My Kalamazoo Borgess Half Marathon Review

Yay! I did a new race. I’ve been trying several new races this season, along with my favorites. It’s great to know the entire River Bank Run course and be totally sure of what to expect, but it’s also a lot of fun to do something totally new. I didn’t see anyone I knew, the expo was new, the course was different and exciting—it was a lot of fun. If you’re looking for a May half marathon in West Michigan, here’s what you should know about the Borgess Half Marathon.

Alright, so the Borgess Run for the Health of It events include the Kalamazoo Marathon, Borgess Half Marathon, and then a 10k run, 5k run, 5k walk, kids fun run, and a motivational mile for people who have overcome or are working to overcome health challenges. I didn’t know anything about it when I signed up. There was a sweet discount for being a Team Priority Health Champion, so I checked the calendar and said, “YUP, let’s do it.”

I wasn’t disappointed. The weather was great. I was a little sad that I registered before realizing that it was on Mother’s Day, and with the drive, there wasn’t really a good way for my husband and son to come see me finish, but we made other plans. There were so many good things about the race, and just a few things that I think could be improved to make it a bigger race with a more well-known reputation.


kalamazoo borgess runThe course was new to me, and varied. We ran through several parks, along the river, downtown, and on Gull Road. Yeah, there were some hills, but it really wasn’t bad. There didn’t seem to be too many of those awful stretches you get in some races where you’ve been running in straight line for like 100 miles. It helped keep things interesting that the course was always changing.

Crowd support was epic. I saw a sign that said, “Britney made it through 2007. You can make it through this,” and it had a picture of Britney Spears shaving her head in 2007. There was one that said, “If Donald Trump can run, so can you.” That one made me snort. Then there was the guy with the cowbell hanging over the path, telling people to “turn it up to 11” and saying, “This run needs MORE COWBELL,” as we jumped to hit the bell while running through his arch. Seriously, all of this made the run that much more enjoyable.

You could categorize this under crowd support, but here’s to the people handing out Oberon. As much as  I love beer and take advantage of living in Beer City USA, I’ve never drank beer while running. This was a first for me. Since I was running a new race and just having a good time, I stopped for some Bell’s. Worth it.

The expo was great! I loved that they had so many nice vendors and that it was organized for easy traversing. They gave me a lot of food and swag. There was fun family stuff, plenty of room, and things moved along well even though we went midday Saturday when things were busy. The location was easy to find with lots of parking, too, which is helpful.

The race was basically a buffet. I got a popsicle, tiny candy bar, gummy bears, beer, and the rest of the usual shenanigans. It was great. It made the whole race just feel a little more fun and not too serious. It gets old when you go to too many races that take themselves very seriously. That’s not the case in Kzoo.


kalamazoo borgess half marathonWhat was that part of town that can only be described as “Somewhere you can go if you want to get stabbed?” I liked the varied course, but ew. Nothing like inviting people in from all over the state and giving them a view of your most impressive slums.

Aid stations were not well organized. There wasn’t clear indication of who had sports drinks and who had water. Volunteers all seemed to yell “water” unless you asked them where there was Gu Brew. Definitely could have been some signage like the flags some races use, or at least separation and direction for volunteers to say “water up front, Gu in the back.” As someone who always has to have electrolyte drinks while running (especially when it’s a little warm), I had a hard time with this.

That nice stretch after mile 7 that smelled like straight shit. I’m sorry, but it did. Oh man. Was there a wastewater treatment plant? Is that just what the river smells like? WHYYYY? I’m not very sensitive to smells, but I literally had to plug my nose for about a quarter mile to get through that. Yuck!

The website kinda stinks. It’s not the design that’s bad, but I kept thinking of questions I had leading up to the race and then I couldn’t find the info on the website. Why isn’t there just an “about” page that talks about the history of the event or the reason for it? How big is the race? What’s the terrain? I kept finding random info in the FAQ, but was disappointed that information wasn’t organized very well, and that many points seemed to be left off the site. Not to be a pain, but I’m a digital marketing strategist and a person who needs to know things, so it sticks out to me that the site didn’t have information I needed easily accessible.

Not to end on a negative note, though. The race was a lot of fun.I talked to so many nice people who were running it and spectating. The medal was pretty. There was lots of parking, and the volunteers were all super nice.  I may have even gotten a picture or two where I look like I’m running and not walking! If it worked out to do the race again next year, I’d consider it. If you’ve never tried one of the Borgess runs, check it out!