The Great Lakes Relay
- By Doug Kurtis
Lakes Relay is one of Michigan's most challenging yet inspiring team running
adventure races. Just a few weeks
ago co-race directors, Bob Baril of Utica and Nick Papas of Grosse Pointe Park
gave 750 runners plus support crews an intoxicating look at 275 miles of back
roads and trails through northern Michigan.
For a dozen
years now, Baril and Papas have been uncovering spectacular trails. Its one of
the highlights of the racing season for upcoming cross country runners as well
as seasoned veterans.
mixed teams of ten men and/or women compete together based on handicapped
adjustments to their age and sex differences. Team captains spend weeks determining the logistics of who
will run various sections of the course.
Each runner is required to cover a minimum of 24 miles during the three
or legs, vary in length, terrain and scenery. Captains distribute maps to their teammates with descriptive
directions and ratings for each these categories. Special names are given to a number of legs, some are
dedicated to runners for their past contributions.
sections also have corporate sponsors to help defray the some of cost of
putting on the event as well as helping contribute to Michigan State Parks and
Special Olympics. Over the past
twelve years the event has donated more than $55,000 to various organizations.
to long time competitor, Ann Gere, "One thing that makes this event so
different than your typical race is that you always have a group of people
anxiously waiting for you at the end of each of your legs. It puts a little
pressure on you but it's exhilarating too."
limited to three vehicles during the event due to congestion at exchange
points. Teams spread out quickly based on abilities and ages but exchanges
often have a line up of 100 cars plus.
Rules are set up to ensure the safety of the runners and also to keeps
the trails clean after the runners pass through. Teams have had thirty minutes deducted from their time for
leaving things behind.
There is a
wonderful sense of competition, creativity and fun at the relays. Teams names such as 10 Hotties and one
bar of soap, Wha' Happened, Team Chubby and TrailZilla encourage everyone not
to take themselves too seriously.
One year a Detroit team dressed up in red evening gowns as they crossed
the final finish line. A Bunch a
Runnin Savages team from Ann Arbor dons Indian face paint every year on the
last day to let everyone know they're serious and will take no prisoners.
stay on course is another key ingredient in the competition. This year a new course was
created. It started from Oscoda a
short jog from Lake Huron and finished in Mackinaw City at the foot of the
Mackinaw Bridge. While the maps
helped considerably, some turns in the trails are hard to find and 30 minutes
of backtracking a day per team is not uncommon.
Papas have quite a job on their hands developing a course. The DNR has been supportive and
contributed to choosing trails and back roads that offer the least amount of
inconvenience to locals. A
major section was altered this year because the Pigeon River Forest Advisory
Council requested that the race be denied a permit to use the area for its
intended purpose, recreation. In
prior years the DNR has ignored the request because the event has been less
obtrusive than hunters and off road bikes.
to Baril, " The race provides runners a chance to see the beauty of the
state in a way that 99 percent of residents don't get the chance to
experience. It builds bonds with teammates and other runners in the field
that they will carry inside of them and cherish. It only takes one trip
up north on the relay for runners to get hooked, and give them a special summer
event they won't soon forget."
close fast. Want to sign up for next year? Watch for information on the GLC website: www.greatlakesrelay.com
Contact Doug Kurtis at Detroit Free Press, 600 W. Fort St.