Race It: Lake Michigan Trail Marathon

Get excited, MKE – we’re just a few days away from the inaugural Lake Michigan Trail Marathon!

Below, Race Director Chris Ponteri tells us a bit about the distance options and what to expect on the course.


Can you tell us a bit about the Lake Michigan Trail Marathon? How did you come up with the idea for the race?
The Oak Leaf Trail along the south shore of Lake Michigan is one of my favorite places to run. One day I discovered some of the dirt trails that connect the Oak Leaf to the wooded areas of both Grant and Warnimont Parks and thought it would make a good course for a long race.

What makes this race different/unique?
The varying types of terrain – paved surfaces, dirt, sandy beach, brick and grass all in one race.

Can you tell us about the different distance options?
We have a 50k, marathon and half marathon distance. We also have a 20-miler, but it is not a timed race; it’s more of a long training run for those who want to be a part of the race.

From what we’ve read, the course seems challenging – is a PR possible for runners?
I don’t think I would describe it as challenging; there are very few hills. It is definitely not a fast course since about a mile is on the beach, but not overly difficult either.

*After we interviewed Chris, it was announced the beach portion may not be used within the race courses. From a recent email: “Due to high-water levels, the beach portion of the course will likely not be used. There will be an alternate route heading north in Grant Park that will include both road and trail. We apologize for the late change, but the Lake Michigan water levels are as high as they have been in over a decade. The alternate route will make the course slightly easier (no running in the sand!) but not quite as scenic.”

Do runners need to bring their own hydration or are there water stations along the course?
We will have plenty of aid stations, usually not more than 2 to 2.5 miles apart.

Will overall and/or age group prizes be awarded?
Yes, we have prizes for the top 3 male and female overall finishers in each race (excluding the 20-miler) and also age group awards.

What do participants get with their race entry?
They get a nice tech shirt, a high-quality reusable race bag, and food after the race.

What goals do you have for the race in upcoming years? Any plans to add a shorter distance like a 5k or 10k?
Everything’s on the table! First-year races are a grand experiment. We could add distances next year or even take away.

If you could have anyone come run the Lake Michigan Trail Marathon, who would you invite and why?
I would invite Ben Gibbard (lead singer for Death Cab for Cutie and Postal Service) to join us and then play a post-race concert. I know he has done some marathons and maybe even a trail 50k.

Thanks for chatting with us, Chris! There’s still time to get in on the action – race-day registration is available for all race distances. Will we see you on Sunday? 🙂

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

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