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SMC Celebrates Half a Century of Steve's Run

Start of the 2023 Steve's Run in downtown Dowagiac

SMC Celebrates Half a Century of Steve's Run

Published on May 21, 2024 - 2 p.m.

A lot has happened in the half-century spanning the Original Road and Trail Race to Steve’s Run, with the 50th running taking place on Friday, July 19, at 6 p.m. in downtown Dowagiac, in conjunction with the Summer Festival and BBQ Competition.

Known as Steve’s Run since 1992, it left downtown in 2015 for Southwestern Michigan College’s campus, where it began in front of the David C. Briegel Building, named for SMC’s fifth president from 1981-98.

David’s and Camille’s son, Steven Briegel, was born July 21, 1967, and died March 1, 1990, at age 22 after a 5 ½-year battle with cancer. He graduated fifth in Union High School’s Class of 1986 and played basketball, golf and in band for the Chieftains.

He graduated with an associate degree in mathematics with honors from SMC in 1988 and was a junior in the Ferris State University program at SMC at the time of his death.

He was a member of Phi Theta Kappa honor society.

After Steve’s death, SMC’s annual Road and Trail Race became Steve’s Run, dedicated to all who have fought or are still fighting cancer, with proceeds split between Mayo Clinic cancer research and the Briegel scholarship. President Briegel died Jan. 13, 2021.

“He was my best friend,” said Hall of Fame Cross Country and Track and Field Coach Ron Gunn.

After flying to Rochester, Minn., to be with the Briegels as Steven neared the end of his life, Gunn collaborated with the family to turn the renowned Road and Trail Race into a tribute to their son.

President Briegel arrived at SMC three months before Gunn and “we really hit it off. We both liked sports and had a rivalry between me liking Notre Dame and him rooting for MSU. He appreciated what I was doing for the college and we worked closely. As an administrator, he was firm, but fair. He was just a wonderful human being, a class act all the way. He was not only the classiest person I ever knew, with a wonderful heart, he taught me a lot about character,” Gunn said.

As the race’s founder, Gunn served as master of ceremonies for the 44th race in 2018.

“A lot of people did not know Steve, but everybody knows somebody touched by cancer who fought the same brave, determined battle,” said Gunn.

Gunn knew Steve Briegel very well.

“He was my statistician and announcer at home basketball games. We became very close.”

“He was a real sports fan,” Gunn said, “but had one flaw. He liked the Detroit Pistons, Tigers and Lions.” Gunn roots for Chicago’s Bulls, Cubs and Bears.

“I wanted to do something to honor Steve. We had a run around Edwardsburg’s Eagle Lake in his honor” on July 31, 1991. On Aug. 1, 1992, Steve’s Run embraced Dowagiac.

As SMC dean of sports education, Gunn organized races throughout the 1970s-’80s through Roadrunner Track Club. “The first few years it was called the Road and Trail Race, the Bud Lite Run and the Nike-Fair Store Run,” he said.

A magazine named Steve’s Run one of the 10 best vacation runs in the country for its unique combination of highways, the Elks golf course and the college’s rugged trails with hay bales and log obstacles.

Monday Night Running Club, founded in 1979, activated countless sedentary community members.

SMC has continued to host Steve’s Run with the support of the City of Dowagiac and through generous donations from community partners. After a virtual event in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, the race moved back into town in 2021.

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