One of the most popular races in Michigan turned 35 this year. Since 1976, July 4th has meant it’s Volkslaufe time in Frankenmuth. Volkslaufe is German for “People’s race” and that’s what it is. This race is for the people of Frankenmuth, the runners, their families, and friends.
I’ve probably run this 10k event about 20 times. I started in 1986 when I married a “Frankenmuth girl” and have only missed a few since then. And I don’t remember a year I didn’t enjoy this race. The course is a nice mix of scenery. It starts with a stretch of black top country road past cornfields, then corners around the Fortress Golf Club, up the hill past the cemetary and beautiful St. Lorenz Lutheran Church before heading back into town and several well-kept neighborhoods with lots of American flags, garden hoses spraying and fans in lawn chairs cheering for no one in particular.
This year I finished in a respectable 49:11, 15th out of 57 in my 50-54 age group. Not a PR but at my age I’m not setting many more PRs.
To some people, running a race on the same course more than 20 years could get boring. To me a familiar course is comforting. I don’t really have to think too much about the race. It’s a routine. I know when to get to the starting area, where to line up among the approximately 800 runners so I don’t get totally trapped heading up the narrow dirt drive out of Memorial Park, and when to start my finishing kick even though you can’t see the finish line until it’s too late to kick.
But even though the course is familiar, the race has definitely changed for me in recent years. We don’t stay out at my in-laws farm the night before now that my mother-in-law is gone and my father-in-law has moved into assisted living in town. Aunt Millie is gone now too, so I don’t see her watching at her corner anymore. In past years I had brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law walking or running along with several nieces and nephews. This year I had one brother-in-law and one niece in the race. Kids are getting older and making their own plans now. Even my two sons didn’t come up for the race.
With so many things changing it’s nice to do this familiar run. And I hope to still be running the Volkslaufe in another 20 years. On the same course.