and he in the negative. We continued chatting a bit, and it came out that I worked for Gazelle. She was quite excited by this. It turns out that she mentors for a program that helps students placed at risk to accomplish so much more than what is “expected” of them. Gazelle in Grand Rapids is helping one of her students who is looking to qualify for Boston – something someone who is considered a failure, and comes from an unhappy background would never dream of if not for her mentoring and Gazelle’s help. I love stumbling upon such beautiful stories when running with strangers. Runners so easily make connections when suffering through the same arduous journey together. It’s a common ground for conversation.

Our conversation made getting to the finish line back through the trail and road so much easier and more enjoyable.

At the end of the race, you run through the open fire hydrant spraying water across the road and in to the finish. Coming out from the woods to the road, it felt like the temperature climbed, so the sprinkling of water was much welcomed.

Shoes filled with sand, legs and feet caked in dirt, I finished.

Though I can’t find results online yet, I believe that I tied my time from last year, which is about all I ask from this race. It’s not one that is run for a PR or for a specific time. It’s one that’s run for fun, and for the love of a challenge. That, and the frozen yogurt and watermelon afterward.

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I enjoyed Lakeshore Miracle Run very much this time around, and hope to be able to participate again next year. And who knows, maybe next time I will beat my course PR. It’s a miracle to have the courage to start, and a miracle to get up that dune to the finish, and definitely an awesome, challenging race.

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