Happy New Year! As we step into the promising realm of 2024, let’s take a look back andbsavor the thrilling 2023 racing season.


The FLY AWARDS, made its debut in 2018 and has been providing great intel for athletes mapping out their upcoming race season.


Post pandemic, we got back to a more standardized racing schedule last year. We asked for your feedback, and once again, your insights illuminated the scene. This year our racing arena saw various shifts – from the emergence of new races under new management to the influence of younger demographics, the preservation of cherished old-school races, and an exciting surge in cycling opportunities. Each facet played a role in shaping this year’s Best in Michigan Racing 2023.


It’s important to mention that many outstanding events, though not grabbing a top-three spot this year, would have certainly shone in an Age Group division. This speaks volumes about the diversity and dynamism of our racing community.


Congratulations to those acknowledged by your fellow racers! In a world fueled by competition, these accolades embody the shared spirit and camaraderie that make our racing community truly special. Here’s to more triumphs, challenges, and shared victories in the unfolding racing season of 2024!

Whether you’re venturing into the world of triathlons or gearing up for your first 5K, or maybe you’re on the lookout for a fresh distance challenge, West Michigan has something special in store for you in 2024. From the tranquil shores of the lake to the dynamic urban areas, there’s a race crafted for every kind of enthusiast. It’s those subtle details that elevate a race from good to great.


So, whether you’re a seasoned athlete seeking a new challenge or a newcomer ready to take the plunge, West Michigan beckons. Get ready to immerse yourself in the thrill of the race, explore new courses, and relish those small moments that make each race uniquely unforgettable. Here’s to meeting at the starting line and creating lasting memories in 2024! See you there!

Best 5K

Grand Rapids Turkey Trot

On Thanksgiving morning, the streets of downtown Grand Rapids were buzzing with excitement as close to participants geared up for the 31st annual Turkey Trot. It wasn’t just any run; it was THE run that brought the community together in a lively 5K dash and walk.


People of all ages decked out in turkey-themed gear, ready to hit the pavement and make this Turkey Trot the talk of the town. The vibe was contagious, a mix of laughter, cheers, and a shared commitment to something bigger than just a race.


Holly Visser, the brains behind the event, wasn’t shy about saying it: “The Grand Rapids Public Schools Turkey Trot is more than just a run; it’s a community-wide expression of support for education,” And a shout out they did, breaking records left and right. Last year’s numbers? Crushed by more than 1,000 participants this time around.


As the racers crossed the finish line, not just with the satisfaction of conquering the course but also with some bling—commemorative medals and a $20 voucher to Gazelle Sports. Talk about a sweet victory lap.


Yet, the real hero of the day? The jaw-dropping $100,000 raised for Grand Rapids Public Schools athletics. The community didn’t just show up; they showed out, making sure those funds would play a vital role in giving kids the resources they need and cranking up the dial on their educational experiences.


After the streets cleared, the echoes of cheers and the spirit of unity lingered. The 31st Turkey Trot wasn’t just about breaking records; it was about breaking barriers and weaving a tale of a community that knows how to come together, have a blast, and make a difference—all while running before that Thanksgiving feast!


It’s no wonder that this event is West Michigan’s Favorite 5K year after year!

Runners up: 

Brian Deimer 5K – Festival of Races

Hope Network One in Five

Best 10K

Amway Riverbank Run 10K

Downtown Grand Rapids was buzzing with excitement for the Amway River Bank Run 10K – the kind of buzz that kicks in when a mix of serious runners and laid-back joggers are all gearing up for a good time.


Picture this: a bunch of us, from the super-fit to the “I-run-for-fun” crew, gathered at the crack of dawn. The Grand River was there, keeping us company as we prepped for the run that’s become a bit of a local legend.


The route was no ordinary jog through the neighborhood. We’re talking about a scenic adventure, weaving through the city and giving us Insta-worthy views of Grand Rapids. And the best part? The cheers from the sidelines that made us feel like rockstars.


This run wasn’t just about sweating it out. It’s been a thing since 1978, so you know it’s got history. We’re talking about a tradition that screams community, resilience, and a shared love for fitness.


Props to the organizers – they had their act together. From signing up to hitting the pavement, everything ran smoother than a well-oiled machine. And when we crossed that finish line, it wasn’t just about medals. It was a fist-bump to conquering personal goals and saying, “Hey, health, I’m all in!”


But here’s the cool part: the Amway River Bank Run isn’t just good for our personal wellness vibes. The proceeds do some good for the community too. So, yeah, we weren’t just running for ourselves; we were running for a bit of local love.


Spectators were throwing high-fives, everyone had a story, and the whole thing felt like a memory waiting to happen. The Amway River Bank Run? It’s not just a run; it’s a day of good vibes, great views, and a whole lot of heart in Grand Rapids.

Runners up: 

North Shore Trail Run 10K & Brainy Day Trail Run

Rivertown Races 10K

Best Weird Distance Race

Amway River Bank Run – 25K

The Amway River Bank Run 25K boasts a storied history that stretches back to its inaugural run in 1978, marking it as one of the region’s premier road racing events. Initially featuring the challenging 25K distance, the event was born from a vision to champion fitness and foster community engagement, drawing local runners to its starting line and steadily gaining popularity in its early years.


The 1990s marked a period of significant growth for the race which started as Old Kent, transistioned to Fifth Third and recently changed to the Amway River Bank Run. Responding to the diverse fitness levels of participants, the organizers introduced additional race distances, including the 10K, 5K, and a community walk. This expansion not only enhanced inclusivity but also broadened the event’s appeal, solidifying its status as a must-attend on the running calendar.


The 25K distance emerged as the defining characteristic of the Amway River Bank Run, setting it apart with a challenging course that traverses the streets of Grand Rapids and meanders along our beloved Grand River. This unique route became the hallmark of the event, attracting runners seeking both a physical and visual challenge.


Embedded in the fabric of the local community, the run has transcended mere athletics to become a cherished tradition. Runners, not only from Grand Rapids but also from all over the world, eagerly anticipate in this odd distance and mark their calendars for this iconic event, solidifying its place in the region’s cultural tapestry.


A key player in the event’s success, Amway, a global company rooted in Michigan, has been a steadfast sponsor. Corporate support from Amway has played an integral role in the race’s continued growth, providing crucial resources and contributing to the event’s overall success.


Philanthropy has been woven into the race’s DNA, reflecting a commitment to broader community impact. Proceeds generated from the Amway River Bank Run often find their way into various community initiatives, educational programs, and charitable causes, underscoring the organizers’ dedication to making a positive and lasting contribution beyond the finish line.


As the years have passed, the Amway River Bank Run 25K remains a shining beacon on the local and regional running calendar. Its enduring appeal is evident in the diverse array of participants, ranging from elite runners to casual joggers, reinforcing its status as a community-wide celebration of fitness.


In essence, the Amway River Bank Run 25K stands as a living testament to the indomitable spirit of fitness, community, and tradition in Grand Rapids, solidifying its position as a beloved and significant event in the local history books.

Runners up: 

Lake Michigan Bridge Run

Magic of the Mile and Reeds Lake Resolution Run

Best Marathon

University of Michigan Health – West
Grand Rapids Marathon

For the past 20 years the Grand Rapids Marathon Day has brought a lively energy to the city. With the first light of the fall day, participants gather turning the streets into a bustling thoroughfare of runners.


Neighborhoods, landmarks, and the Grand River provide a picturesque backdrop to the rhythmic sound of running shoes hitting the pavement. While some took the race with a serious stride, others embraced a lighter approach. There are many factors that add memorable moments to this year’s event — such as the Flintstones running alongside everyday people, a marriage proposal at the finish line, pickle juice and joyful tears became the soundtrack to this race.


This marathon isn’t just a race; it is a community celebration where every participant becomes a hometown hero. Amid the miles, strangers become running buddies and join in a shared journey of connections as much as it was a physical challenge.


Philanthropy always plays its part, groups like MyTeam Triumph, World Vision and Hope Water International remind runners that every step contributed to a greater cause — that the marathon isn’t just a personal journey; it is a collective effort to make a positive impact on the community.


Medals were handed out, not just as tokens of achievement, but as souvenirs of the shared experience. A post-race hug or high five from Marathon Don. An after party celebration filling the air, creating a festive atmosphere of accomplishment and good vibes.


The Grand Rapids Marathon isn’t just an event; it is an expression of the city’s spirit, a celebration of movement, and a reminder that sometimes the most fun is found in the simple act of running through the heart of a welcoming community.

Runners up: 

Traverse City Track Club Bayshore Marathon

Armed Services Marathon

Best Half Marathon

University of Michigan Health – West
Grand Rapids Marathon

Runners up: 

Armed Services Half Marathon

Rivertown Races 1/2  Marathon, Detroit Free Press Half Marathon and WTF Half Marathon

Dirty Mitten Gravel Triathlon
Michigan Titanium Ultra Distance

Toughest Race (multi-sport)

Dirty Mitten Gravel Triathlon (Half Distance) and Michigan Titanium

It comes as no surprise that both the Dirty Mitten Gravel Triathlon Half and the Michigan Titanium Ultra would have a tie for this year’s toughest multi-sport event.


Let’s talk about the Dirty Mitten first.


In the heart of Middleville, MI, at YMCA’s Camp Manitou-Lin, the race unfolds – a unique blend of convenience and adventure. Straddling the midpoint between Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, it beckons participants from all corners of West Michigan.


Featuring a dynamic range of challenges, Dirtfest caters to diverse preferences.


This gravel triathlon extravaganza will host the esteemed 2024 USAT Gravel National Championship. If you dare, brace yourselves for an entire weekend of pure Dirtfest delight, featuring a thrilling gravel race boasting 10-mile, 28-mile, and 50-mile routes on day one. The next day features a gravel triathlon that embraces more madness with distinct distances, including the “Half-Crazy,” the challenging “Long One,” and the quick and quirky “Shorty.”


Whether you’re into duathlons, aquabikes, or prefer sharing the glory in a relay, there are options aplenty. The cherry on top? The coveted championship belts await the triumphant victors of the “Half-Crazy,” while those conquering “The Long One” and “The Shorty” are bestowed with championship fist plates – a tangible testament to your gravel greatness.


Michigan Titanium’s Ultra Distance is the titan of endurance events – the race proudly stand as the largest, non-branded, ultra-distance (140.6) spectacle in the realm. In a landscape where other independent endeavors are facing decline, this race defies the odds and flourishes — a testament to our unwavering commitment to pushing boundaries and fostering a community of relentless enthusiasts.


In a world saturated with branded experiences, this race stands apart, a beacon for those who seek an authentic and unbridled adventure. This race caters to a community that thrives on the thrill of the ultra-distance, where growth isn’t just a metric but a reflection of our shared passion and determination. Check out this challenge. Break barriers. Save a few bucks and chart your  course towards greatness in the vast expanse of the ultra-distance universe.

Runners up: 

Barry Roubaix

Coast 2 Coast

Best Race Swagger

Dirty Mitten Triathlon

Check out the undeniable flair of Tris4Health – they never skimp on the dazzle! It’s no wonder these guys grabbed this category for the second year in the row. They take their race swag seriously.


In the thrilling year of 2023, the champions of the Half “Crazy” Distance at the Dirty Mitten Gravel Triathlon World Championship of the Universe were bestowed with none other than the Victory Belt, a symbol of triumph that screams extravagance. Not to mention all their DIRTY gear; patches, shirts, hats… they have it all. #GETDIRTY


Runners up: 

North Country Trail Race

Grand Rapids Turkey Trot

Best Bike Race

Grand Rapids Gran Fondo

Fresh enthusiasm. Renewed purpose. The same extraordinary journey.


In collaboration with Robert Hughes, the visionary behind the MSU Gran Fondo, and Tris4Health (organizers of the Grand Rapids Triathlon, Michigan Titanium, Waterloo GG, and more), the reimagined Grand Rapids Gran Fondo crushed its first year in carrying forward the legacy of its predecessor while charting a course into the future.


While their name may have changed, every element that defines the essence of Fondo remained intact: A commitment to charitable causes supported by robust fundraising tools. Four route choices catered to cyclists of all proficiency levels. The familiar downtown Grand Rapids starting point and finishing line. An unparalleled Finish Line Festival featuring live music, craft beer, gourmet food, and vendor booths all brought them to win the Best Bike Race Fly Award for 2023.

Runners up: 

Iceman, Barry Roubaix

Dirty Mitten Gravel Race

Best Kids Race

Grand Rapids Kids Marathon

A vibrant scene unfolded outside the downtown YMCA on a Saturday, with around 250 eager children participating in the final leg of the Grand Rapids Kids Marathon. This lively event preceded the annual University of Michigan Health West Grand Rapids Marathon.


About three years into the adult marathon’s history, organizers decided to carve out a special day for the kids. Sara Merritt, the GR Kids Marathon race director, emphasized the event’s goal: “We want to encourage kids to make physical activity a part of their everyday life, and healthy eating habits as well. So, it’s getting them started on that trajectory at a young age.”


The kids’ marathon is not just a run; it’s a comprehensive approach to well-being. Merritt explained, “They sign up and they get to download a log sheet. They log their miles, physical activity, healthy eating, and acts of kindness.” This innovative approach encourages not only physical activity but also instills habits that promote overall wellness and kindness among the youngsters.


While the adults geared up for their marathon on Sunday, the kids took a different route, showcasing their commitment to health and community engagement. Ultimately a celebration of movement, youthful energy, and the importance of laying the foundation for a healthy lifestyle from a tender age.


As the kids laced up their shoes and logged their miles, the Grand Rapids Kids Marathon becomes a symbol of fostering a community that values both individual health and the collective spirit of well-being.

Runners up: 

Magic of the Mile, Grand Rapids Kids Triathlon

Most Scenic

TCTC Bayshore Marathon

Traditionally held on Memorial Day weekend, each year runners head out on Old Mission Peninsula to run the Bayshore Marathon. This long-standing tradition signals the kickoff of Traverse City’s summer vibe since the ’80s and has transformed into a race that runners from across the country can’t miss.


The Traverse City Track Club (TCTC), the brains behind the operation, has cranked things up a notch by shining the spotlight on the “elite” category. Over the years, they’ve pulled in pros, college hotshots, and even those who’ve taken a swing at the U.S. Olympic Trials. Carie Wille, the TCTC Executive Director, said the shift aligns with their local mission of getting everyone, no matter their age or skill level, excited about running and fitness.


Last year’s Bayshore served up over 30 elite runners in both the marathon and half marathon races, covering all bases for men and women. Local runners are always in for a treat, sharing the track with seasoned pros, college standouts, and folks eyeing a spot on the Olympic roster.


Running stars such as Sydney Devore, a pro runner hailing from Detroit and a recent top-25 finisher at the Boston Marathon, Megan O’Neil, another half marathon contender, had already locked in an Olympic Trial qualifying time from the California International Marathon.


Zach Ripley, last year’s Bayshore Marathon conqueror, won the half and reclaimed his spot in the 2023 Olympic Trials. Ripley, our hometown hero has won the Detroit International Marathon and top spots in the U.S. 25K championships.


Many runners put the Bayshore Marathon on their calendars and use its course as an opportunity to qualify for the Boston Marathon.


So, as elite and amateur runners hit the pavement on Old Mission Peninsula, Bayshore Marathon always cooks up a cocktail of competition, personal triumphs, and a shared love for running that transcends skill levels. Get ready for a blend of speed, spirit, and a dash of Olympic dreams.

Runners up: 

Grand Haven Triathlon

Trinity Health Seaway Half Marathon

Best Trail Race

North Country Trail Run
Dirty Duel

In essence, the North Country Trail Run‘s greatness lies in its rich history, its status as a premier trail race, the exceptional recognition it bestows upon finishers, its legacy of organizational excellence, the challenging yet rewarding course, and the strong sense of community it cultivates. This race isn’t merely an event; it’s an immersive and transformative experience for all who participate and shares the top spot with Dirty Duel this year!


Historical Milestone: The upcoming edition marks the Silver Anniversary, a testament to the race’s enduring legacy and commitment to excellence in the realm of trail running.


Trail Running Prestige: Widely acknowledged as one of the top trail races in the United States, the North Country Trail Run attracts elite runners and enthusiasts alike. Its challenging terrains and scenic routes contribute to its reputation as a must-experience event for trail running aficionados.


Exceptional Finisher Medals: Participants are rewarded with more than just a finish line triumph. The North Country Trail Run takes pride in awarding the largest finisher medals for an ultra-marathon and half marathon, and the third-largest for a marathon. The added thickness of this year’s medal elevates the recognition, turning it into a tangible symbol of accomplishment.


Legacy of Excellence: With a quarter-century of races behind it, the North Country Trail Run has established a legacy of organizing high-quality, well-executed events. This reputation ensures that participants can expect a race experience that lives up to its prestigious standing.


Challenging Terrains: The racecourse itself is a testament to the event’s greatness. Participants face challenging terrains that demand skill, endurance, and a true love for the sport. The North Country Trail Run is not merely a race; it’s an adventure through diverse landscapes that push runners to their limits.


Community and Camaraderie: Beyond the race itself, the North Country Trail Run fosters a sense of community and camaraderie among participants. The shared love for trail running creates an atmosphere of mutual support, making the event more than just a race—it’s a gathering of like-minded individuals celebrating a shared passion.


The Dirty Duel, a distinctive race in the U.S. that presents a unique conundrum: Short & Brutal (3.1 miles/5K) or Long & Difficult (3.4 miles)? The choice is yours in this one-of-a-kind duel, where Merrell and Gazelle Sports join forces once again to deliver an unparalleled trail running experience.


As the starting gun echoes, runners diverge on separate paths, setting the stage for an adrenaline-fueled race back to the finish line. Opt for the Short & Brutal course, featuring a challenging terrain adorned with roots, short yet steep climbs, and daring off-trail sections. Alternatively, tackle the Long & Difficult course, offering extra mileage, twists, and turns without ever straying from the trail. This route boasts flat and fast orchard trails, promising a test of both endurance and agility.


The culmination of both trails leads to a thrilling climax—an exhilarating dash through the intricate twists of Robinette’s corn maze. Finally, savor the sweet taste of victory with a “fresh out of the oven” guilt-free donut and cider, a post-race treat to be relished while sharing your triumph with friends and family. It all adds up to a morning of unparalleled excitement and camaraderie at the Dirty Duel, where every step is a strategic choice and every finisher emerges a victor in their own unforgettable duel!

Runners up: 

Hurt the Dirt
Brainy Day Trail Run

Best Bling

Michigan Titanium

As athletes, we all know that medals are essential in races as they go beyond being mere awards; they symbolize achievement, motivate participants, provide recognition, serve as lasting mementos, foster a sense of community, mark progress, encourage participation, and promote healthy competition. The emotional and psychological impact of receiving a medal contributes significantly to the overall positive experience of participating in a race. There is no doubt that the guys over at Tris4Health excel in this area. Isn’t this the biggest bling you’ve ever seen?

Runners up: 

North Country Trail Run

University of Michigan – West Grand Rapids Marathon, Amway Riverbank Run

Best Triathlon

Grand Rapids Triathlon Series

Each year, triathletes from all over the country venture to Ada, Michigan for an epic weekend of athleticism and camaraderie at the Grand Rapids Triathlon. As the largest triathlon in Michigan, this event caters to all levels of athletes, making it a true celebration of fitness and determination.


Saturday is designed for newcomers and those seeking a thrilling entry into the world of triathlons. Offering Super Sprint & Sprint distances, it’s the perfect opportunity for rookies to dive into the exhilarating triathlon experience.


Come Sunday, the challenge escalates for the more seasoned athletes. With Olympic & Half distances on the menu, this day promises a test of endurance and skill that will push participants to new heights.


But the excitement doesn’t end there – both days boast a diverse array of events, ensuring there’s something for everyone. Whether you’re into triathlons, duathlons, aquabike, relays, or even a swim-only challenge, the Grand Rapids Triathlon has it all. It’s not just an event; it’s a multisport extravaganza where athletes of all backgrounds converge to showcase their prowess, form lasting connections, and celebrate the incredible spirit of competition.


Mark your calendars and join us for a weekend of triumph, personal bests, and an unforgettable experience at the Grand Rapids Triathlon – where every stroke, pedal, and stride takes you one step closer to greatness!

Runners up: 

Dirty Mitten Triathlon

Michigan Titanium

Post Race Party

Iceman Cometh

Nestled in Michigan’s Pere Marquette State Forest, the Iceman Cometh Challenge unfolds with a course that takes on small dunes, offering an exhilarating grand total descent. This forest is a labyrinth of trails that seem to stretch into eternity, and locals go as far as hoping for rain to solidify the sand before major rides. The action kicks off with the amateurs, paving the way for the pros to showcase their skills.


According to the racers, the magic lies in the crowds and the vibe this event brings. It stands apart from anything else on the yearly calendar and this is what keeps them all coming back year after yer. It’s not just a race; it’s the beating heart of mountain bike racing, a unique experience that captures the essence of the sport.


If you’re racing the course, friendly faces are every where, offering up cheers and dollar bills. Need a boost of energy? There’s bacon. Craving something refreshing? Grab a banana. Thirsty for some hydration? Stop by a pop-up party tent. Grab some Fireball.


And in the heart of the woods, 5,500 of your closest cycling pals are all together, finishing up a racing season and the revelry doesn’t just happen at the finish line – it’s woven into the very fabric of the race. Amid the twists and turns of the course, the rolling party unfolds, fueled by shared passion and the simple pleasures of good company, fun vibes and delicious food. It’s an experience that transcends the typical race scenario, creating lasting memories and reinforcing the sense of community among cycling enthusiasts.


This is a hands down winner for us! Best Post Race Party of the Year is an understatement!

Runners up: 

Hope Network One in Five

Grand Rapids Gran Fondo

Favorite Coach

Kari Stuart, Stuart Coaching

Kari Stuart has a wealth of experience in the realm of training and coaching, and brings years of expertise to the table. Her specialized knowledge spans across various domains, including advanced proficiency in endurance strength training and conditioning.


What sets her apart is not just her physical training acumen, but also her deep understanding of mental preparation and the nuances of race execution. She’s not just a coach; she’s a guide who navigates the intricate terrain of both physical and mental aspects, ensuring her clients are equipped for success in every facet of their athletic journey.


She’s a powerhouse: A certified IRONMAN U Coach, Jack Daniels Running V02 Certified expert, a National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer, and an American Red Cross Certified CPR/First Aid Instructor. But wait, there’s more – certified in indoor cycling through Schwinn, Stages Power, and MOSSA.


This isn’t just a list of certifications; it’s a testament to a versatile and highly qualified professional. Your training journey is in expert hands with this powerhouse, ready to bring a holistic and top-notch approach to your fitness goals.

Runners up: 

Mike Wojociakowski

Rob Hyde

Ron Knoll

Best Race Director

Ron Knoll

Ron Knoll doesn’t need an introduction because he’s a true local legend in the tri cities. With years of experience, he’s not only the brains behind some fantastic athlete-centric events but also a seasoned participant himself. Ron’s got more than 135 triathlons under his belt, including 10 halfs, and he’s tackled over 300 running events. This guy knows his stuff.


Back in 2004, he co-founded the Grand Haven Triathlon, and since 2009, he’s been steering the ship at the Bear Lake Triathlon. And as if that’s not enough, since 2015, he’s been in charge of the Armed Services Marathon, Half Marathon, and 5K, which used to go by the name “Octoberfest.” The man is a force to be reckoned with.


But here’s the cool part – Ron isn’t just the “Best Race Director” in West Michigan once; he’s bagged that title two other times, in 2019 and then again in 2022. It’s not just about events for him; Ron has built solid relationships with local law enforcement, first responders, local communities, sponsors and government agencies over the years.


In a world where race directors come and go, Ron Knoll is the guy who not only orchestrates unforgettable events but also leaves a lasting mark on the community he serves.


On July 17th, Tris4Health issued a press release marking the acquisition of the Grand Haven Triathlon, Bear Lake Triathlon, and the Armed Services Marathon. To many, this came as a surprise – Ron Knoll has been a staple to the racing and triathlon community for almost two decades. But to Ron, this was simply his way of passing on the torch.

Don’t worry. Ron’s not going anywhere, he’ll still be there with his megaphone managing the race day chaos, just doing a little less of the heavy lifting. We love Ron!

Runners up: 

Don Kern

Jon Conkling & John Mosey (Tris4Health), Rob Hyde, Kyle Cutler

Best Race Announcer

Larry Crabbe

Larry Crabbe does not need an introduction. He is the unsung hero of the racecourse, clocking in long days and even longer weekends to bring the magic to the racing scene. He’s not just a race announcer; he is embedded deep into the multi-sport community and  takes announcing a race to a whole new level — with kindness and consideration, turning every race day into an epic adventure.


While you’re out there racing the course, Larry is at the finish, orchestrating the spectacle. But here’s the thing – behind that microphone is a superhero who sacrifices weekends and clocks in more miles than some runners. He isn’t just calling out bib numbers; he’s juggling family time, making race days feel like holidays for everyone involved.


He knows every twist and turn of the racecourse and the delicate balance of being away from home. He isn’t just announcing; he’s calling out every racer, creating an experience, turning each race into a story where every racer is the star of the day.


And let’s talk about adaptability – Larry is the chameleon of the microphone. Whether it’s a 5K, an ultra, a gravel race that seems to never end, it is Larry’s voice that keeps you going and calls you in.


He has won this category every year and predict he will hold his title of Best Race Announcer long after he retires.


But here’s the kicker – Larry does it all with a smile, with the energy that makes you forget he’s been on his feet for hours. He’s the family man you never knew you needed at a race, turning your finish line into a victory for everyone.


So, the next time you hear Larry’s voice echoing across the racecourse, know that you’re not just hearing an announcer; you’re hearing the tireless cheers of a guy who makes every race a celebration, even if it means a few more miles away from home.

Runners up: 

Steve Benson

Ron Knoll

Favorite Local Athlete

Todd Buckingham
Zach Ripley

Todd is local versatile athlete rxcelling in triathlons, duathlons, and running events, from 5k to ultra-marathons. A member of the elite age-group triathlon team Every Man Jack, Todd’s sports journey started with high school baseball, basketball, and soccer, transitioning to collegiate baseball.


Holding a Ph.D. in Exercise Physiology from Michigan State University, Todd teaches at Grand Valley State University and serves as Chief Exercise Physiologist for The Bucking Fit Life, a holistic wellness initiative. Additionally, he runs a coaching business, creating tailored training plans for runners, cyclists, and triathletes.


Todd’s expertise has gained recognition in over 90 media features, including Runner’s World and CNN. Formerly Lead Exercise Physiologist at Mary Free Bed Sports Rehabilitation Performance Lab, Todd’s passion lies in optimizing performance and promoting holistic health.



  • 2:25:29 marathon PR

  • 1:08:10 half-marathon PR

  • 4x world champion in triathlon

  • 18x national champion in triathlon, duathlon, aquathlon, and aquabike

  • 2022 USA Triathlon Male Age Group Triathlete of the Year

West Michigan local, Zach Ripley, thrives on competition, boasting achievements like participating in the US Road Racing Championships, representing Team USA in cross country in Jamaica, and running at the prestigious US Olympic Trials Marathon. Meanwhile, wife Andi has many notable accomplishments including  completing the 2019 Chicago Marathon in an impressive 2:43:41, earning her a spot in the 2020 Olympic Trials Marathon.

In their shared journey, they generously share insights and advice received, offering strategies for balancing the demands of life and running. Their coaching covers practical tips, tricks, and an encouraging perspective, emphasizing the holistic impact of running on the mind, body, and spirit.

Runners up: 

Nancy Agrillo, Shelley Irwin

Abby Snell

Favorite Running Group


In essence, RunGR stands out as the premier choice of running clubs due to its commitment to inclusivity, expert coaching, personalized training programs, consistent group sessions, schedule flexibility, diverse running locations, community engagement, and transparent communication. Whether you’re a seasoned runner or just starting, RunGR offers a holistic and enriching running experience.


Inclusive Community: RunGR prides itself on fostering an inclusive community, welcoming individuals of all skill levels and ages. The diverse membership creates a supportive environment where everyone feels valued and motivated.


Expert Coaching: With the guidance of two respected coaches, RunGR provides a level of expertise that sets it apart. The coaches bring a wealth of knowledge, helping runners of all levels refine their techniques, set meaningful goals, and achieve their full potential.


Tailored Training Programs: Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced runner, RunGR has a training program designed to suit your needs. The club recognizes that every runner is unique and provides personalized support to help individuals reach their specific running goals.


Consistent Group Sessions: The regular group sessions on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday offer a structured approach to training. From strength and speed workouts to endurance-focused long runs, the variety in sessions ensures a well-rounded training experience.


Flexible Schedule: RunGR understands the importance of flexibility in a training schedule. With both evening and morning options for Tuesday and Thursday sessions, as well as varying start times for Saturday long runs, the club accommodates diverse lifestyles.


Diverse Running Locations: Exploring different running routes throughout the greater Grand Rapids area adds an exciting element to training. RunGR’s rotation of locations, detailed in the weekly newsletter, keeps the experience fresh and engaging.


Community Engagement: Beyond individual running goals, RunGR places emphasis on community betterment. The club’s commitment to making a positive impact on the local community adds a meaningful dimension to the running experience.


Communication and Transparency: The weekly newsletter ensures that members are well-informed about the details of each workout. This commitment to communication reflects the club’s transparency and dedication to keeping members engaged and connected.

Runners up: 

Run Muskegon

Essential Toils

Favorite Local Running Store


Striders isn’t just a store; it’s a cherished local gem on Chicago Drive, weaving itself into the fabric of our community. As a small business, Striders brings a personalized touch to the fitness scene, catering to the diverse needs of local runners and walkers.


The staff, a tight-knit crew of runners and fitness enthusiasts, aren’t just faces behind the counter; they’re familiar smiles ready to chat about the best trails or the upcoming local races, creating a sense of camaraderie that’s hard to find in big-box stores.


Striders serves as a local hub for our unique running culture. The carefully curated shelves boast running shoes, gear, and accessories tailored specifically for our community. Whether you’re preparing for a neighborhood 5K, taking a stroll through our local parks, or hitting the nearby trails, Striders offers the perfect gear for our local pursuits.


What sets Striders apart is its commitment to inclusivity. Walk in, and you’ll find friendly faces eager to help newcomers find the right pair of shoes, sharing insights on the best local routes. It’s not just a place to shop; it’s a place where local runners gather, swapping stories and creating an atmosphere that mirrors the warm and welcoming spirit of Grandville.


Striders stands tall as a testament to the strength of our local small business community. Each purchase isn’t just supporting a store; it’s an investment in the vibrancy of our community, contributing to the shared journey of health, wellness, and the joy of moving together in our local space.

Runners up: 

Gazelle Sports

Special thanks to all of our contributing photographers that work hard to showcase the athletes all year round. We appreciate all that you do for our community!