Mackinac Island Road Races – Lilac Festival 10K, 8 Mile, Great Turtle Trail Run
While the unique setting of Mackinac Island draws endless crowds of tourists throughout the summer months, each June, September and October the island is transformed into a race course for thousands of Michigan’s runners. These three races give runners a chance to experience the island in a different way, seeing much more than on a typical trip to downtown or bicycle ride out to Arch Rock. The absence of motor vehicles on the island has left the roads in great shape, and the only obstacle runners have to dodge is the occasional pile or horse droppings.
The Lilac 10K (6.2 mile) race takes place in June, coinciding with the annual Lilac Festival. The course starts in town, heads towards Mission Point, then takes a long, drawn-out uphill to the top of the island before leveling out, returning to the shoreline and following it back to the local school, just before returning to ton. This course is beautiful, and with lilacs in bloom also quite fragrant! The course layout makes it easy to run a good time here, and there is also a 10K walk for those who aren’t quite up to completing this run.
My favorite of the three races is the Mackinac Island 8 mile, run each September. Beginning and ending at Mission Point Resort, the course follows M-185 around the circumference of the island. Along the way, you take in spectacular views of downtown, Devil’s Kitchen, the original British Landing site, Fort Mackinac and Arch Rock. Due to the proximity to the shoreline, even on hot days this race is bearable due to a steady breeze. I have run this race in 2000, 2007 and 2011.
Finally, to really see some parts of the island that not everyone gets to see, the annual Great Turtle Trail Run features a half marathon (13.1 miles)/5.7 mile race that takes a minimal stretch of shoreline and combines it with miles of trail running on the back half of the island, weaving on narrow forested stretches, passing Fort Mackinac and countless summer cottages. This is by far the most grueling of the three races, and I remember running one year feeling warm while in the interior of the island, only to emerge on the home stretch of shoreline to find it snowing and quite chilly.
All three races are run by Gault Race Management, and run very well. Participant T-Shirts and finishers medals are awarded to everyone (shown above). Keep in mind to reach Mackinac Island there is the additional cost of taking either a Shepler’s, Star Line or Arnold ferry to get there. Current race dates and more information can be found here. For a great athletic challenge and a unique perspective on one of our state’s most visited and most beloved state parks, take a shot at running the Mackinac Island Road Races!!
If you’re looking to visit historic sites while you’re on the island, check out our guide to Michigan Historical Markers on Mackinac Island.