Notre Dame runners have long used Steve’s Run as a training race as they head into their collegiate cross country season. (Leader file photo)
Notre Dame runners have long used Steve’s Run as a training race as they head into their collegiate cross country season. (Leader file photo)

Archived Story

Steve’s Run still special 40 years later

Published 9:29am Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Who knew 40 years ago that the musical notes of “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas would inspire a Dowagiac tradition.

But it did.

You see, Ron Gunn heard those notes wafting from a window as he was in the 23rd mile of the Boston Marathon. But it did, and as they say, the rest is history.

Steve’s Run has gone through a few changes since it began in 1972. But through it all, it has been the attention to detail and the hard work put in by the volunteers that keeps people coming back year-after-year.

In fact, nearly 1,400 runners are expected to participate in the 40th running on Saturday.

It started out as the Road and Trail Race. Then it became the Bud Lite Run and the Nike-Fair Store Run before a two-year break ensued.

Had it not been for the death of Steve Briegel, son of then Southwestern Michigan College President Dave Briegel, it may not have been resurrected.

Steve Briegel had battled with cancer and he and Gunn had become quite close over the years.

With his passing, Gunn went to Dave Briegel with the idea that while not everyone may have known his son, almost everyone has been touched by cancer.

Dave bought into the idea and Dowagiac is glad that he did.

Steve’s Run was born and with this year’s running, it will be the 24th annual installment of the popular road race.

But what makes it so popular?

Like I said earlier, attention to details and the volunteers are a big reason for its success. Many of those volunteers have worked the race for decades.

But it is more than that. There is of course the music and the original hand-made awards given out to the race and age division winners.

All that is nice, but it is the course itself that is a true star here.

It is a true cross county course that appeals to both the novice and experienced runners. Many high school cross county runners use Steve’s Run as a tune up for the upcoming season.

The same is true of collegiate runners.

The course has a little bit of everything. There are the roadways at the beginning and end of the course, as well as a trip across a golf course and through Riverside Cemetery.

For the 10K runners, there are the famous SMC trails, and for those brave enough to take a leap of faith, there are the hay bails to traverse.

But in the end, it is the people of Dowagiac, and the runners themselves, that make Steve’s Run so much fun. This is a family event. This is a reunion for not only the Dowagiac Union High School Class of 1986, but for former SMC runners.

Heck, a couple even got married at one race.

So if you are new to the area and have never experienced Steve’s Run, I invite you to come out and enjoy the tremendous atmosphere and to cheer the runners on.

For those who have watched this race blossom into one of Michigan’s top running events, I hope to see you Saturday in Lions Park following the race.


Scott Novak is sports editor for Leader Publications. He can be reached at

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