“I began running regularly five years ago, but really started enjoying running when I joined my first running group,” said Matt Swiontek. He has since launched two running groups of his own, November Project Grand Rapids (formerly Carpe Diem) and Bagel Run GR.
Swiontek is hoping to turn others onto running next week as one of the organizers behind GR Running Week, a week of running events taking place Sept. 17-23 throughout Grand Rapids. Several different running groups are participating, including Bagel Run GR, Westside Stride, November Project GR, Wednesday Night Hills & Stairs, Gazelle Girl, West Michigan Trail Runners, Mikkeller Running Club, RunGR, and Dirty Herd.
“GR Running Week is an opportunity to showcase the large number of unique running groups that Grand Rapids has to offer,” Swiontek said. “Each group meets at a different time and has a slightly different culture, but all the groups encourage community and make Grand Rapids a better place to live. For each of the seven days, one (or more) running groups are offering a run to experience what that group has to offer.”
All of the runs are free and you don’t have to be a runner to participate. In fact, one of Running Week’s goals is to attract new runners.
“A group of running group leaders met this spring and discussed what we can do to improve the running community in Grand Rapids. We realized that it can be intimidating and slightly difficult to find a group and join for the first time,” Swiontek said. “This led to discussions that ultimately became GR Running Week.”
GR Running Week kicks off with Plogging on Monday, Sept. 17 at 6 p.m. “Plogging is an activity that started in Sweden,” Swiontek explained. “Plogging is a combination of the phrase “plocka upp” and “jogging” and involves running around the city and picking up trash.
“We will be meeting at Rosa Parks Circle at 6 p.m. and have various 5k routes for the runners and several shorter routes for walkers and families, so all paces are welcome. All participants will be provided with gloves and trash bags. We see this as an excellent way to bring all the running groups together to make the city sparkle a little bit brighter going into Art Prize.”
Swiontek said what he likes most about running groups is that they offer more than just an opportunity for fitness. “Running provides a channel for creating genuine, deep relationships. When you’re out on a run and being active, you’re not distracted by technology or all of life’s usual distractions. If GR Running Week can get just one more person connected with a community that supports movement, we’re making Grand Rapids a better place to live.”
Most of the running groups participating in Running Week operate year round, so you don’t need to worry about taking up a new outdoor hobby with winter right around the corner.
“Most of the participating groups offer year-round runs, which definitely makes the winter more enjoyable,” Swiontek said. “November Project Grand Rapids offers outdoor circuit/running based workouts that take advantage of the snow and conditions to make the workouts fun. For example, they’ve had workouts that included sled races, variations on winter sports, and the occasional snowball fight.
“Wednesday Night Hills & Stairs modifies its summer route for the winter so that it includes parking garage stairs, allowing for a safe alternative to the Division [Street] stairs. West Michigan Trail Runners and Dirty Herd both offer a chance to get out on maintained trails and experience the true beauty of a West Michigan winter.”
GR Running Week participants can pick up their punch cards at Gazelle Sports Grand Rapids or a participating running group this week. Participants will receive a punch on their card for each activity they attend. If a participant earns four punches, they can take the card to Gazelle Sports Grand Rapids to be entered to win a prize pack.
GR Running Week takes place from Sept. 17-23.
GR Running Week Schedule
- Monday, Sept. 17 – Plogging, 6 p.m.
- Tuesday, Sept. 18 – Bagel Run GR, 6 a.m.; Rapid Herd, noon; Westside Stride, 6 p.m.
- Wednesday, Sept. 19 – November Project GR, 6:01 a.m.; Gazelle Girl 6 p.m.; Hills & Stairs, 6:30 p.m.
- Thursday, Sept. 20 – West Michigan Trail Runners, 6:30 p.m.
- Friday, Sept. 21 – Mikkeller Run Club, 6 p.m.
- Saturday, Sept. 22 – RunGR, 7 a.m.
- Sunday, Sept. 23 – Dirty Herd, 6 p.m.