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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Aug 7, 2020

“It’s been tough. And I think we’re right smack dab in the middle of it and we don’t really know what to expect. And you know, what is the phrase we heard early on? We don’t know what we don’t know.” 

Lisa Taylor, lifelong runner and longtime running coach, talks about the pandemic and how it’s impacted daily life and the running community. As executive director of the Traverse City Track Club, which is behind the widely popular Bayshore Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K, Lisa and her team like so many race organizers have had to make hard decisions about their events. The Bayshore races, normally held the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, didn’t happen this year. It was the first time in its 37-year history that it was cancelled.

But Lisa says her team and members of the Traverse City Track Club not only stepped up to the challenge of having to cancel the spring event, they’ve also found ways to keep one another motivated to stay active and keep moving throughout the past several months of COVID-19 and the quarantine.

What she’s witnessed among family, friends, and fellow runners: “How important it is to keep moving, to stay strong and find creative ways to do that … and at the same time be easy on yourself and not expect too much, and ease into finding new ways of doing things.” 

The Traverse City Track Club, with its some 700 members, is the largest Road Runners Club of America running club in the state. (Kalamazoo Area Runners previously held this title, and Lisa shares how there’s been friendly banter about this with Kalamazoo club members.)

A runner for some 45 years, Lisa is a firm believer in the power of walking and running to change lives. She talks about the lifestyle being something that we find, keep, and can learn from.


If you enjoy what you’re hearing on the Michigan Runner Girl show, we’d be so, 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.

Jul 29, 2020

Joel Gaff and his family -- wife Laura and their two little girls -- have spent the past several months in Portland, Ore., adjusting to quarantine life while juggling parenting with jobs in healthcare (Laura) and in the running and endurance sports industry (Joel). (Listen all the way through to hear an adorable interaction with Joe's daughter's Hazel, age 2 1/2, and Penelope, age 1 1/2).

As the co-founder and owner of Endurance Evolution, a race management and timing company, Joel and his team, like so many others, got creative with their race events, like the Traverse City Trail Running Festival, this spring and summer. This meant transitioning to virtual races and creating all-new events -- a couple with real-time engagement from Joel and his team. New virtual events included the Backyard Ultra, The Mitten Run, and The Oregon Run, as well as the Lake Michigan Ride, a cycling event.  

Joel, who also serves as race director of IRONMAN 70.3 Traverse City, shares how he's been staying active, what it's like to not have an IRONMAN on his own training schedule this year, and just how many hours a week he can actually work with two adorable little girls underfoot. 

Jul 21, 2020

Eddie Kline and his team are working hard to make this fall’s Holland Haven Marathon, Half Marathon and 8K an in-person event. Now in its 7th year, these west Michigan races are set for Sunday, Sept. 13.

“As race day approaches, we are putting together our plan to keep runners safe,” Eddie says, adding that efforts are evolving as government recommendations and regulations continue to change.

As of late July, the race is on -- with some changes to ensure participants stay safe during the pandemic. “We cannot eliminate all the risk -- this is a public event with hundreds of people -- but we’re putting safety measures in place."

Eddie joins Heather on the show to share these safety measures -- reduced capacity, no-contact aid stations, prepackaged finish line food, among other efforts. 

He also shares what he’s been up to during the quarantine and this summer, why he’s doing more cycling these days after successfully finishing a 50-miler in Big Rapids last fall, and what he likes best about his new temporary part-time job delivering packages for the U.S. Post Office. 

A race discount code for listeners -- $12 off race entry to the Sept. 13 Holland Haven races -- also is shared during the show. 


More details about race precautions to be taken at the 7th annual Holland Haven Marathon, Half Marathon & 8K:

Holland Haven Marathon 2K20 Covid Safety Plan 

  • Reduced capacity - We have cut the overall amount of runners in half for 2K20. The registration totals for each race: Full 300, Half 300, 8K 200. 
  • Masks on buses - All runners riding the bus to the full and half starting lines are required to wear a mask on the bus. The front 2 seats of every bus are reserved for seniors 65 and above. 
  • Masks for runners - All runners must wear a mask until they enter their starting corral. Runners do not need to wear a mask while running. 
  • Masks for volunteers - All volunteers are asked to wear masks during the event. 
  • Starting line corrals - Large corrals are set up at the starting lines to separate runners. Each corral can hold 100 runners and keep them 6’ apart. Runners choose a corral at the starting line based on their running pace. 
  • No contact aid stations - Aid stations this year mainly just have water and Gatorade. The cups are filled and set out on tables by volunteers for runners to pick up. Volunteers do not hand runners the cups. 
  • Prepackaged finish line food - Runners receive a boxed lunch upon finishing their race. The boxes are prepackaged and set out on tables by volunteers for runners to pick up. Volunteers do not hand runners the food boxes. 
  • No after party or race expo - By eliminating these gatherings this year we are limiting the exposure of our runners, staff, volunteers and spectators.
Jul 11, 2020

Triathlete and race director Eva Solomon, co-founder of Epic Races in southeast Michigan, returns to the show to talk about the future of racing. Having cancelled and reimagined the races her company organizes -- Epic Races is behind numerous running, cycling, and swimming events held all year round in Michigan -- Eva and her team had to think fast and get creative these past few months. As she explains, it happened quickly for Epic Races, which had three events in March that were affected by the pandemic and subsequent quarantine. 

Eva also is heavily involved in running and triathlon organizations on a national level, and she's been talking a lot about the future of our beloved sport with her race director counterparts. She shares what she has learned, how races may look in the future, and how Epic Races has adapted and pivoted to continue offering opportunities to stay healthy and active during this time. Ceasing her business operations has never been an option: "It's what we do -- we put on races," she says. 

Along with adjusting current races on their roster, Epic Races has gotten creative with new events, too. This includes the virtual Oh MI Goddess Half Marathon & 5K -- "that woman race from Michigan -- which is underway now. 

Eva and Heather also talk about favorite mantras as well as the gifts and interesting family aspects that came with the quarantine.

Jul 1, 2020

It's always a special treat to have Jonny Tornga -- ultrarunner, MRG podcast producer, talented musician and all-around great guy -- get behind the mic and join Heather on the show. And even better yet: Jonny and Heather catch up on location at the new Traverse City Lululemon "pop-up shop," which just opened on Front Street downtown.

Jonny, who previously worked for the popular athletic and yoga wear retailer while living in New York City a little over a year ago, is serving as assistant manager of Lululemon's first northern Michigan store. The company plans to run the 2,000 square-foot "pop-up" store at 204 East Front Street through at least the 2020 holiday season and possibly beyond.

Jonny talks about what it's been like to open a store during a pandemic, how this assistant manager opportunity was "serendipitous" following a job loss this spring, how his training and running have changed throughout the quarantine and as summer got under way ("I had a full summer of ultras planned, and so that has obviously changed a lot"), why he loves trail running so much, and what he's looking forward to this summer. 

They also talk about the grief process related to races being canceled.

"I had a great ultra plan going when both of my races were canceled. One of them was the Marquette Trail 50 -- it was a 50K and I was going to use it as a tune-up race for Ultra Trail Stokely Creek, my big one. It’s an 85K. That was cancelled as well and that was hard. The emotions I had ... I am starting to come around and now I am just into planning an adventure. I just want to go and find a cool place to camp in the UP and go run for a day or so and get lost in the woods and get my 50-miler in that way.” 

Of course, Heather and Jonny also talk about the latest and greatest Lululemon items ideal for summer running and outdoor fun.

In addition to online sales, Lululemon also operates 460 stores worldwide and 11 in Michigan, all in the southern part of the state. Traverse City's store is the company's first location north of Grand Rapids.

NOTE: You'll notice a bit of audio quality issues in the first several minutes of the show, but please keep listening. We had a few on-location technical difficulties, but got them worked out!


If you enjoy what you’re hearing on the Michigan Runner Girl show, we’d be so, 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.

Jun 25, 2020

We’re all missing our summer races -- races that may have become annual traditions for us, with our family and friends. Thankfully, a few of these events have gone virtual, allowing us to still support our favorite races (and receive race bling!) by running the distance on our own. And in some cases, all-new virtual races are popping up, providing even more opportunities to keep running and racing all summer long. The Michigan Harvest Challenge, a virtual run series celebrating the harvest seasons of famous local crops, is one of these -- and even carries on into the fall.

Race organizers Kat Paye and Alex Zelinski join Heather to talk about this run series, which allows runners and walkers to participate in four different runs. The most popular option? Take on all four events -- these Harvest Challenge spots are capped at 500. Kat and Alex also give an update on the longstanding Festival of Races, which normally take place each July during the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City. As of today, these races tentatively are set for Sept. 13.

The National Cherry Festival Foundation, which is behind northern Michigan events including the National Cherry Festival (canceled this July because of the pandemic), Iceman Cometh Challenge mountain bike race in November, and Leapin’ Leprechaun in March, is launching this virtual run series. The event is open July 15 through October 31 online and allows runners and walkers to choose from races including the Cherry Run, Apple Dash, Hop Trot, and Grape Stomp. Participants can also sign up for the Harvest Challenge and complete all four races. 

Each individual race participant will receive a themed t-shirt for their race, a finisher’s pin and other goods. Harvest Challenge participants will receive a Finisher’s Medal, a pin for each race, a special Challenge-only t-shirt, and other race bag goodies. In addition, each participant that logs their virtual run time will be eligible for a door prize. Door prizes will be drawn one week after the conclusion of each race.

“We spend our whole year finding the best way to celebrate cherries, we thought why not celebrate some of the other amazing crops our state produces as well,” says Kat, who serves as National Cherry Festival Executive Director.

The Festival Foundation will also be collecting donations for the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy (GTRLC) as part of the event with a goal of raising $10,000. The goal can be reached if every participant makes a minimum $3 donation. Registration and other race information is online here.

The Michigan Harvest Challenge Run Series is sponsored by Sam’s Club. Learn more and register here.

Jun 15, 2020

Two work-from-home parents, two sweet young daughters, one treadmill (often used late at night), several family hikes, and one visiting chicken—yes, a real one.

This is a snapshot of Kelly Yauk’s pandemic quarantine life these past few months. You’ll remember Kelly as the hilarious guest who has talked on the show in the past about her passion for themed runs and destination racing adventures. Kelly also has been a Team MRG Ragnar Relay member and during last fall’s road edition formed a team made up of her former Michigan State University rowing teammates.

Kelly, who is a marketing manager at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa, shares what life has been like while juggling a full-time job that’s gone remote with full-on parenting duties with her real estate agent and writer husband Chris, who also has been working from their Traverse City home. Kelly has had to get creative with her workout schedule, too. Thankfully, she’s always enjoyed her treadmill – these days, she finds herself squeezing in the miles later at night. She shares the races she won’t be running this summer and early fall because of COVID-19, but she says plans are moving ahead with this November’s annual Great Beerd Run, now in its 7th year, at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa. This event coincides with Traverse City Beer Week.  

As for the visiting chicken … she, of course, has a funny story about that.

If you enjoy what you’re hearing on the Michigan Runner Girl show, we’d be so, 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.

Jun 4, 2020

In case you missed it, we recently announced on the Michigan Runner Girl Facebook page a new MRG series, “Ask Healthy Chef Ali,” which features northern Michigan chef and MRG contributor Ali Lopez answering our top food questions. During today’s show, she answers a few of them that have come in so far – ideas for healthy and tasty post-run fuel, mid-run treats, and more – and she’ll continue sharing her culinary wisdom on future episodes.

Heather also checks in with Ali to see how life has changed for her during the pandemic, both with her work as a personal chef and culinary instructor, and with her ultrarunning race training. Ali acknowledged that the initial weeks of COVID-19 and the quarantine were rough. In more recent time, she’s feeling more like herself. Ali also found motivation in helping fellow runners – she tells some great stories about creating race routes for her friends who were bummed about not getting to run a race because it had been canceled or postponed. She also helped a local runner tackle an epic ultrarun on M-22, starting in Manistee and ending in Traverse City.

“It felt like after a month and a half, all of a sudden I could feel kind myself coming alive again. It felt like, OK, I have gotten over this, this feeling like you’re in this stuck place,” she says. “And then trying to move forward, try new things and get a little more motivated to do something different. A lot of it, too, is training-wise. I didn’t have as much work so I could train more. But then all the races got cancelled. So, what am I training for? At the beginning, it was kind of weird. But a couple of weeks ago, I thought, this is great. I am still running, I am still staying active. But because I don’t have a specific [race] date, it just feels like I can do whatever I want. The scheduled part of it is kind of nice, that it’s lightened up.”

Ali's most recent blog posts on MRG:

What Does a Chef Eat During a Pandemic?

Stocked Up with Cans of Beans? 7 Delicious Ways to Enjoy 'Em

Eat Smart, Run Well

9 Recipes from Healthy Chef Ali

May 27, 2020

Andrew Buikema, a runner and race director in Rockford, Mich., was continuing his years-long quest to qualify for the Boston Marathon -- and completely crushing his training runs -- when COVID-19 changed everything. But the pandemic only fueled his already-high motivation, even after his goal race was postponed -- twice.

“I’ve been putting in way more mileage than I ever have in my entire life,” says Andrew, who has two daughters and teaches fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade students. “I want to keep up my fitness, I want to keep up with my ultimate goal of qualifying for Boston, and I want to just make sure I don’t lose what we’ve already worked on. Before the quarantine, I was training for the Carmel Marathon in Indiana, which was set to take place on April 4. I’d never put in so many miles in my life.” 

While Andrew acknowledges that the pandemic and its impact on his race plans “let the wind out of my sails a little bit,” he’s not giving up on his goal of qualifying and is considering which marathon he’ll tackle to make it happen. “The whole quarantine -- it has actually upped my game,” he says.

In this latest episode, Heather and Cassy talk with Andrew about his changing race plans and goals. All three share a love of the Bayshore Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K -- a Memorial Day weekend tradition in Traverse City -- and reminisce about this beloved event given they recorded the show on the day the race expo would have taken place. Heather also shares a few reader stories of the Bayshore races as well. 

Andrew is the co-race director of the Rivertown Races - 5K, 10K & Half Marathon near Grand Rapids. This event originally was set for April of this year and of course couldn’t take place because of the pandemic. Rather than cancel, race organizers chose to postpone until later this summer. They’re making plans for an in-person event the first weekend of August, and Andrew talks about how things obviously will need to be much different now. “We’re making plans for everybody to be at a safe distance.” 

The Rivertown Races, which gives back to several charities in Grand Rapids, hold a special place in Andrew’s heart, which he explains during the conversation. 

Learn more about Rivertown Races here:

May 19, 2020

Earlier this year, just before the pandemic hit and altered life as we knew it, Cassy Stone was crushing her workouts.

“When this all started, I was in the gym twice a week,” said Cassy, a northern Michigan runner, cyclist and mom of three. “I was also cycling three times a week and I was in the pool trying to learn how to swim to prepare for IRONMAN Traverse City 70.3.”

But then life changed in what felt like an instant, unfolding in so many new, strange and challenging ways as COVID-19 took hold in the U.S. In mid- to late-March, schools temporarily closed. Spring events, including beloved races, were postponed or cancelled outright. Jobs were lost. Then came Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s initial stay-safe-stay-home order for all Michiganders on March 24. What’s followed has been a two-month quarantine that’s sadly led to further closures and heartbreaking cancellations and losses. As of this writing, northern Michigan and the U.P. are set to reopen this weekend, with some stipulations, so there is some light at the end of this tunnel … perhaps. There’s still so much we just don’t know. 

“I am feeling for sure that I am going through a mourning process of setting a huge goal and that may not happen for me. And trudging through the process of losing a job, too,” she says.

“When this all went down, I crumbled. I stopped moving, I stopped exercising, I wasn’t really sleeping all that great. And I went from being this really focused person … setting this huge goal to, I kind of crumbled. Then I thought, maybe I’m not the person I thought I was. Which is crazy.”

And yet, as Cassy shares, this experience is teaching us things. Things maybe we knew and had forgotten, and things that are new and eye-opening. Just as we push through a tough, sweat-drenched workout, or dig deep to find the strength to just keep moving to reach the finish line of a big goal race, we’re moving forward. It may not be exactly how we envisioned it, but we’re doing it. And right about now, I think many of us are letting out a deep breath, accepting what is and isn’t (we’ve all been hearing about the “new normal”) and thinking about what we can do to take care of ourselves, our families and communities as life continues to unfold in ways we couldn’t have imagined even a few months ago.

As Cassy so eloquently says, “I have had obstacles before -- we’ve all had obstacles -- and obstacles don’t block the path. They are the path. Truly. And this is what it is. Things are going to go on.” 

Mar 6, 2020

Tara Rybicki, a northern Michigan registered dietitian nutritionist, is dedicated to helping women embrace the idea of “un-dieting” and nourishing our bodies for optimal physical and mental well-being. “It’s something I am very personally passionate about,” she says. 

Tara, who came up with the name Love Body for the method of teaching self-love as a practice, recently connected with Erin Goldman, a yoga/meditation teacher, to launch Love Body in northern Michigan. Together, they are supporting women on their journeys through their website and blog, and such activities as yoga followed by "Conversations with Women." Their practice is different from other self-help approaches, the women shared. “It’s action-oriented,” Erin explains. “It’s not just something that exists, like something you say to yourself, but how you make that a living experience for yourself, how you make it real, so it’s true to you.”

Tara, Erin and Heather have a candid and honest conversation about women and body image, the negative self-talk so many of us can fall into, and practical ways to transform our thinking. Tara shares her personal struggle with poor body image—”I think I lived most of my life thinking my value is defined by how I look, my value is defined by my weight, my value is defined by what others think of me”—and how her mindset has shifted and what that has meant for her role as a dietitian and nutritionist. Erin speaks to how she switched career paths and found her calling as a yoga/meditation teacher. She also guides listeners through a simple mantra and meditation, as well as talks about how we can be nonjudgemental toward ourselves. 

Learn more about Tara and Erin and Love Body on social media and at their website:

Instagram: @lovebodywisdom



Feb 24, 2020

The year was 2004, and an overnight running relay race with less than 300 participants was getting underway in Utah. That race, the brainchild of two college students, led to something much, much bigger: Ragnar Relay, an endurance event and running experience that all these years later attracts thousands of runners each year to participate in more than 40 road and trail relay races in the United States. This race experience also is taking place all across the world.

Tanner Bell, co-founder of Ragnar Relay, talks with Heather about his humble college-student beginnings as a race organizer (and non-runner, at least in the beginning) during this episode. 

Tanner, who is married, has 4 children and now serves as CEO of Ragnar, talks candidly about what it's like to see something he started in college grow to become such a successful company and brand. He shares how Ragnar determines race locations and courses, what it was like to live overseas with his family while launching the international race, and exciting things Ragnarians can expect in the coming months. 

Feb 9, 2020

A peaceful paddle down a Michigan river during the winter, chasing waterfalls in the lower peninsula (have you been to Ocqueoc Falls near Rogers City yet?), a lantern-lit snowshoe along a quiet, snow-covered path in the U.P.—these are just a few of the adventures mentioned during Heather’s regular check-in with Maia Turek of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Maia, as listeners know, knows just about everything there is to know about Michigan’s beautiful state parks and the many activities taking place year-round. Plus, she’s a whole lot of fun and makes everyone laugh, always. Also joining the conversation is the one-and-only Pam Carrigan, MRG’s event coordinator who serves as co-host of the upcoming Michigan Runner Girl Winter Weekend Getaway this Feb. 14-16 at the DNR’s Ralph A. MacMullen Conference Center near Roscommon Higgins Lake.

The friends talk about this upcoming all-women’s retreat – there’s still a few spots available and we’d love to have you join us this Valentine’s Day weekend! Yes, there will be (optional) running, but this weekend truly is about embracing the outdoors through snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and bonfires (and chocolate!). We’ll also have yoga, plenty of downtime, great good and drink, and special speakers. (Learn more and get signed up here: )

Maia also shares fun state park news and happenings, including information about the possibility of enjoying the experience of “tiny home” lodging at a state park. You’re sure to be inspired to start planning your state park adventures while listening to this episode. (Summer campground reservations are open!)

The friends also talk about their latest workout goals and accomplishments, as well as upcoming races they’re looking forward to – you’ll also hear how Maia believes she’s that annoying runner in races who says things to others that she maybe shouldn’t (Pam and Heather don’t believe it). All three women are taking on a Bayshore race this spring.

Jan 31, 2020

“If there ever was a time or an opportunity where I get to speak to the truth of what Gazelle Girl is, or who it is for, and how we’ve really chosen to set this one up as a way of a life, not just necessarily as a one-and-done race … in the perils of life and the celebrations of life, I can say as the race director that I have done that.”

Holly Visser, a Grand Rapids, Mich. marathoner, yogi, mom, and race co-director of the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon, 10K & 5K, shares an honest account of how her life changed in significant ways recently and how training for last fall’s New York City Marathon led to a renewed relationship with her running and commitment to health and wellness. 

“It was one of those things—it was so bittersweet,” Holly says. “Crossing that finish line … that will be one of my benchmark races in my life. It was more than just 26.2 miles—it was. I stayed true to the training and it’s what got me through. And I am healthier for it, I am more level-headed for it. I am stronger for it. I can stand on my own two feet and I can say that I did that. And anybody can do that.”

This year’s Gazelle Girl races are set for Sunday, April 19 in Grand Rapids. Now in its 8th year, the event is an annual tradition for women across Michigan (and beyond). Mothers, daughters, sisters, grandmothers, granddaughters—women of all ages and in all different stages of life and running take part in this race weekend, which kicks off Friday, April 17. MRG will again be at the expo and the races—we can’t wait to see everyone!

Holly and her fellow race organizers have quite a weekend planned for everyone. She shares all the details of this year’s event, which kicks off with special Friday evening events like fitness classes, happy hour gathering, and a City Lights Walking Tour.

Race organizers are calling it the Weekend Experience—”a whole new way to experience Gazelle Girl weekend!” Fitness classes, walking tours, tastings and more will show you some of the best of what Grand Rapids has to offer. Plus, there’s a special Finisher’s Finale! See the full rundown for all the awesome details. Learn more about this year’s event at

This year’s charity partners: Gazelle Sports Foundation, Girls on the Run, YWCA West Central Michigan, and Sole Sisters. 

Dec 13, 2019

In this final episode of 2019, Heather shares a few quick MRG updates, gives thanks for the 4+ years of the Michigan Runner Girl podcast and incredible people she's been able to have on the show, and offers a peek into what's to come in 2020.




Dec 6, 2019

“This year has been a huge year of mental transformation.” 

Heather Quinlan, who penned Happy Pace Diaries for the MRG blog a few years back, shares the significant mindset change she’s experienced in recent time—and how this has affected her running and overall wellness. Heather, who is from Sterling Heights, has always been open and honest about her health journey—she once wrote about her weight “fluctuating anywhere between 360-390 lbs.” in 2010, the year she felt something stir within her as she watched her sister-in-law run her first half marathon—and this conversation is no different. 

“I don’t think there’s been any one thing that’s happened, like a lightbulb moment. I think it’s been a host of things that have happened over time,” she says. 

She had become a runner, with her favorite race the Detroit Half Marathon, but in 2015, “I hit a bad spot.”  

“I have an anxiety disorder, like many people do … and running was hard for me. It was hard for me to get back into the ring … I just kind of lost my mojo. I was losing myself a little bit again.” 

Things began to turn around when she joined a new gym about two years ago. It was a slow and gradual change as she spent more time with people she describes as family. “It took time. You sign up for a gym, or you decide to do something big, and you think this is going to change everything right away. And it doesn’t. It took me some time to find my way.”

“When you put yourself around like-minded people who get you and encourage you, and want to see you succeed … I think it just started to come back to me. This gym really focuses on the mental aspect of health and wellness and nutrition. I just started to make that a priority. I kind of shifted that mindset of what do I have to do, to what do I get to do.”

Heather says focusing on gratitude has been huge. Community also is integral.

“I’m huge on community. The gym I go to now is community. It’s like family. I truly believe you can enjoy hard, challenging physical work … it’s fun to work out. It’s fun to go someplace where you feel valued.”

Read Heather Quinlan’s blog posts for MRG here:

Her first Happy Pace Diaries post:

Crossing paths with another runner (when you need it the most):

Feeling renewed as a runner … thanks to the treadmill:

‘In my eyes and in my heart, I am a runner’:

Bayshore Half Marathon race recap:

New Beginnings:

Running 13.1 in Chicago with Friends:

10 (from the heart) Tips to Get Started Running:

No Regrets:

Nov 26, 2019

You can run outdoors all winter long -- and even come to love it! (OK, at the very least, embrace it.)

Heather stops by downtown Traverse City's Running Fit for this week's show to talk winter running and outdoor exploring with Marc McCombs, store manager, and Alison Goss, assistant manager. Both are lifelong runners and Running Fit team members who share their tips and tricks for staying warm and safe in Michigan's cold, snowy and icy conditions. 

Starting with socks ("Cotton is rotten"), shoes (hear why trail shoes can be a great option in certain winter conditions) and shoe traction, and covering the must-have clothing layers for outdoor running adventures, Marc and Alison share the latest gear and other essentials available. Heather and Jonny also chime in with their own winter running experiences. You'll get head-to-toe ideas for getting out there and enjoying both the elements and your running this time of year.

Learn more about Running Fit in Traverse City, including upcoming events they're hosting, on the store's Facebook page here.

Nov 3, 2019

Lantern-lit snowshoeing, morning running, cross country skiing and hiking through the woods, yoga, delicious food and drink...all in a gorgeous Up North setting of rustic-chic lodging on the shores of Higgins Lake near Roscommon, Michigan. This is what you can expect (plus lots more) at the third annual Michigan Runner Girl Winter Getaway Feb. 14-16, 2020.

This Valentine's Day weekend, join Heather and the MRG team for a relaxing and rejuvenating all-inclusive two-night stay at the Ralph A. MacMullan Conference Center, a Michigan Department of Natural Resources property. Taking care of ourselves, both in body and mind, is the very best way we can show ourselves some love! (p.s. there will be plenty of chocolate included!)

Heather and Pam Carrigan, MRG event coordinator, share details of this February's Michigan Runner Girl Winter Weekend.

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Oct 24, 2019

The idea of running further than 26.2 miles is a daunting thought for many of us. It also may intrigue you, given that ultra running is less about speed and more about endurance and pushing your body and mind in an entirely different way. Getting out on the trails, immersing yourself in nature, also are big draws for ultra runners and ultra runners wannabes.

Three ultra runners and one soon-to-be ultra runner join Heather on the show to talk about the allure of going long--really long. These four runners have gotten to know one another even better through their love of ultra running training and racing. Ali Lopez, a frequent guest on the show, returns to talk about her ultra running adventures of late (you also can find her detailed race recaps, as well her story of coming back to running after a serious eye injury, on the blog). Her first ultra was a looped course, which she says is a nice way of entering the world of ultra running. Zach Sayre, 21, has wholeheartedly jumped into the ultra running world in the last year or so—and he's since run six ultras and won two of them. He's done one 50-miler as well as 55Ks and 50Ks. 

Britt Gervais has run three ultras, including a recent one with Zack in Canada. Both agreed this race—Ultra Trail Stokely Creek 55K—was among their favorites because of the challenging terrain, beautiful fall color, attention to detail by race organizers, and camaraderie among the runners. "The community that comes with ultra running is the absolute best," Britt said. "At that race you could totally feel it ... it was the best." Britt talks about how she didn't necessarily think she'd do more than one ultra. But that changed after she finished her first one. "I ran it and when I was done, I thought, oh, no, this is it. This is the thing. I am going to keep going with it."

Jonny Tornga, a producer of the MRG podcast, is gearing up for his first ultra, the Yankee Springs Winter Challenge on January 4, 2020. Jonny started running and racing a few years ago, getting really into the sport after moving to the Big Apple. "I grew up as a runner in New York City, where it was very competitive. It was all, 'go, go, go' and tons of speed work. 'Get faster, faster, faster and stronger,'" he said. "And coming back here [to Michigan] and getting injured for the first time, which took me out for pretty much the entire summer, really kind of changed my mindset. What am I really doing here? I'm pushing myself too hard. And for an ultra, you cannot do that. It will destroy you. You will fail. So for me, in a lot of ways, it's me trying to become a better runner. To teach myself to slow down, to not worry about these things that don't ultimately matter."

These friends also are behind the Iceman Runneth (Unofficial Fun Run) event this Nov. 3. This route, the same as the Iceman Cometh mountain bike race course, is 30 miles. Runners will start in Kalkaska and finish at Timber Ridge on the east side of Traverse City. You can learn more about this run on Facebook here:


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.

Oct 13, 2019

Pouring rain, a lightning delay, lots of cowbell, little sleep, scenic views, snacks and stinky eggs, re-connection, and a (speedy) finish...all the makings of a super-fun and successful Ragnar Road Michigan for Kelly Yauk and her teammates at this year's Muskegon-to-Traverse City relay event.

Kelly returns to the show to talk with Heather about this year's epic Ragnar Road Michigan, which took place a couple of weeks ago, and also to catch us up on this year's The Great Beerd Run 5K, a run that celebrates all things Michigan craft beer and beards each November. Kelly is the race director of this northern Michigan fun run that's now in its 6th year. 

If you took part in this year's Ragnar that follows a gorgeous course along Michigan's west coast, you'll love re-living race moments with Kelly. If you haven't yet jumped onto the Ragnar wagon, her experience likely will get you thinking about signing up for one -- Ragnar now hosts two relay events in Michigan, in the summer on the trails near Grayling, Mich., and in the fall for the road event that takes runners the 200-ish miles between Muskegon and Traverse City.

Heather and Kelly also reminisce about the fun they've had over the last several years at The Great Beerd Run -- and Heather invites listeners to sign up for this year's event, set for Nov. 9. A race discount code is shared, too!

This fun run is designed to celebrate all things beer and beards. This is an untimed run with on-course beer tastings featuring Beards Brewery, Short's Brewery and Right Brain Brewery.

Additionally, a Best Beard competition with both natural and assisted categories is part of the festivities.

Registration fee includes race entrance, knitted beard beanie, bottle opener/race medal, 3 beer samples, one glass of beer during the post-race party and entrance into post-race party featuring live music.

Make it a weekend and stay the night with great room rates. Call 800-236-1577 and use code BEER.

A $30 registration fee with all of the great race perks minus the beard beanie is available.

Participants must be 21 or over. Must provide ID.

Use the code MIRUNNERGIRL to receive $5 off your race entry. Register here »

Oct 2, 2019

We take a deep breath and sign up for that race. We register for that fitness class, or go outside our comfort zone and try a different form of exercise altogether. We take steps to change what we eat, we vow to drink more water, to get more sleep. We decide to take better care of ourselves—both mentally and physically—and slowly and surely we reach out goals, whatever our individual fitness and wellness efforts may be and wherever our journey takes us.

But do we celebrate these milestones along the way? Perhaps. But longtime personal trainer Amy Puckett, who lives in Holland, Mich., believes we can do a whole lot more of this. 

"I love seeing people gain an amazing sense of pride and accomplishment," says Amy, who surveyed thousands of women and asked what they do to celebrate when they reach a milestone. "To my shock, most of the responses were that they have never thought about celebrating. This didn’t sit well with me. I see so many women getting frustrated or burned out while on this betterment journey. I’ve narrowed it down to either they just aren’t celebrating or they are celebrating the wrong way—maybe a cheat day with the wrong or too much food, and I don’t mean kale. Naturally this would leave them feeling discouraged and worse yet, the next workout may suffer causing more frustration. This cycle has the potential to derail their whole health journey. I believe that there is a right way and a wrong way to celebrate. The right way will propel you forward on your journey not lure you off track."

Heather met Amy earlier this fall at the Holland Haven Marathon, Half Marathon and 8K. Both had booths at the race expo, which is held on race day. Amy's business is Milestones Gift Co., which designs meaningful gift boxes. Products are "handcrafted, beautiful, indulgent pieces – many of which are made exclusively for our Milestones customers," says Amy, who started the business about a year a half ago with her sister Kelly. "Every one of our items is carefully selected to bring you what you need to reach your next health milestone and help you celebrate at the same time. Each item is designed to help make your next workout better." 

Along with talking about Milestones Gift Co., Amy shares her own personal health and wellness journey, including how she had a hip replacement at a young age, and why she has such a passion for helping women reach their fitness and life goals. Most recently, she has taken an interest in working with women who are experiencing perimenopause or menopause—and what this means for their workouts.

Amy offers a special discount code to MRG Podcast listeners interested in a Milestones Gift Co. item, whether it's to celebrate a personal milestone or one reached by a friend. Learn more and view products here:

Find Milestones Gift Co. on Instagram here:

Sep 18, 2019

The long-awaited IRONMAN 70.3 Traverse City race recap is here! After months of hard training and a summer filled with lots o’ life events -- first-ever MRG trail race! 19-year-old daughter heading off to college! First Olympic distance triathlon! -- Heather toed the start line of this summer’s inaugural IRONMAN 70.3 in her hometown of Traverse City, Mich. 

This event, which brought more than 2,400 athletes and their families and friends to the Cherry Capital of the world, took place on Aug. 25. For many athletes, Heather included, this endurance event was the first time they’d tackled the 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, and 13.1-mile run. A smattering of pro athletes also signed on for this sold-out event.

Heather is joined by two friends -- Cassy Stone and Karen Norton -- to talk about this epic day. Cassy, who was on the last episode talking with Heather about her nerves during race week and leading up to race day, was there at the race start on West Grand Traverse Bay. She also cheered on Heather and other friends at various points near transition and on the bike and run courses. A cyclist and marathoner as well as a member of the team that helped bring the race to northern Michigan, Cassy shares her race-day observations and how the event proved even more inspiring than she could have ever imagined, particularly for spectators like herself. Karen offers an entirely unique perspective as someone who is new to endurance events. Karen and Heather met in 2017 through work—both are writers and worked for Munson Healthcare together until Karen’s retirement last summer—and Karen offers her thoughts as an avid hiker and enthusiastic supporter and spectator. Karen and her husband Mike cheered Heather on when she needed it the most: during the run and at the finish. 

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to take on an IRONMAN event, to train for months, to juggle swimming, biking and running workouts with work and life … this episode will answer all of your questions. It also just may inspire you to try something completely new and different and outside your comfort zone.

Aug 24, 2019

Just two more sleeps until IRONMAN 70.3 Traverse City! After months of training and preparing (and juggling lots of life stuff), Heather will join more than 2,000 other athletes from all across Michigan, the U.S. and beyond who are participating in this weekend's inaugural IRONMAN 70.3 Traverse City swim-bike-run event. 

Heather shares how she's feeling going into race weekend with her close friend and fellow runner and cyclist Cassy Stone. "I do think I have done a pretty good job and I have done the best I can with training...The mental part at this point is really important. I need to be thinking hey, I get to do this. This a chance, no matter what happens, to learn things."

Cassy brings a unique perspective to the show with her first-hand experience welcoming triathletes and the IRONMAN crew to the area through her position at Traverse City Tourism, which brought the event to northern Michigan.

Heather and Cassy also recap this summer's inaugural Michigan Runner Girl Trail 10K & 5K as well as Heather's first Olympic distance triathlon -- the Traverse City Triathlon -- just a few weeks ago (where she experienced a mini-panic attack at the start of the swim as well as discovered just how much she still needed to learn about fueling well during the bike portion of the race).

Whether you're here in TC to compete in the IRONMAN, you're gearing up to cheer on a family member or friend, or you've been following Heather's journey to this race weekend, this episode gives you a race week perspective that is both authentic and inspirational. 

Aug 21, 2019

Eva and Ed Solomon are headed north from their home in the Ann Arbor area this weekend—joining more than 2,000 other triathletes and their families—for the inaugural IRONMAN 70.3 Traverse City. Eva and Ed, married for 29 years (they’re celebrating their anniversary this weekend, in fact), signed up for this race together. While Eva is a longtime triathlete, Ed is a newer one, having completed his first one earlier this summer.

Eva and Ed talk about what led them to take on this race, what the training has been like, and how Eva has watched her husband become a stronger swimmer and athlete. “It’s been seriously surreal,” she says. Ed worked with a coach to become more confident in the water. “I’m still a bad swimmer,” he says, but adds he feels stronger than ever. “My swimming has gone through a journey.” Working with a coach, he adds, was “really meaningful.” He talks about how he juggled a demanding job with training six days a week. “I wake up way earlier than I used to, and I go to bed way earlier.”

Eva has been on the show a number of times in the past. She is behind the southeastern Michigan race management company Epic Races. She first got into triathlon in the mid-1990s and started Epic Races 12 years ago.

Eva shares a tough decision she made recently related to her participation in IRONMAN 70.3. As much as she wanted to see through her commitment, she came to the realization that competing and taking part as an athlete just wasn't in the cards this time around. This was an emotional decision, and she talks honestly about what that has been like and her mindset shift to being the best cheerleader and supporter on race day for her husband.


IRONMAN 70.3 has been a regular topic on the show these past few months – watch for a special race weekend episode to be released as well!


Aug 14, 2019

If you haven't yet run a Great Lakes Endurance trail race -- these events take place in the Upper Peninsula and lower northern Michigan -- you're going to want to sign up for one after listening to this inspiring conversation with Jeff Crumbaugh.

We've talked about these marathons, half marathons, and other trail distances (including ultra) on the podcast in the past. The very first episode of the MRG podcast, in fact, featured a recap of the Grand Island Half Marathon, one of Heather's absolute favorite trail races -- maybe her most favorite. Jeff comes on the show to talk about these races, as well as two new ones being added this fall (for runners and cyclists!). These new races include La Deme Grand Half Marathon & 10K on Sept. 22 on Grand Island, and a 100K and 50K gravel bike race on Oct. 5 on Grand Island. 

Jeff also talks about Great Lakes Endurance's commitment to eco-friendly races -- Jeff has a passion and love for the environment and respect for the land, and his enthusiasm and dedication is infectious. 

These trail races take you deep into the woods, into the most scenic landscapes Michigan has to offer. They're truly incredible and gorgeous. The events are smaller, more intimate, too, so the overall experience is uniquely memorable. Learn more here:


The very first MRG podcast (4 years ago this month!):

Another MRG favorite Great Lakes Endurance race (snowshoe racing -- put this on your calendar for this winter!) 


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! You can do this on iTunes. This will help more runners and Michigan lovers like yourself find the podcasts. Thank you!! 

A special thanks to Mike Moran, Mike Youker and Jonny Tornga of Quarter After Productions in Traverse City, Mich. for producing the show.

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