Traverse City Record-Eagle

October 4, 2013

Sleeping Bear Dunes Marathon on Sunday

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — EMPIRE — One year ago Cassy McQuaid Stone said she would never run a marathon.

On Sunday, she will be standing at the start of the Sleeping Bear Dunes Marathon with about 400 others, ready to run farther than she ever has before.

McQuaid Stone was at the finish line of last year’s Detroit Marathon, watching others, including her husband Jeb Stone, cross the finish line when she declared to herself that she had no interest in ever completing the 26.2-mile race.

“I’ve participated in the half-marathon quite a few times at Bayshore here in Traverse,” she said. “(At the finish line in Detroit) I remember thinking, ‘There is no way that I would ever even imagine what that would feel like, nor would I even want to sign up for something that made me look like those people did.’”

But things changed over the next few months as she began thinking how she could pull it off if she continued training beyond last spring’s Bayshore Half-Marathon, just increasing her workouts and sticking with a training plan. Lo and behold, when it came time to sign up for Sunday’s event back in February, she went for it.

“When I did (sign up), I didn’t tell anybody. I didn’t even talk to my husband about it,” she said. “He came home from work, I think it was February 28, and I said, ‘I signed up for a marathon Oct. 6.’ He kind of laughed and said, ‘Alright, sure.’”

This is the second running of the Sleeping Bear Dunes Marathon and Half-Marathon. Last year’s inaugural race featured just under 300 runners, but Endurance Evolution — which is running the event — saw a significant increase in entries this year. Participants are coming from as many as 18 states, with runners from as far as Hawaii and California having signed up.

“The Sleeping Bear Dunes, we’ve obviously gotten a lot of national attention in the last couple of years with all the top 10 lists and with Good Morning America’s Most Beautful Place in America,” said race co-director Joel Gaff, Jr. “So you’ve got people coming from all over the place. Scenery hopefully will be the thing that is the big draw for the race. That’s kind of why when we decided to start planning this race a couple of years ago, it was because of the fall colors in Leelanau County and Sleeping Bear Dunes area. It’s a gorgeous time of year.”

McQuaid Stone will be there to soak it all in, a celebration of the last 18 weeks of preparation.

“I’ve enjoyed it more than I thought I really ever would, and the best part of the whole thing is the race is just the party,” she said. “I’ve really already done all the hard work. I’ve really learned more about myself through this journey than I have with anything else and I’m really proud of that.”

She said one of her biggest goals is to get through the whole race without stopping.

“I think that’s attainable,” she said. “I think in my mind I would like to be under 4 hours and 20 minutes. I’m not trying to qualify for Boston. I’m not trying to do anything other than get through this. I think a big part of my goal was I did this by myself. I trained by myself. I was accountable for myself. I think that was a pretty big thing for me. Of course, people have run with me and been huge supporters of me, but I’ve been able to set my own pace and my own goals as I’ve gone along the way.

Interestingly enough, McQuaid Stone says this probably won’t be her only marathon.

“I’m afraid I’m going to cross that finish line and go, ‘Oh, I want to go faster.’”

This week’s federal government shutdown has closed the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park, but Gaff, Jr. said that won’t affect the race. The course is set up on county roads that pass the Dune Climb, Little Glen Lake and through Glen Arbor.

“We’re lucky in that regard that we shouldn’t be affected by it,” he said. “Although we did have somebody call us who was going to be camping at DH Day Campground (which is closed). Some of our participants may run into an issue with the camping.”