Michigan Runner Girl

The Michigan Runner Girl podcast is where you'll find a passion for running crosses paths with a love of living healthy in the beautiful state of Michigan. Runner, mother, writer and lover of all things Michigan Heather Durocher, creator of the running and travel site, hosts the show, along with regular appearances by fellow Michigan Runner Girls (and Guys). Expect to hear informative and entertaining conversations with runners, race directors and fitness experts throughout Michigan during this weekly show. You'll learn about new races to try and great places to explore on foot. The Michigan Runner Girl podcast is all about living in a state of motion.
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Mar 18, 2019
It’s a milestone year for the Northwestern Michigan College business students who are behind the BIG Little Hero Race, a family-friendly 10K & 5K & kids fun run held on the Traverse City campus each April. This superhero-themed race, which raises funds for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwestern Michigan, is celebrating its fifth year. Mark your calendars for Saturday, April 13.
NMC students Nick Mulvaine, Katy Rogers and Liz Manor share the details of this year's race. Also joining the conversation: Race Director Kyle Brownley and Ty Schmidt, this year's Local Hero and co-founder of Norte, a Traverse City-based organization dedicated to building stronger, better connected and more walk/bike friendly communities by empowering the young and young at heart.
This race is always a great time—runners and walkers dress up in fun superhero costumes (MRG was Wonder Woman one year) and there are tons of activities post-race for kids and their families. It’s also a perfect training race for Traverse City Bayshore Marathon runners. Most importantly, the race benefits an essential organization in the community, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Michigan.
Here are 6 reasons to run this year's race:
Watch for giveaways on the BIG Little Hero Race Facebook page here:  
Mar 12, 2019

Who doesn't love a shiny, new race medal draped around their neck after crossing the finish line of a race? Yep, we runners and triathletes dig the bling that comes with pushing through the miles and into the finish chute, whether the race is a hard-won accomplishment after months of training or a super fun run with family or friends. But what do you do with all of those medals? Hang them in your home? Stash them in a box in your closet? 

West Michigan runners Heather Dunbar and Eddie Kline share their involvement with Medals4Mettle, an organization that takes donated medals and awards them to children and adults who must run a much more difficult race as they struggle to save their lives. "These medals are awarded to honor the mettle and courage it takes to face the challenges of the race we all share together: the human race."

Since 2005, thousands of endurance athletes have donated their hard earned finishers’ medals to Medals4Mettle. This growing global all-volunteer network then affixes its branded M4M ribbon to the donated medals, and joyfully awards them to others. Since the first medal awarded by Founder Dr. Steve Isenberg in 2005, over 55,000 medals have been awarded by approximately 70 chapters in 80 hospitals worldwide.

Heather Dunbar is coordinator of the Grand Rapids chapter of Medals4 Mettle, and Eddie Kline is the race director of the Holland Haven Marathon, Half Marathon and 8K as well as the Backward Mile, an event that takes place April 23 and benefits Medals 4 Mettle.


About the Backward Mile in Holland, which takes place Tuesday, April 23: 

The Backward Mile is a fun family run for a great cause. Runners will start at the finish line and end at the start line. Runners will dress backward and run backward. Instead of receiving a finisher medal, runners turn in an old race medal. The Backward Mile will collect an old race medal from each participant, then donate those medals to Medals4Mettle. These medals are awarded to residents at Benjamin's Hope in Holland, Mich. to pay it forward to those who must run a much more difficult race than the medal donor’s race; a race they did not choose to run. (Not required to turn in a medal to participate, everyone is welcome)

Mar 4, 2019

Coming off three big endurance sport conferences, including the 2019 Running USA Industry Conference held Feb. 10-12 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Eva Solomon catches up with Heather and brings listeners up to speed on some of the latest happenings in the world of running and triathlon.

Eva, who is co-founder and owner of Epic Races, a race management company in southeast Michigan, also talks about the upcoming Ann Arbor Marathon, Marathon Relay, Half Marathon, 10K & 5K. And, all new this year, a 19-mile training run (a perfect long run for those in the final weeks of training for this year's Boston Marathon, Eva says.)

Eva shares what runners can expect at this year's Ann Arbor Marathon, which is set for Sunday, March 24. Midway through the show, Eva and Heather are joined by two runners and veterans who are part of Team Red White and Blue (Team RWB), an organization that Epic Races partners with for many of their racing events. Ryan Taylor, a U.S. Marine Corp veteran, is a cyclist and marathoner. Thomas Sumner, a U.S. Army veteran who has been involved with Team RWB for a few years, shares how he went from being "a couch potato" to walking many miles while carrying a heavy backpack.  

Ann Arbor Marathon details: All events start and finish in view of one of Ann Arbor’s most memorable landmarks, The University of Michigan Stadium. Participants run through downtown Ann Arbor, then wind their way through the city’s streets and parks as well as the University of Michigan campus. The marathon and half marathon courses also encompass stretches along the Huron River and Gallup Park and through Nichols Arboretum before returning to campus and downtown. The full marathon is two loops.

The 10K is a true trail running going through Nichols Arboretum including the infamous “Arb Hill”!

The 5K is a beautiful run through The University of Michigan’s campus and the surrounding area with a fun finish line party with all four races hosted by 26.2 Brew (Eva gives us the low-down on this new Samuel Adams beer.)


Feb 25, 2019

When exactly did you take that first step that led you toward becoming a runner? Maybe a friend or family member inspired you to give it a try. Maybe it was a life experience of some kind that triggered self-reflection and ultimately the decision to do things differently, to try something you’d never tried before because you knew it could be good for you.

Each of us has our own reason for starting to run and move more—and going down the path that can lead to seriously amazing changes for our health and well-being. And before we know it, running somehow evolves from simply an activity to a way of living. Our lifestyles, and the people we find ourselves meeting and gravitating toward, are entirely different in the best possible ways compared to where we had been before.  

Jennifer Lotterman, a runner from west Michigan, and Holly Visser, a runner, yoga teacher and race director of this spring’s Gazelle Girl Half Marathon, 10K, and 5K in Grand Rapids, share their stories of becoming runners and how their paths have intersected along the way.

This is a conversation we all can relate to: how we find ourselves becoming runners and how that changes our lives. If you’re thinking, I’m not sure I am a runner, or I want to become a runner but I’m not sure how this works exactly—or, you’ve been running and active for a long time and could use some inspiration and reminding about why this lifestyle is just so rewarding and wonderful (and who couldn’t use some of that?)—this episode is for you.

Holly also shares details of this spring's Gazelle Girl Half Marathon, 10K & 5K, set for Sunday, April 14 in Grand Rapids. Race weekend is going to be something special this year with a Friday event featuring speaker and inspiring runner Mirna Valerio.

Be sure to use the special MRG discount code to save $5 on your race entry. Code: GG19MRG5 

Register here:

Feb 18, 2019

What happens when you get more than 35 fabulous, outdoor-loving, active women together for a winter weekend away in the woods? One memorable, epic adventure.

On this latest episode, you’ll hear all about the awesome activities that are part of the annual MRG Winter Weekend Getaway in Roscommon, Michigan, which this year took place Feb. 8-10. You’ll also hear from the women themselves, who participated in the event’s LIVE podcast recording that featured special guest Mike Swinger, a northern Michigan physical therapist who stopped by to share his expertise and answer all of our running injury and prevention questions—and oh, did we ever have some questions for him!

Heather and retreat co-host Pam Carrigan Swinger talk with Mike, a father of four who recently published a book, “Runner’s Fix,” which is for runners wanting to stay injury-free and run their best. It covers all the common areas where runners tend to have struggles and gives suggestions for how to address these areas on your own. (We gave away a couple of copies during the retreat weekend, and we’ve got a couple more to give away to listeners of this episode! Details are shared by Heather near the end of the conversation.)

Mike has worked closely with runners of all ages and abilities, ranging from first-time 5K runners to collegiate All-Americans, Boston qualifiers, and Ironman competitors, helping them stay injury-free. He started his website in 2015 as a resource for runners with videos covering running form, exercise routines, and injury prevention.

The MRG Winter Weekend Getaway takes place each winter, usually in late January or early February, at the Ralph A. MacMullen Conference Center on Higgins Lake. This is a stunning Michigan Department of Natural Resources property – MRG is proud to partner with the DNR on this retreat and gives back a percentage of all merchandise proceeds each year to our beautiful state parks. The weekend includes snowshoeing, cross country skiing, running, yoga, great food and drink, rest & relaxation (chair massages, anyone?), special speakers, and a whole lot of laughter and connection with like-minded women from all across the state of Michigan (and sometimes beyond!). Learn more about MRG special events here.

Feb 11, 2019

“If you had told me four years ago I was going to be a triathlete, I would have laughed. It was nothing I had an inspiration to do, and quite frankly, it was something that seemed intimidating to me to do.”

This is how northern Michigan runner Deb Kimball described her thoughts about triathlon prior to deciding to go for it and give swimming-biking-running a try in the past couple of years. Being part of a team of new and experienced triathletes—Tri Again Fitness—has made all the difference for this Traverse City athlete. “So much of my love of triathlon is really a love of the people I'm training with. Our team is like a family.”

Deb Kimball and fellow Tri Again Fitness team member Kasha Martin join Heather on the show to talk about their evolution as runners-turned-triathletes. Both are training for IRONMAN 70.3 Traverse City this Aug. 25. Deb prefers nighttime workouts in the pool, while Kasha is committed to early morning exercise so that she can focus the rest of her day on work and being mom to her four young children.

Both women talk about how they came to love triathlon and what it means to be part of a team. They also share what it’s like to be married to triathletes and how they fit training in their full lives. “Triathlon training is my part-time job...It’s a huge time commitment,” Deb says.

Both Deb and Kasha had to work hard to become swimmers. “I pretty much floundered in the water,” Deb said. “I was not a swimmer. I doggy paddled,” added Kasha.

Having team support is amazing, both women said. “When you go to these events, it’s not just  you. It’s a group of people. You’re in it together and they’re cheering you on.”

“They’re waiting for you at the finish line,” Kasha said. Her advice for anyone looking to give triathlon a try? “Go find yourself a team or club or anything because it really makes the world of difference.”

Feb 5, 2019

After a couple of weeks away from the studio (thanks to the extreme weather and, well, life), Heather is back behind the mic to catch up with everyone. She talks about her latest race, the Big Foot Snowshoe 10K in Traverse City at the end of January, as well as how training is going in the pool so far.

We've definitely had our fair share of true winter weather lately (late January was a BEAST throughout Michigan and the Midwest) and Heather takes this opportunity to talk winter running tips—how to stay moving while staying safe and warm when heading outside for your workout. Thanks to the many awesome tips shared with the MRG community on the Facebook page—be sure to check out the updated MRG Winter Running Guide. 

Finally, Heather is looking forward to this weekend's 2nd Annual MRG Winter Weekend Getaway in Roscommon. She shares details of this event—and how you can still join the fun.

Jan 15, 2019

Though he grew up playing sports and being an active kid, Dave Hester found himself “always achy and miserable” during the time following his college years. “I layed around a lot, I worked a lot and gained a lot of weight,” said Dave, who is 6’6” and during this period weighed 270 pounds. “That was the only time [in my life] I had been like that. It was four or five years, I sunk into a depressive state. One day I said, ‘Nope, not anymore.’ I needed to turn my life around. I ate right and started exercising. My motivation was not wanting to feel that way.”

Holly Olszewski also experienced a somewhat similar “a-ha” moment relating to her health and well-being. “After my third child was born, I weighed 237 pounds and my doctor said, ‘You’re going to die and you need to do something about it. You’re not on a good path.’ That really spoke to me and really motivated me to change. I had three children in two years, so there was a lot going on. I made up my mind that it was important to be there for them and help them learn a healthy lifestyle.” She started walking a mile every day. “Then it turned into running and the running turned into triathlon.” She lost 90 pounds and has maintained a healthy weight.

Holly and Dave, both music teachers for Traverse City Area Public Schools and teammates with Tri Again Fitness, share their inspiring journeys with Heather. Both are training for this summer’s IRONMAN 70.3 Traverse City. They describe what it’s like to have found their tribe—Tri Again Fitness—of like-minded people. They also talk about the ups (making strong connections with others, accomplishing big goals) and downs (losing friends) that come with making a big lifestyle change.

Holly and Dave are candid about what they’ve learned as they became stronger athletes and some of the biggest hurdles—Holly had to overcome a great fear of deep water in order to learn how to swim and complete a triathlon and Dave says he’s learned so many lessons from his race mishaps early on in his journey.

Jan 7, 2019

On this very first show of 2019, Heather is joined by two frequent guests and friends Maia Turek and Pam Carrigan to talk all about the upcoming second annual MRG Winter Weekend Getaway in Roscommon, Mich.

But before diving into the details of this amazing event (we’ve still got spots available!), these three catch up on one another’s holidays, the snow that (finally) has arrived in northern Michigan, how they’ve been (attempting) to stay active, Maia’s discovery of how not to pour drinks into Solo cups, snowshoeing with dogs, and the power of January 7 (when the new year and resolutions really get underway, right?).

The MRG Winter Weekend Getaway is next month, Feb. 8-10, and is again taking place at the Ralph A. MacMullen Conference Center on Higgins Lake. This is a beautiful Department of Natural Resources property, located in the woods on the shores of the lake, and the all-inclusive, 2-day retreat features cross country skiing, snowshoeing, running, rest & relaxation, Sunday morning yoga, great food and drink, and lots more (including a “live” podcast recording with a special guest talking about ways we can prevent and treat common running injuries).

Maia, who works for the DNR and took part in last year’s event, and Pam, who is MRG’s event coordinator, reflect back on last year’s event, which included 30-some other women from around the state (and beyond – one participant traveled from the west coast to join us!). “There are two people from the retreat last year – one of them I keep in touch with on Facebook only and I love to see when she accomplishes things and gets in her miles and finishes her races,” Maia shares. “I get to cheer her on over Facebook…and then another woman, she came by herself and she immediately connected with me and my friend and became the three musketeers throughout the weekend and she’s one of our favorite people.”

There’s an amazing group of women signed on for this year’s event – women of all ages and at varying stages of life and health and wellness journeys. All are welcome, whether you’ve only begun to run, are thinking of starting to run and be more active, or you’ve finished many races and have been active for a long time. Get the inside scoop on this great gathering of like-minded women during this episode. 

More details here, too:

Dec 26, 2018

Heather shares some special MRG announcements in this short and sweet episode—the final show of 2018. 

* Special events where you can catch MRG (hint: the team will be traveling to a number of places across the state!)

* The upcoming MRG Winter Weekend Getaway, in partnership with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, taking place Feb. 8-10, 2019.

* New and helpful info to look for on the web site, including delicious recipes and the MRG winter running guide.

* Race and training plans for 2019, including tackling IRONMAN 70.3 Traverse City on Aug. 25.

Thanks for listening in 2018—we can't wait to see you in 2019! Lots of great guests to come!


Dec 18, 2018

Ann Arbor triathlete Nikki Derrick wore race bib #1184 at this fall's Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii—the same number worn by her close friend Karen Perzyk in the 2016 event.

Nikki, 47, requested this number as a way to honor Karen, a beloved friend and fellow Michigan triathlete, who died in January after a brief battle with stage IV esophageal cancer. 

Karen's death at age 49 was a devastating loss for Nikki, and for many others in their close-knit group of endurance athlete friends. It was Karen who inspired Nikki to return to competing in triathlons again after several years away from the sport. Karen was the kind of person whose enthusiasm for life and love of movement were infectious, Nikki says. She loved watching her friends succeed and was their biggest cheerleader.

Nikki shares how she decided to turn her race in Hawaii into a tribute to Karen, a way to honor the friend who meant so much to her and to so many others.

Nikki gives a detailed account of the World Championship in Kona and what it felt like to be there without her friend ... and what it felt like to push through the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bicycle ride, and a tough, hot 26.2 to reach the finish line.

Heather and Nikki also talk about her love of mountain biking (she finished strong at this November's Iceman Cometh Challenge in Traverse City) and what's next for her in the coming year (a marathon out west, in wine country, among other adventures). They also talk about where Nikki finds her motivation, and how she carves out time for staying active while also being committed to her job as a physician assistant at the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor. 

Dec 3, 2018

It’s about that time … time to get serious about starting training for Ironman 70.3 Traverse City, a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike and 13.1-mile run triathlon set for Aug. 25, 2019. Yes, this race is 8 months away. There is plenty of time ahead to get ready for this inaugural race. And yet, if you’re like Heather and this distance and event is going to be a first for you, you just might be thinking of getting things rolling in the coming weeks, as winter gets underway. For Heather, the swim portion is definitely a key component of earlier-than-later training. As she shares during this episode, getting into the pool this month, at least a couple of times, is part of the plan.

Heather talks with guests Rebecca and Tony Venticinque, both of whom are accomplished triathletes and seasoned coaches. Heather will be working with Tony and Rebecca, who operate Tri Again Fitness in Traverse City, as she trains for Ironman 70.3 Traverse City. Rebecca also shares her most recent full Ironman experience, a Nov. 4 race that almost didn’t happen in Florida because of Hurricane Michael. It was moved from Panama City Beach to Haines City, Fla. “After the hurricane hit … it was all up in the air even three weeks before the race,” she said. Tony was there as well, this time a volunteer and not competing as he has in two other full Ironman events. Rebecca talks about what it was like to complete this race in pretty warm conditions and, later in the race, a downpour.

Rebecca and Tony provide a preview of what’s to come in Heather’s training throughout winter and spring and during the summer (open water swimming!) as race day gets closer. Tony and Rebecca’s coaching business also includes a team of athletes, many of whom are signed on for Ironman 70.3 Traverse City. They’re also hosting a 70.3 triathlon training camp, May 10-12, 2019, that is open to anyone interested in preparing for the Traverse City event – or other triathlons.

Lodging, meals, group training, and plenty of optional topics will be discussed throughout the weekend. Full course previews of the Traverse City event also will be part of the weekend.

With over 45 years of combined coaching experience, Tri Again Fitness has helped coach individuals to national recognition, club national team wins, multiple World Team qualifications at all triathlon distances, all-American honors, Boston Marathon qualifiers and helped countless athletes achieve personal bests and lifelong milestones.

Tony has been coaching in one respect or another since 1991, and professionally coaching triathlon since 2006. Professional accomplishments at the USAT Club Nationals include winning the Division V in 2009 and securing runner-up at the Division IV in 2010. He’s also coached 21 age group athletes to 33 world team qualifications at the sprint, olympic, 70.3 and 140.6 distances over the past five years. Tony is a USA Triathlon Certified Level 2 Coach and USA Cycling Certified Level 2 coach.

Rebecca is an athlete turned coach. She has coached since 1993 in various sports. She has a Bachelors of Science in Management of Health Services, Group Exercise certification from ASFA Personal Training Certification from ISSA. USAT (Triathlon) certification and USATF (Track and Field) certification.



Nov 12, 2018

No matter where you live in Michigan, or where you may be visiting for the Thanksgiving holiday, a turkey trot likely isn’t too far away. In this latest episode of the Michigan Runner Girl show, Heather highlights several taking place around our beautiful Great Lakes State – all listed on the MRG Race & Event Calendar – and also sits down with the race organizers of her hometown turkey trot.

The Up North Media Traverse City Turkey Trot, now in its 11th year, is a Thanksgiving morning tradition for Heather and her family. In recent time, her dad has joined as a walker in the 5K run/walk event that starts and ends in the downtown area, at St. Francis High School on 11th Street. Heather talks with race founder Brian Hagerty, a hilarious guest who takes a look back on how this race started more than a decade ago, the changes it’s gone through over the years (venue and course updates being among them), the interesting costumes that come out each year, and how this year will be extra special because it’s his daughter’s birthday. Also joining Heather and Brian is Race Director Amy Fritz, a newer runner and recent half marathon finisher. She talks about how she trained for the Bayshore Half Marathon this past spring and was excited to exceed her goal of a 2-hour finish. (“I got really into running last year,” she shares.)

The conversation covers what runners can expect at the Traverse City event as well as explores why turkey trots are such great events for families. Brian shares how he’s taken part in several different ones over the years, in places such as Detroit and Chicago, while visiting family. Brian, Amy, and Heather all agree that these events help bring families together in a different and special way – whether your family members consider themselves runners or not. Most turkey trots are 5Ks, though some offer other distances, such as Traverse City’s 5-mile option. It’s just such a good way to get outdoors together.  “It’s a neat space for everyone,” Brian says. “It’s special to see all those families get together,” Amy added.

Special discount codes are mentioned for both the Traverse City Turkey Trot and also the Grand Rapids event.

Nov 5, 2018

MRG Contributor Ali Lopez is back on the show to talk about her most recent adventure: the Bad Apple Ultra, which takes place in late October each year in Greenville, Mich. near Grand Rapids. This Oct. 27 event is a timed ultra marathon event held at Klackle Orchards. A timed ultra—what does that mean, you may be wondering. You have the choice of doing a 3-, 6- or 12-hour run on a 4-mile loop through an apple orchard, pumpkin patch, wooded trails and a carnival!

"When I tell most people that you run a 4-mile loop as many times as you can in the time you pick, the first question is always 'doesn’t it get boring???'" Ali says. "Absolutely not."

Ali shares what it was like to take on a race like this, and what it meant to her following a year in which she came off an eye injury (which prevented her from running and being active for a long while). 

"When it got tough out there, I just remembered, 'I get to do this' and a smile would cross my face. I found that during each loop, my head was in a new place (as happens with ultras), and my body was in a new place." 


Ali Lopez is a northern Michigan runner, chef and health coach. You can learn more about her at her web site Healthy Chef Ali. She's also on Facebook here »

The Michigan Runner Girl Show is made possible in part by the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa

If you enjoy what you're hearing on the Michigan Runner Girl show, we'd be so grateful if you'd take a few moments to write a review on iTunes. This will help more runners and Michigan lovers like yourself find the podcasts. Thank you!! Also, the quickest way to get the podcasts is to subscribe to the show via iTunes or via Stitcher or your favorite podcast app. 

A special thanks to Mike Moran, Mike Youker and Jonny Tornga of Quarter After Productions in Traverse City, Mich. for producing the show. Check out this studio's work 


Oct 29, 2018

When two of the funniest women you know get together—finally—to share stories of great Michigan trails to explore and fall races to run, you just know it's going to be epic. This is, of course, what happened when Maia Turek, statewide recreation programmer for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and Kelly Yauk, e-marketing manager for the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa in Traverse City, joined Heather in the studio for the latest show. 

While they've all known one another for awhile now, this recording marked the first time Heather, Kelly and Maia all sat down together—and just as Heather suspected, the gathering was one for the books. Kelly and Maia are hilarious and smart and just a ton of fun to be around. Topics covered ran the gamut, from the Great Beerd Run next month at the Resort (Kelly is the mastermind behind this untimed fun run 5K that incorporates beer stations throughout the course) and the creative ways runners at this event celebrate "all things beers and beards," to the cool connection Maia and Kelly have with each other (Kelly's dad has worked for the DNR for a long time; he is an expert on our state's beautiful trails) and how the two of them first met (a motorcycle was involved). They also talk excitedly about the Iron Belle Trail, which extends more than 2,000 miles from the far western tip of the Upper Peninsula to Belle Isle in Detroit on a biking trail and hiking trail. The biking route utilizes many of the state’s existing bike paths, bike lanes, and signed, designated biking routes as it travels up the east side of the state, while the hiking route utilizes sidewalks, trails, and the 1,000-mile plus North Country National Scenic Trail traveling up the west side of the lower peninsula.

Get ready to laugh—and sign up for next month's Great Beerd Run-when you listen to this episode. Kelly and Heather convinced Maia to join the fun at the 5K on Nov. 10—you all should join us, too. (Discount code shared during the show!)

Oct 15, 2018

It’s a big week for fall racing in Michigan with this Sunday marking the 41st running of the Detroit Free Press Chemical Bank Marathon and Half Marathon. Since 1989, Barbara Bennage has been involved with helping organizing this race tradition in The D. She’s served as executive race director of the event since 2014.

“The best part about my job, aside from giving runners the opportunity to experience a unique race and change their lives, is I have the greatest staff in the world,” says Barbara, who works in the marketing department at the Detroit Free Press and describes herself as a recreational runner – “I run for mimosas,” she jokes.

This race brings between 26,000 – 27,000 runners to the downtown streets of Detroit, across the Ambassador Bridge into the Canada (for the international races), and onto Belle Isle. Barbara shares the history of the longstanding race – it started as the Motor City Marathon in 1963; the course began including the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit with Windsor, Ontario, Canada, in the late 1970s – and also explains how today there are both international and domestic distances for runners, and what that means for the runner experience.

Barbara also talks about the race’s health and fitness expo that takes place in Cobo Hall this Friday and Saturday. More than 100 exhibitors will be on hand for this event. The race after-party, meanwhile, is a big celebration that offers some $5,000 in giveaways.

While online registration is over, runners still can sign up for domestic races this weekend (not race day) at the health and fitness expo. There is a 5K and mile option, too. Learn more at the race web site:

Oct 8, 2018

When was the last time you tried something different with your exercise routine, when you decided it was time to shake things up -- and then you went for it? 

Heather and co-host Cassy Stone dive deep into what it means to ask ourselves, "What's next?" as it relates to considering a big goal, whether it's starting to run for the first time, training for a first 5K, getting back into running after a break (due to injury, illness, or otherwise), or testing out a new-to-you sport. Heather and Cassy share their own experiences of breaking out of ruts and setting big goals. They reflect on what these endeavors meant to them at the time -- and how they helped shape their lives, both as runners and as women, wives, mothers, and friends.

Heather talks about why she feels now is the time to go big by signing up for her first IRONMAN 70.3 next summer. Cassy shares how living with a chronic disease impacts her running and everyday life -- and how she's looking forward to seeing where her determination and strength will take her at an upcoming 5K. 

Heather and Cass also laugh their way through a conversation about a shared favorite podcast featuring a well-known film and TV star (and Michigan native). 

If you've ever found yourself thinking it's time to shake things up a little, but maybe you're not sure exactly how that'll look, this episode is for you. You'll be inspired to get moving in the direction your heart is leading you.

Oct 2, 2018

Next summer, on Aug. 25, Michigan will get its second IRONMAN 70.3 – behind IRONMAN 70.3 Steelhead in Benton Harbor, set for June 30, 2019 – when Traverse City hosts the triathlon featuring a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, and 13.1-mile run.

Buzz around this new event has been significant, to say the least, with athletes throughout Michigan and beyond eagerly anticipating registration day last month. And when general registration opened on Sept. 25, the race filled up incredibly fast – within a half hour, according to race organizers. Heather is among the 2,500 athletes signed on for this race.

To hear all about this exciting new event coming to northern Michigan, Heather sat down with Frank Lowery, Midwest and Great Plains Regional Director for IRONMAN, and Joel Gaff, IRONMAN 70.3 Traverse City race director.

While exact course details aren’t yet available – Joel and Frank are now working on building out where athletes will swim, bike, and run – they do share that the race will take participants into West Grand Traverse Bay, into Leelanau County, and around Boardman Lake and through downtown Traverse City. They also offer up great insight into what an IRONMAN race is really like, the training that’s involved, the athletes (of all ages and experience) who come out for these events, and many more details. As triathletes themselves (Joel, a Traverse City native and longtime race director, recently finished his 6th full IRONMAN races), Heather’s guests are well versed in triathlon and share their own experiences taking on swim-bike-run events.

Heather will be sharing all of her training in the coming months leading up to IRONMAN 70.3 Traverse City – stay tuned for more here on the podcast and over on the MRG blog.

Sep 24, 2018

Thinking about heading to Traverse City this fall or early winter for a race weekend getaway? Coryn Briggs, a northern Michigan runner and cyclist who works for Traverse City Tourism, gives listeners a preview of upcoming events and races taking place in the area over the next few months.

Coryn, who is behind Traverse City Tourism's social media channels — she serves as digital marketing manager for TC Tourism — also shares some lodging specials you may want to take advantage of, whether you're making it a girls' weekend, couples getaway, or family mini-vacation.

Coryn and Heather talk about their own experiences with these northern Michigan races, which include: the Sleeping Bear Marathon, Half Marathon and 5K on Oct. 6 in Empire, Mich.; Traverse City's 10th annual Zombie Run on Oct. 27; the 5th annual Great Beerd Run on Nov. 10 (which takes place during Traverse City Beer Week, Nov. 9-16 - and there's a special MRG discount code); the Up North Turkey Trot on Nov. 22; and the Farmland 5K Run and Free for All Bike on Dec. 1 on the east side of Traverse City.

Coryn also shares her family's trip to the U.P. this summer, for the popular Ore to Shore mountain bike races in Marquette.

Traverse City Tourism has a new site, which provides information on special lodging deals as well as other resources. Heather recently contributed a blog post about great places to see autumn color on a run. You can read it here.


Farmland 5K:

Great Beerd Run:

Zombie Run:

Sleeping Bear Marathon, Half Marathon & 5K:

Up North TurkeyTrot:



Sep 13, 2018

At age 62, west Michigan runner and race director Don Kern is going strong—he's running marathons (the East Canyon Marathon in Utah this summer marked #324), completing triathlons, eyeing a 4-mile swim across the Straits of Mackinac next summer, and race directing the event he helped start 15 years ago, the Metro Health Grand Rapids Marathon, Half Marathon, and Marathon Relay set for Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. 

Don talks about his own running and endurance sports journey over the years and how he views his athletic pursuits these days.

He also shares how the GR Marathon got its start in 2004 (a brewery was involved!), how it's grown and evolved over the years (it started with just over 900 runners and now between 4,000-4,500 runners come out each year), and what runners can expect at this year's milestone event (the event is known as a race "designed by runners, for runners"). Race weekend also includes a kids' marathon on Saturday. "It's a very very high energy event. They're running their little hearts out and it's a blast having them out there." 

Don also is race director of the Groundhog Marathon and Half Marathon in Grand Rapids each February and the new Millennium Meadows Marathon that takes place in GR in August. 

A special MRG listener and reader discount code is good for all of these GR races. Use the code rcRunnerGirl to receive 10% off your race entry. 

Aug 29, 2018

Listeners will be excited to hear from Maia Turek, our Michigan Department of Natural Resources State Parks guru, as she sits down with Heather to talk about upcoming happenings around the Mitten this fall. (As Maia puts it, “Hoop-la” season is about to get underway, everyone!) Along with sharing fun and interesting spots to explore, and cool events like harvest festivals taking place at our state parks – did you know we have 103 state parks and 138 state forest campgrounds? – Maia and Heather talk about the State Department of Natural Resources’ Centennial celebration in the coming year, Heather’s end-of-summer trip to the Upper Peninsula and Van Riper State Park (did someone say moose-sightings?), AND how all of us can contribute to a joint project between the DNR and MRG that’s going to help us all explore our gorgeous state even more.

As was announced on the blog a couple of weeks ago, Michigan Runner Girl is teaming up with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to create an online guide of the best running routes in Michigan from the runners who know Michigan best…you

We all have our favorite Michigan routes – the ones with the perfectly located scenic overlook, or the road with the breeze off the lake, or simply the route with a great mix of scenery and geography to create an exhilarating challenge. 

Share your favorite routes to help visitors “know before they go” so they can be more confident in exploring some of Michigan’s most beautiful places. These spots can be in a Michigan state park or trail, your nearby hometown, or favorite vacation spot. 

Submit as many running routes as you want by Labor Day, Sept. 3, and you will be entered to win either a Michigan Runner Girl hoodie or Michigan state park sweatshirt!

Click here to share your favorite running route! 

MRG is super excited to be part of this project. This is another way we’re partnering with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources — did you also know that MRG participates in the DNR’s These Goods are Good for Michigan program? Michigan Runner Girl is among the businesses partnering with the DNR to raise awareness and financial support for Michigan state parks, trails, and waterways. A portion of the proceeds from these products, including MRG online store items, will be donated back to programs and amenities that benefit natural resources and outdoor recreation in this state.

Haven’t been over to the store lately? Been wanting to snag your own cozy MRG hoodie? Check out the MRG store here »

The Michigan Runner Girl Show is made possible in part by the Grand Traverse Resort & SpaTraverse City Tourism also helped make this episode possible.

If you enjoy what you’re hearing on the Michigan Runner Girl show, we’d be so grateful if you’d take a few moments to write a review on iTunes. This will help more runners and Michigan lovers like yourself find the podcasts. Thank you!! Also, the quickest way to get the podcasts is to subscribe to the show via iTunes or via Stitcher or your favorite podcast app. 

A special thanks to Mike Moran, Mike Youker and Jonny Tornga of Quarter After Productions in Traverse City, Mich. for producing the show. Check out this studio’s work here.

Aug 19, 2018

The summer of 2017 started out well for Ali Lopez, with big plans for triathlons as well as trail running and racing. But this all suddenly changed when she critically injured her left eye in an accident while at her home. 

Ali went from competing in a northern Michigan triathlon to the next day facing downstate surgeries and weeks of recovery. She couldn't be upright (no walking or running) and in fact had to spend significant amounts of time laying face down as her eye healed.

Ali, a wellness chef and health coach, is a longtime contributor to, writing columns about fueling smart and sharing delicious recipes. She opens up about her experience last summer -- "Mentally, it was tough," she shares -- and what it's now like being on the other side of this injury and getting back into running, triathlon, and cooking. 

"It was hard ... but now when I am running and it's really hot or I'm running and it's really cold, or whatever, I just laugh. Because this is not hard. Yeah, this hard, but this is nothing compared to [what I went through]. I keep telling myself, you get to keep doing this. You couldn't do anything last summer, so everything that I get to do, I am just so grateful for. Even now, I just hope I finish [a race]. I hope I'm not last, but I just hope I can finish. I can be in the water, I can be on my bike, I can be on the trails, I can be running, I can be doing stuff. Because it sucks when you can't."


Jul 30, 2018

It’s end of July -- time for a summer check-in! Heather welcomes Joe (her hubby) back to the show to talk about his running and racing over the past couple of months, and new role with MRG (check out his happy smile on the new site here.)

Joe’s racing has included the Bayshore 10K and helping cheer on Heather and Emma as they finished the marathon. They also talk about what they’ve been up to lately with their family (a day trip on the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail most recently). We'd love to hear where you're exploring in Michigan this summer -- send MRG a note at or

Also  …. <drum roll> … Heather and Joe share some exciting things happening with MRG, including the MRG Box.

This episode also includes race news and deals you’ll want to check out as you look to fill your late-summer, fall, and winter race schedules.


Mentioned during this episode...

Local race happening in July in Glen Arbor, Mich.: 12th Annual Running Bear Run 

Awesome place to eat if you're in Leelanau County and on a day trip near Glen Arbor: Boone Docks


Jul 24, 2018

"I think the mile requires a hybrid type of athlete. We’re half sprinter and half distance runner. I think that the mile race itself is just long enough to create a dramatic anticipation for that last lap, and then this explosive finishing kick where really anything can happen. It’s a sort 4-minute story that’s really exciting to watch." ~ 1996 Olympian Paul McMullen, who grew up in Cadillac, Mich. and now lives in Grand Haven

On this latest episode, Paul talks about the allure of the mile, his amazing talent for this distance, both in high school and on the collegiate level -- his best mile time was 3:54 -- and what it was like to become an Olympic athlete. Paul, the father of three children, also shares what eventually propelled him beyond the mile and toward much longer distances, including the ultramarathon. He ran this year’s Boston Marathon and also participated in an especially grueling ultramarathon in Spain. Paul also is candid about how his relationship with running has changed over the course of his athletic career.

Paul, who is running this fall's Holland Haven Marathon, has a passion for encouraging young runners. Through his youth running club Chariots of Firein west Michigan, he is inspiring kids ages 6 - 13 to enjoy running. Through play, these kids have a fun place to discover and develop their gift of running, Paul says.

Paul also talks about how In 1997 he lost parts of two toes when his foot slipped under a lawnmower he was operating. He returned to the sport in December 1998 and was able to run even faster than before the accident. Runner's World referred to him, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, as "the world's fastest eight-toed miler."

Paul is an eight-time NCAA All-American who graduated from Eastern Michigan University in 1995. At his specialty of 1500 meters, he was the 1996 Olympic Trials 1500-meter champion, 1995 USA Outdoor champ and 1998 USA Indoor mile champ and tenth at the 1995 and 2001 World Championships outdoors. His personal bests are: 1500m-3:33.89 (2001), Mile-3:54.94 (2001) and 800m-1:45.71 (2001).

Jul 17, 2018

West Michigan runner and race director Kevin Curley vividly remembers hearing fellow runner Veronica Constantine's journey of living with a chronic health condition. Her story, of continuing to be active despite having Hydrocephalus — which involves excessive accumulation of fluid in the brain— left a lasting impression. And when Kevin learned that Veronica and her family were behind a local race that raises money for Hydrocephalus, he decided to get involved. "Running has been her way of not letting Hydrocephalus run her life," he says. "The race has always been a way to make more people aware of this condition." 

The Brainy Day Trail Run 10K and 5K, now in its 12th year, is set for August 11 in Nunica, Mich. Taking place on privately-owned trails, this event benefits the Brainy Day Fund, a nonprofit organization helping those affected by hydrocephalus. 

Race organizers say the event has drawn a solid number of runners over the years — and they're excited to welcome even more this summer. With its beginner-friendly 5K course and a challenging-and-satisfying 10K course, finisher medals for both distances, cool post-race party featuring Odd Side Ales brew and live music, not to mention unique age-group awards (fresh produce from the farm across the road!), this event is a great one to place on your race calendar this summer. AND: race organizers have generously provided a race discount code — MRG2018 — for listeners and readers. Get signed up here 

According to the Brainy Day Fund's web site, the goal "was to not only help families, but also create research grants for medical professionals looking to end hydrocephalus." For the past two years, the organization has been working to develop programs that it can manage as a small organization and that can also be very helpful to the community.

Thanks to the guidance of the Hydrocephalus Association, the Brainy Day Fun decided to launch two programs in 2018: a scholarship program for graduating high school seniors in Michigan living with hydrocephalus; and a research grant program.

The organization has raised more than $100,000 since the first race in 2007. The goal is to double that by 2025. "We would love the opportunity to help as many children heading off to school as possible, at the same time helping scientists find a more reliable way to manage hydrocephalus and continue to explore how to cure this condition," according to the site.

A third program still in the works is an education platform. The idea is to reach as many medical professionals in Michigan who have patients with hydrocephalus. "We want them to be made aware of the resources we provide as well as that of the Hydrocephalus Association."


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