Race Review: The Bellin Run

I still don’t totally understand the popularity of this race. The 42ndAnnual Bellin Run in Green Bay, Wisconsin last weekend had over 11,000 participants! It’s one of the largest fields for a 10k in the nation! The course was nice; rolling hills and winding streets through mostly residential parts of Green Bay and Allouez. In that regard it reminded me of the Ridgewood Run on Memorial Day in New Jersey. But the Ridgewood Run, while a big event, doesn’t have over 8600 finishers in the 10k.

Bellin Health is the title sponsor and event organizer. The start and finish are right in front of the hospital and it is their marketing of the event along with tremendous support from the community that has grown this event over the years from a race with a couple 100 to as many as 16,000 participants.  Among this year’s participants were Joan Benoit-Samuelson, Bill Rodgers, Meb Keflezighi, Uta Pippig and others.

Attracting the celebrity running greats still doesn’t explain the numbers though. I have run the Shelter Island 10k for a number of years that has included Joanie, Bill, and Meb in the field, but they still only draw a couple thousand to that event. Similar to Shelter Island (which is this weekend), the Bellin Run has great crowd support. It was as if all of Green Bay had come out to cheer on family and friends – and they may have done just that.

At around Mile 4, three Green Bay Packers were on the course in their jerseys high-fiving runners as they passed giving them a boost of energy. Although, numerous radio stations and local bands kept the crowd entertained for the entire course. Just as we lost the sound from one band or DJ, we picked up the next. If you wear headphones in this race, you’re missing out.

The weekend events included the Run with Greatness Charity Fun Run on Thursday evening which gave runners a chance to run with the celebrities for a donation to myTEAM TRIUMPH. We were not there for that, arriving on Friday afternoon. We joined the festivities at the Health & Fitness Expo under tents at Astor Park. This was certainly the biggest expo I’ve ever seen for a 10k. Packet and shirt pick-up was easy. There was additional race merchandise available for purchase and giveaways from the many race sponsors. The highlight for us were free basil and tomato plants!

Friday evening activities included children’s games, activities, and run; a Back-to-the-Road Crew 1-Mile event (an invitation only event for patients of the hospital recovering from serious illness or surgery who may not be quite ready for the 10k – all their bibs said “I’m back”); the TRIUMPH Mile (for individuals with disabilities that require assistance in coordination with myTEAM TRIUMPH), and a very reasonably priced pasta dinner where the World-Class runners could be found signing autographs.

Since we were only in Green Bay for the one night, we passed on the pasta dinner and dined at the 1919 Restaurant in the Atrium at Lambeau Field (you can’t go to Green Bay and not pay homage to football history at this iconic stadium). As a destination race locale, Green Bay is limited. We walked along their River Walk and explored downtown. We found a few nice restaurants for lunch both Friday and Saturday and an outstanding coffee shop, but honestly Green Bay is a tough town for two vegans that don’t drink alcohol. Your experience may be different.

I didn’t feel I needed to spend more that 24-hours in Green Bay. Although next time, I’d like to take an extra day or two and venture up to Door County which sits on the peninsula between Green Bay and Lake Michigan and boasts 300 miles of coastline.  A friend on Facebook recommended it when he saw we were in the area, “Great in the summer months, with lots to do and see.”

I think the bottom line on this event is that Bellin Health works very hard on every detail to create a really good experience for all runners regardless of ability. They are keenly focused on their mission of improving health and fitness for area residents and have made this a monumental event for the community of Green Bay – and have given others, like us, a reason besides the Packers to visit.

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