Great Race benefits Special Olympics

Over 200 participants arrived in downtown Rochester on Sunday for the first ever Great Michigan Race, in support of Special Olympics Michigan.

The event is fashioned after CBS’s Amazing Race, sending groups of four on a race around Rochester, completing various challenges along the way that tested their teamwork and sense of humor.

In order to participate, teams had to raise a minimum of $500 before October 15. Additionally fundraising provided rewards like a “fast pass” to skip a challenge along the route or 10 minutes deducted for your overall time.

If a team raised at least $10,000, they could be VIP guests at a Special Olympics Michigan winter or summer games. Despite the extra incentives, many racers were there to support the cause and have a good time, regardless of their finishing time.

“We just really wanted to help out and have fun,” Dave Thomas said, one of the racers. “We figured we would get the whole family together and come out and try to do it.”

Jennifer Rasel said her team really enjoyed the sense of adventure during the race.

“We just thought it was a great opportunity to do something outdoors for a great cause, the Special Olympics,” Rasel said.

The challenges teams faced put racers outside of their comfort zone and pushed their limits.

“The best part was all of the different activities and challenges, where you think, ‘there’s just no way I’ll be able to do this,’ and then you do,” Lisa Cummins said.

“We had to zip-line across one of the creeks, we had to shoot a hockey puck within a small opening in the net. We had to do some of the training at the fire station; we had to use the water hose to shoot down the cones and then switch the hoses” Cummings said.

Another challenge involved running up and down Main Street, decoding letters on the buildings until they formed a clue for their next destination.

In between each challenge, teams could be seen running through the streets of Rochester, trying to make it to the next checkpoint.

Thomas described the hardest part of the event as the distance they had to cover.

“Pain, pain and more pain. It was pretty long, but I think if you train correctly, it will be okay. Since we didn’t train, we felt the pain, so we paid for it,” he said.

An exact number for total funds raised by all the teams is not yet known, but Jill Fraeyman, cofounder and organizer of the race reported that they raised at least $20,000 and is satisfied with the outcome.

“For a first year event, it was awesome,” Fraeyman said. “Our registration system went smooth. Everyone seemed really happy. Racers were coming up to us after they finished saying it was a great event. I’m hoping that everybody comes back next year and tells their friends to come with them.”

For more information about the Great Michigan Race, visit their website at