There are some great runs out in the wild. Runners have lists. Some show true passion about certain races. Oh boy, yes some folks can be crazy. I’m not so much about the finish. It’s all about location, location, location. Earlier this year, I completed the Lilac 10K run/walk with my son. It was the longest race he had ever attempted. Kudos to him, he formulated a race strategy and stuck to it. Run two miles. Walk one. Run one. Walk one. Sprint to the end. He executed and finished, so proud. It’s all about your personal goals. And oh, what a venue, Mackinaw Island is a wonder to behold (they have a 5K and Half-Marathon too if one is so inclined). It’s one of the best race routes I’ve seen. You have to be there to understand. Few places rival parts of the Upper Penninsula.
At the starting line, you line up at the Cornerstone Bed and Breakfast near the outskirts of town. One of my all-time favorite lighthouses can be seen past the water’s edge (I bet I have a hundred pictures of this place). If you’ve never visited the island, Michigan Highway 1 encircles it. There is also one more thing to note. There are no cars. To get around, you ride a bike, run/walk, or catch a cab (horse powered). It really is a throwback in time, or, er Somewhere in Time, which was filmed on the island. The Grand Hotel dominates the skyline, as it should. It’s an American Treasure.
When the whistle blew, we sprinted through town and past multiple Victorian era homes. Then, you have Fort Mackinaw on the left and the harbor on the right. My kid was starting to get winded but he managed to sprint up most of the ginormous hill that runs behind the fort. We took a breather and marveled at the view of the straits. After a bit, we hit our stride again cutting through the interior of the island before coming back to the waterfront. For the home stretch, you get a view of the longest suspension bridge in the US (and the world at one time) before finding the finish line.
This was my first race in Mackinaw, but I’ve been here many times before. It may be my favorite place to run. There are hills. But if you prefer to keep it flat running around the entire island is just shy of eight miles. You have lake views the entire way. And good food. Hiking. Biking. Victorian era bed and breakfasts. The Grand Hotel. You can drive a carriage. Go caving. Find history. The tour of the fort is worth the price of admission, even if the hospital is a bit gruesome. I may never go to the doctor again. Yes, looking back, leeches may not have been the best means to treat illness. But, I imagine, people will say the same about us one day. Medical science is a constant moving target.
All of this isn’t the sole reason why Mackinaw is this great and has some of the best runs in the US (yes, they are lacking a marathon-no screams from the peanut gallery). After it’s all over, there is fudge. There are at least seven fudge shops on the island. My recommendation is to buy pounds of the stuff. Go crazy. There are four primary shops (I believe Rybas’s alone has three shops on the island). My favorite, in order, are:
- Ryba’s Fudge, this maybe the best fudge on the island. I’m game for the traditional chocolate. But you can’t go wrong with peanut butter, maple walnut, chocolate peanut butter, and the list goes on.
- Murdicks, it’s the oldest on the island. I’m not sure why but I think the shop in Petoskey (45 minutes south) is better. Not sure why I think that. It just comes to mind. Frankly, the shop in Petoskey might be number one if it were on Mackinaw Island.
- JoAnns, I love their peanut/chocolate.
You can’t go wrong with any of these. Three years ago, I wrote in my journal JoAnns was the heavyweight champion. The margin of error here is slight. And as I sit staring out the window, and the snow starts to fall, I miss the island. I miss fudge. I know, you can order anything online. Some of these spots ship in the winter. It just wouldn’t feel the same. Sigh, the experience matters. It makes the fudge taste better.
And one of the best hotels in America. The Grand Hotel.