Experience the M22 Challenge

Photo: Brady McDonough

On June 10th, 2023, 900 racers from around the country met in the heart of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore to compete in the ultimate test of athleticism and determination. The M22 Challenge, an event known for its grueling course through breathtaking surroundings, once again pushed participants to their limit while showcasing the incredible synergy between human endurance and the beauty of northern Michigan.

Seasoned participants and first-timers alike began the race on foot for the infamous “Dune Climb," a 2 mile sprint up and down the face of a steep sand dune.

After completing the running segment, racers bike 17 miles up Inspiration Point and around both Big Glen and Little Glen Lake on one of northern Michigan’s most scenic bike routes.

To finish the race, athletes complete a 2.5 mile paddle on Little Glen by choice of either kayak, SUP, or supski. For many racers, the paddle challenge is the make or break for winning, as many underestimate the lake’s rough waters.

Photo: Reece LaPerriere

Mandy Paull, 25, of Cheboygan, MI, placed first overall in the women’s group with an overall time of 1:29:25. Ryan DeCook, 42, of Washington, MI, placed first overall in the men’s. Finishing at an impressive time of 1:16:47, this was DeCook’s 6th time competing in the Challenge and 4th time taking home first place.

Photo: Tyler Leipprandt Racer: Ryan DeCook

“I mentally prepare myself that today is going to hurt,” DeCook joked when asked how he psychs himself up for the big day. “The race can be challenging but it’s a fun day, and that’s really what it’s meant to be. There are a lot of great people here and the environment, the course, this part of Michigan—it’s one of the most beautiful places you could think of.”


Photos: Nic Sagodic

For first time competitor Emma Rady, 27, of Leland, MI, finishing the race symbolized so much more than receiving a medal. Placing 2nd in her division, Rady says she signed up after recovering from a life threatening accident.

“I feel very blessed to do something like this and have done so well. I figured, what a way to celebrate being alive and what I’m capable of,” Rady said. “My favorite part was the entire bike portion, it’s gorgeous and to ride with so many people was so much fun. When we hit Inspiration Point, everyone was cheering each other on. It was great.”

Energy and spirits were high as the race concluded, with hundreds of racers and volunteers coming together to celebrate another successful M22 Challenge. The day could not be made possible without the help of its incredible volunteers, who dedicate their time and energy to ensuring the race runs smoothly and remains a zero-waste event. Until next year, M22 fam.

Photo: Tyler Leipprandt

About the M22 Challenge and M22:

The M22 Challenge is a multi-discipline event based in beautiful Leelanau County in the heart of northern Michigan, designed to challenge athletes against the natural terrain and elements of the area.

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