Stacking rocks or dollars? A run around Mackinac stirs thoughts of both

This has been a busy year of traveling for me. Visit to Disney World. Attending the May Michigan Junior Chamber Trimester Conference on Mackinac Island. Speaking at the Michigan Bankers Association Group A Meeting in Munising.

No wonder my poor 2008 Jetta hit 300,000 miles.

I often think back to my last trip to Mackinac. That was when I made my first lap around it. All eight miles, all on my feet – no horses or bikes involved. It was part of training for the Bayshore Half Marathon and I used it as my excuse to finally see British Landing.

I am the epitome of a troll. I did not travel north of Grand Rapids until my honeymoon. Despite my best efforts, I cannot remember the proper pronunciation of “pasties.” I am that person who, during a run around Mackinac, noticed all of these stacked rocks on the shoreline and has no idea what the heck is going on.

During my run, I passed a number of other runners. Actually, I was passed more than I passed. None of the runners I came across appeared to be the ones stacking the rocks. Maybe they did and were just escaping from the scene of their craft? It got me thinking about who are the people who build these natural sculptures. Where did they come from? And aside from not being able to ignore them, how many other places in Michigan have these stacks (some call them cairns) appearing on our shorelines.

So I did some research. There appears to be no single reason. Some are an innocent reminder that someone was there. Some are meant to show the spiritual balance in nature. Some are there to remember family members who have passed away. Some are just stacked to be stacked.

It is a similar thing with runners. Some run to escape, some run to get into shape, some run for mental clarity, some run for the heck of it.

In West Michigan, runners are making major contributions to our economy. Organizing races has become something that brings vitality to a community. According to Blaine Lam, director of the 2nd Annual Kalamazoo Marathon, “Marathons draw people from outside the community.” It only makes sense that the more you bring in, the more they will spend on hotels, food, clothing, entertainment, in addition to gaining great memories of the hills of Kalamazoo.

Mike Guswiler, of the West Michigan Sports Commission, estimates the Grand Rapids Marathon raised $500,000. And for my friends in Frankenmuth, the series of races (Winterlaufe, Volkslaufe, and Bruckslaufe) brings over $100,000, used to sponsor two scholarship programs for local high school seniors.

Stacking rocks is one thing. Stacking dollars for charity is another. Stacking dollars can change lives. It’s a growing trend throughout Michigan and that makes me feel much better than my growing waistline.

I’ll leave you with one more example about how running and stacking dollars together changed a life.

My best friend Angela started running almost 3 years ago. In her training, she discovered the Team in Training and they enabled her to run in the Nike’s Women’s Half Marathon in Washington, D.C. She also ran the Grand Rapids Half Marathon and is currently working to run the Detroit Free Press International Half Marathon. She’s able to do these things because she raised from her friends, family, and complete strangers over $5,200 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. She’s going to raise another $1,600 to run in Detroit. $6,800 may not be much, but add that to the thousands of others who are working together to beat cancer and it’s a powerful thing that comes from running. It may be different from what comes from those who stack rocks around an island in Lake Huron.

But regardless of what your personal reason to run is, whether it’s stacking rocks or stacking dollars – that’s a good reason to run in Michigan.

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