For nearly a decade now, during the first week of February, runners have gathered in Grand Rapids, MI to run a race outdoors. A Marathon in celebration of our nation’s favorite rodent centered holiday……. Groundhog Day. While you may be familiar with the more widely publicized goings on in Punxsutawney, PA at the official Spring proclamation ceremony, I can’t tell you how much I look forward to this event each year.
Like the movie that shares the name, you’ll find yourself repeating the same thing over and over again. Runners must complete a 4.4 mile loop a total of 6 times in order to finish the 26.2 mile Marathon, and each year the conditions of that loop remain to be seen until the morning of the event. This is Grand Rapids after all, and it snows here. A LOT. Some years the course has been clear and dry. Some years there’s ice. Other times (like anyone who was there in 2014 will tell you) there’s so much snow it’s incredible. This year’s course offered a mix of semi packed, shin deep snow on the first half of the loop, and a much easier to run on fully packed second half. Having received a fresh dumping of snow only the day before, it was absolutely beautiful.
As with every year, I didn’t train for this race. While I regularly run (a lot), I did none of the workouts your “supposed” to do to prepare for these things. No long runs at a certain pace, and no tempo or interval runs. Because of that fact, my race was (on paper) a disaster. The solid pace I held for the first 13 miles rapidly fell apart in the second half. And yet, regardless of that fact, I wouldn’t have changed a thing.
I run this race for a different reason. Like I said before, this course is beautiful. The fresh snow hanging on the trees. The Bald Eagle’s nest around 3 miles into the loop. The pond that always seems to have an open spot in the ice, where often a pair swans will swimming in small circles.
More than anything though, it’s the people. Friends I look forward to seeing here year after year. Doing hard things together creates a special bond, and these are some pretty special people.
2021 Groundhog Marathon
3rd Place AG / 11th Place Overall
Thank you to Don, TJ, and everyone else who worked so hard to make sure this event could still be held safely this year. While some things had to be a little bit different, the most important things are always there. Thank you.