Michigan Day of the Dead Races: Runners Remember Lost Loved Ones

6238811964_bebc6713ca_zLinda Hall’s voice catches as she remembers her experience at last year’s Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) 5K Run in Muskegon.

“That experience was physically, emotionally, and mentally, probably one of the biggest runs of my life,” she said.

Just three weeks earlier her boyfriend, Larry Roscoe, was tragically killed as he rode his motorcycle to meet her. The couple hadn’t been together long, but Roscoe had re-ignited Hall’s passion for running, something she had done in high school, and something the pair did together often, as a couple.

Larry Roscoe and Linda Hall.
Larry Roscoe and Linda Hall.

Hall brought a photo of Roscoe and placed it on the event’s makeshift altar and ran to a first-place finish in her age group that day. She continues to run, finishing her first Riverbank Run 25K earlier this year. She knows it’s what Roscoe would have wanted.

“I had Larry’s cross around my neck and I was praising God that I was able to run,” she said. “That’s why I keep on running, because he told me ‘don’t ever give up on something that’s your passion’.”

Remembering loved ones who have passed away is the purpose of two upcoming Day of the Dead 5K races, both sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. The sponsorships aim to promote health in culturally relevant ways and are part of BCBSM’s ongoing commitment to reduce health disparities in diverse communities.

Day of the Dead is a holiday celebrated mostly by Hispanic cultures. It takes place on November 1 and 2 and is a celebration intended to honor deceased family members and friends. Ofrendas are made and decorated with sugar skulls, flowers, pictures, food, beverages, and candles to honor and remember those who’ve died.

Linda Hall at last year's Dia de los Muertos race in Muskegon.
Linda Hall at last year’s Dia de los Muertos race in Muskegon.

“I don’t think that a lot of people know about what Dia de los Muertos really is,” said Amber Gonzalez, race director for the Muskegon race. “I think a lot of people think Day of the Dead is about zombies.”

Saginaw race director Joseph Stricker started his race as a way to keep the cultural tradition alive and educate people on the true meaning of the holiday.

“A lot of times people get confused with Halloween being the same time of year and they’re both totally different,” he said. “People think it’s a scary thing and it’s not, it’s very beautiful.”

Want to remember your loved ones by running in their honor? Here are details on the two upcoming races.

Dia de los Muertos Cinco K Run and Walk is November 1 in Saginaw

This is the third year for the Saginaw race, which takes place at the Anderson Enrichment Center, 120 Ezra Rust St. There’s a 5K and 10K run as well as a 5K walk for adults. Check in for all events starts at 7:30 a.m. and the race starts at 10 a.m. A kids’ half-mile fun run will follow the run/walk. Kids can have their face painted on race day and color skulls at the event.

A runner at last year's Dia de los Muertos race in Saginaw.
A runner at last year’s Dia de los Muertos race in Saginaw.

Hispanic culture will be woven throughout the event, Stricker said. Altars will be set up for people to honor loved ones. Mexican hot chocolate and sweet bread will be available to try. Race winners will receive a trophy and life-size skull. All participants will receive a sugar skull to take home.

“We really try to make it a cultural experience,” he said.

Promoting health and wellness in the Hispanic community is another goal Stricker has for the race. With so many road races taking place most weekends in Michigan, he said hosting culturally relevant events like the Day of the Dead race, and a Cinco de Mayo race in May, is drawing a more diverse mix of runners.

“I think that by making this a cultural and ethnic run, it’s driving a lot more people to our runs,” he said.

Proceeds from the race will benefit the American GI Forum Hispanic Scholarship fund and the Rotary District 6310 Dominican Republic Hand Washing Project.

Dia de los Muertos 5K Fun Run/Walk and Kids Dash takes place November 2 in Muskegon

The second annual event starts at 9 a.m. on Sunday from the Muskegon YMCA, 900 West Western Avenue. The Kids Dash will follow at 10 a.m. There’s also a virtual run people can sign up for so they can participate wherever they are. The entry fee for the race includes a finisher medal for all participants, prizes for best costumes for kids and adults, a Day of the Dead t-shirt, and treats after the race.

Packet pickup takes place from 1-4 p.m. on Saturday, November 1 at the YMCA. The Muskegon race is a fundraiser for Latinos Working for the Future, a group that works to promote Latin culture and health and wellness. A portion of this year’s race proceeds will also benefit the Children’s Leukemia Foundation.

Gonzalez said people should bring pictures and mementos that remind them of the loved ones they’re running for. She’s bringing a picture of her grandmother and a wrapped bag of cashews, one of her grandma’s favorite treats.

“That’s kind of what we try to encourage people to do is reflect on your loved one while you’re out there,” she said.

Photo credit: jennifer blakeslee and courtesy photos

 

 

 

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