The most beautiful race in America

Photo of 2016 M22 Challenge by Chris Brower

By Jennifer Symons
Sun contributor

Northern Michigan’s largest brand puts on one of the best athletic events of the year. At 8 a.m. on Saturday, June 10, 900 racers will line up for the ninth annual M22 Challenge. The race includes a 2.5-mile run, 17-mile bicycle ride, and 2.5-mile paddle — making it the most unique “tri” event in northern Michigan.

Because Glen Arbor owns Good Morning America’s official title of “the most beautiful place in America,” it only seems appropriate that the tagline for the M22 Challenge is, “the most beautiful race in America.” The run includes a dash up the iconic “dune climb” with a view at the top that is worth the effort. The bicycle ride takes you around both Big and Little Glen Lakes, whose shades of blue have been known to rival that of the Caribbean. Finally, you’ll head into Little Glen Lake for the paddle portion of the race. Participants can use their floating vessel of choice, but only one paddle may be used. Kayaks and standup paddleboards are the most common method for the paddle portion of the race.

Keegan Myers, co-founder of the M22 brand along with his older brother Matt, spoke enthusiastically about this year’s event.

“Everyone is always really stoked on race day,” he said. “The challenge brings out good people and good vibes.” Myers has competed in the M22 Challenge the last few years. For the first five years, he maintained his role as race organizer, but the excitement of the challenge itself was too good to pass up participation. “The volunteers we get are so awesome that I don’t have to worry about anything,” he said. “I can race with everyone else.”

As with any outdoor event in northern Michigan, weather can be unpredictable. Myers reported that his ideal race day conditions include warm temperatures and a light wind. As it happens, Myers added, there are often heavy rains the night before the Challenge. However, the day of the event usually has beautiful weather (knock on wood!)

Myers discussed the future of the M22 Challenge. The race is capped at 900 competitors due to the limited size of the staging area — the picnic area on M-109, on the west side of Little Glen Lake. Every year it sells out within minutes. Myers has contemplated holding the race more than once a year or even having another event in a different location.

“If you join our Facebook group, though, you can usually find someone who needs to drop out for one reason or another,” Myers said. Race entries are transferable, so if someone can’t make it to the event, they can post in the group for someone else to take their spot. “There’s still hope.”

Jeff Smoke is the perennial favorite to win the M22 Challenge. As for who to keep your eyes on this year to seize the women’s trophy, Myers indicated Jamie Endicott of Traverse City and Keri Pawielski of St. Joseph — both close competitors who have each won the Challenge in the past.

“They’re both just the nicest girls and both are great athletes,” he explained before making his prediction. “I gotta go with Jamie, as she’s part of the M22 team.”

Although registration is closed, there are still other opportunities to involve yourself in this amazing event. “There’s no such thing as too many volunteers,” Myers said. Check out the event page at and register as a volunteer. Or just show up on race day and the crew will have something for you to do. Contact for more information on volunteering.

And of course, if you aren’t volunteering or racing, go watch. Spectators can make or break a race, and the energy of the spectators at the M22 Challenge is contagious. A shuttle will pick up spectators at the M22 Store in Glen Arbor and deliver them to the race sidelines and back. So go cheer on these awesome athletes in the most beautiful place in America. It promises to be an inspiring day.

Protecting the Great Lakes

Photo by Beth Price

The presenting sponsor for the ninth annual M22 Challenge is For the Love of Water (FLOW). the Traverse City-based nonprofit is dedicated to protecting, preserving and advocating for the Great Lakes. FLOW’s vision is to improve current laws and policies in order to better protect our water, which includes pressing the state of Michigan to decommission the Line 5 oil pipelines which run under the Straits of Mackinac. Keegan and Matt Myers’ M22 brand aspires to elevate northern Michigan and the Great Lakes, and celebrate the lifestyle that connects us all to this beautiful place. Keegan Myers said that FLOW and the M22 Challenge are both advocates for this area, creating a natural synergy between the two. Learn more about FLOW at

The Myers brothers and M22 also recently joined the Great Lakes Business Network — an effort by the Traverse City-based Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities, the National Wildlife Federation and the Michigan League of Conservation Voters to empower the private sector to amplify their concerns for the safety of the Great Lakes. (Full disclosure: Sun editor Jacob Wheeler is the Groundwork Center’s communications manager.) The Myers’ brothers environmental effort doesn’t stop there. On Earth Day this spring the M22 store in Traverse City donated all sales to the Leelanau Conservancy.