Aerial view of the Dowagiac campus

Steve's Run originated 40 years ago

06/18/2014 - 9am

The 40th “Original Road and Trail Race,” aka Steve’s Run, starts a half-hour earlier at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, July 26, in downtown Dowagiac during Summer in the City festival weekend.

As many as 1,000 participants are expected to compete in the 10K run, 5K run, 5K walk or 1K fun run.

Race Director Kate Dorner, Southwestern Michigan College human resources director and wellness committee chair, said 818 runners were timed in 2013.

Last year’s 10K winner, with 34:08, was third-time competitor Miguel Luzano, 20, a Mishawaka High School graduate and IUPUI sophomore who survived testicular cancer diagnosed at 17. Leah Busse of Kent City won the women’s 10K title with 42:05.

Participants who pre-register before 5 p.m. Wednesday, July 9, are guaranteed a blue Steve’s Run core performance shirt.

SMC and $7,000 donor Fifth Third Bank are the premier sponsors for the 40th race.

It costs $1 for the fun run, $20 for the 5K run or walk and $25 for the 10K.

Those who wait until Friday night or Saturday morning pay $30 for late registration.

Packet pick-up and late registration take place at Dowagiac City Hall, 241 S. Front St., on July 25 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. and on July 26 from 7 to 8 a.m.
Music became a major element of Steve’s Run thanks to the Boston Marathon.

Former SMC dean of sports education Ron Gunn was running in it when “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas floated out of a window 23 miles in to revive him.
Boom boxes once played cassette tapes along the course because music stirs the soul like a marching band at a football game.

Thanks to technological advances in such devices as iPods and MP3 players, personalized playlists power today’s runners with preferred tracks at their fingertips.

Recognized as one of the 10 best vacation runs in the country, it started in 1972.

This will be the 24th known as Steve’s Run after previous permutations as the Road and Trail Race, the Bud Lite Run and the Nike-Fair Store Run, plus a two-year hiatus.

Gunn, who coached Roadrunner cross country teams to five national titles, worked with Steve Briegel, whose father, David, was college president.

“Steve was my statistician and announcer,” Gunn said. “Steve fought a very courageous battle, but lost. I went to Dave wanting to do something to honor Steve. We had a run at Indian Lake in his honor.”

The next year the Road and Trail Race was resurrected as Steve’s Run, with Gunn reasoning, “A lot people did not know Steve, but everybody knows somebody touched by cancer who fought the same brave, determined battle.”

Steve’s Run is challenging in the “dog days of July,” offering an unusual assortment of highways, a golf course (golfers pause and applaud) and rugged trails with hay bales and log obstacles around the 240-acre campus.

Paul Mow, SMC theatre director and a former New York opera singer, will render the national anthem at the starting line at Beckwith Park.

The event concludes south of the Front Street central business district in Lions Park.

Stained glass awards, created each year by Al Potter, ended with his death Nov. 3, 2013, at 77.

“This year, the two overall winners of the 10K — the top female and the top male — get a $25 gift card to New Balance in Granger, a $15 gift card for Road ID and their pick from a polo, sweatshirt and jacket or fleece pullover,” Dorner said. “5K overall winners get $15 Road ID gift cards and their option of a shirt.”

Participants can honor a cancer survivor or victim and support cancer research by buying $5 fire-up signs placed in Riverside Cemetery, where the run passes Steve’s grave.

SMC’s Steven Briegel Scholarship Fund and the Mayo Clinic Cancer Research Fund divide proceeds.

To register or to purchase fire-up signs, go to

Camille and David Briegel for 24 years have presented an annual Steven Briegel Memorial Scholarship at Union High School — this May to Jennifer Schaus.
Steve, who died March 1, 1990, after a 5 ½-year battle, graduated fifth in the DUHS Class of 1986 and from SMC in 1988.

He golfed and played basketball for the Chieftains.

A group of classmates runs in his memory.

Southwestern Michigan College Board of Trustees Treasurer Thomas F. Jerdon June 16 accepts a $7,000 contribution from Fifth Third Bank for Steve’s Run July 26. From left: Kate Dorner, race director, SMC human resources director and SMC wellness committee chair; Yolanda Ash of Dowagiac, Berrien Springs financial center manager; Kelley Huling, Dowagiac financial center manager; and Jerdon. SMC and Fifth Third are the premier sponsors of Steve’s Run.