Local and regional recreational events across the State of Michigan help to “encourage physical activity and foster community.” Annually over 400 races target participants from a variety of different age groups and skill abilities within and without the state. This outdoor recreation economy generates $80 billion in national, state and local tax revenues each year.
The benefits of organizing a city-wide race include an increasing sense of community pride. One participant of the Kalamazoo Marathon translated the feeling: “I am proud, as part of the running community in the Kalamazoo area at what race committee members and volunteers were able to pull off.” Active involvement from within the community is often crucial to the success of such events.
Races and related celebratory events help cities draw in new crowds of people. Calculations done in 2003 estimate the economic impact of the Crim races for the City of Flint at about $10 million, half of which came from non-local participants and other out of town guests. Tim Herman CEO of the Flint and Genesee Chamber of Commerce qualified the effects:
“Large tourist events such as Back to the Bricks, Warrior Dash, Crim Festival of Races and various sports tournaments combined can have an economic impact of millions of dollars. The larger events draw huge crowds of people from the local area, the state and from across the country.”
Regionally oriented events often utilize Michigan’s vast network of trails as a unique way to experience the beauty of the state. Michigan Trails Week (September 20-27) ends tomorrow, but it is never too late to explore Michigan’s 12,000 miles of recreational trails. Also taking place tomorrow, September 27, the Mighty Mac Bridge Race allows participants to cross the Mackinac Bridge on foot, spanning both peninsulas, to take in the breathtaking views of Michigan’s Great Lakes from beyond the barrier of a car window. The race ends in the Upper Peninsula gateway city of St. Ignace, where participants can partake of the city sponsored Octoberfest event planned for the afternoon, with food, beverages, and live music.
The annual Great Lakes Relay uses Michigan trails to transport teams of runners a distance of 270 miles spanning both peninsulas. The relay is not for the faint of heart as runners must trek through mud, sand, hills and swamps, while they explore the vast network of trails. The race attracts over 1,000 participants annually from the mitten and beyond. One Michigan native and repeat competitor, Alex Bryan, stated:
“We saw some of the most beautiful parts of Michigan, most of which were impossible for vehicles access. Overgrown trails & people getting lost were not uncommon. It was both a test of stamina and will. But overall, it was an insanely good time.”
Bryan’s testimony reveals the need to properly maintain trails throughout the state, to attract not only hardcore racers such as himself, but other potential year round recreational users. Properly maintained trails offer an alternative, non-motorized, connection among geographically separated cities. Trails help transform cities along the way into destinations in their own right, and the various races that utilize these trails help to attract attention and visitors to places perhaps once thought to be remote.
The economic and community benefits of recreational events expand beyond the health benefits of the individual participant, to the communities that plan these events, and even to the state economy. Events are available for all skill and age ranges, at all times of the year. So if you are looking for a way to get involved and give back to the community then check out the Run Michigan website and find a way to get active that fits your lifestyle!
Written by Elle Getschman and Alex Gravlin, Trans4M Interns