Festival of Races registration underway

REED CITY — Runners and walkers are starting to register for this year’s Wheatlake Festival of Races, which benefits the Susan P. Wheatlake Cancer and Wellness Fund, an endowment of the Spectrum Health Foundation — Big Rapids and Reed City Hospitals.

This year’s event will take place on Saturday, May 21, at the band shell behind Big Rapids Middle School. The day will host four events for participants of all ages and abilities, including a half marathon, 5K run, Kids Wellness Dash and a walk. Hydration stations, resting stops and bathrooms will be available throughout each course.

“It’s all exciting,” said Festival of Races Co-Chair Emily Coles. “To have a local half marathon, 5K and wellness walk that benefits cancer survivors right here in our community is amazing. You can’t go wrong. We have some new and better items for our participants this year that they will enjoy, too. This year there will be cash prizes for the overall winners of the half marathon and 5K — $100 for the half marathon male and female and $50 for the 5K male and female.”

Paris resident Chrystal Roggow finished her first half marathon during last year’s Festival of Races after learning to love running in 2009.

“I’ve done multiple 5Ks and a 10K, and last year when I heard about the Festival of Races I decided to up the ante and run the half marathon,” Roggow said. “It wasn’t as bad as I expected. Once you cross that finish line it’s an indescribable feeling. It’s fantastic.”

She enjoyed the race so much, she’s registered to participate again in May.

“Last year, I was focused on just finishing the race. This year, I want to increase my speed,” Roggow added. “I just want to beat last year’s time.”

The half marathon registration begins at 6 a.m. in the Big Rapids Middle School gym, and buses for the runners will depart at 6:45 a.m. for the Reed City Depot. The race starts at 8 a.m. near the Reed City Depot, then follows the White Pine Trail and riverwalk, ending at the band shell behind Big Rapids Middle School. Finishers will receive their medals and awards at the band shell and awards at 11:05 a.m. at the band shell.

“If you really enjoy running, I think a half marathon is perfect because it’s long enough to push your limits,” Roggow said. “It’s a test of endurance.”

The cost to participate in the half marathon increases as time passes. There is a $70 registration fee before Friday, April 15, and an $80 registration fee after April 15.

The 5K event will begin with registration at 7 a.m. at Hemlock Park in Big Rapids, with the race starting at 8 a.m. at Hemlock Park, runners will travel along the riverwalk and end at the band shell near Big Rapids Middle School, where awards also will be given. The registration fee is $25 before Friday, April 15, and $30 after. Walking the course also is allowed.

For those looking to participate in a walking-only event, the Wellness Walk will host registration at 10 a.m. and begin at 11 a.m. at the band shell. The event is not timed, so individuals can walk at their own pace. The registration fee is $15 before Friday, April 15, and $20 after the date.

The Kids Wellness Dash for children up to 10 years old is slated to begin at 10 a.m., with the runners taking off from the starting line at 10:30 a.m. at the Big Rapids Middle School playground. There is a $1 registration fee, and awards will take place immediately following the event.

To register for any of the Festival of Races events, visit spectrumhealth.org/wheatlake-races.

In addition to the walks and runs, free cancer screenings also will take place from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. behind the band shell.

“People should come out to support our local cancer center and just be a part of a fun atmosphere,” Coles said. “The money paid to participate in our event stays right here to help the people in our community. We are trying to spread the word about overall health and wellness within our community as well. Bringing people together through fitness and helping others is a great thing.”

Volunteer opportunities also are available for those looking to participate in other ways. Individuals are needed filling cups at water stations, creating signs, cheering on the runners and guiding runners as they cross roadways along their track.

“The more hands on deck the smoother the event will be,” Coles added. “Runners expect certain things to happen during the race and if our community can get out and show them a smooth, fun and well-run race, it will just encourage our even to grow in the future and do more good for our cancer center.”

For more information or to volunteer, find the event on Facebook or call (231) 592-4327.