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Chicago man running 1,100 miles around Lake Michigan

Posted at 5:59 PM, Mar 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-18 18:59:34-04

GRAFTON — On a cold and blustery Thursday, if you were lucky enough to drive down Lakeshore Road in Grafton, you would see a 26-year-old bundled up on the trek of a lifetime.

Lee Thornquist is running around Lake Michigan to raise money for the Alzheimer's Association. It will take him 36 days, and he doesn't plan on having any rest days.

"I’m running 1,100 miles about probably a little bit more. All in all, it will average to be just under 31 miles a day," Thornquist said.

He describes himself as an adventurer and ultra runner, which is running a race longer than a marathon. While many like to run in the park or their neighborhood, he got the idea to run around the lake because he wanted to challenge himself.

Lee Thornquist Walking
Lee Thornquist walks along Lakeshore Road in Grafton as he makes his way around Lake Michigan.

"I was super intrigued by people who have done just giant runs like running across America in 75 days and doing 40 plus miles every day. And, you know, previously I just thought that was absolutely impossible especially for myself, but seeing people do it I thought maybe this is possible," he said.

He has run long distances before, but never anything like this trek around Lake Michigan.

Once he decided to do this, he realized it would be the perfect tribute to his grandma. She died in September 2020 after a 13 year battle with Alzheimer's.

"I think she'd call me crazy a little bit, for sure. But she'd be proud that I'm doing something to try and raise money and help some other people."

Lee started with a $5,000 goal. So far, he has raised more than $28,000 and is thinking his new goal will be around $50,000.

While on his run he is accompanied by his friend Riley. (Actually, Riley and Lee had never met before this trip. Riley is a friend of a friend). Lee needed a team to complete this. Riley is part documentary filmmaker and part driver. He is behind the wheel of the RV that he and Lee sleep in every night.

"I’ve got three drivers cycling out throughout the run," Lee said, since not everyone can commit to the same month-long journey.

The RV also comes in handy when he needs a break. As of Thursday, when Lee was in Grafton, his ankle was pretty swollen. He can't stop because there is a strict time frame, so he does a mix of walking and running. He goes to the RV when he needs to get off his feet.

The early injury and other unforeseen obstacles have taught Lee to be flexible.

"Each day is, I thought is going to go one way and it just totally, it goes a different way. So I've kind of learned to kind of let go of any expectations and just take the day is it comes."

Running Lake Michigan Route
This is the route that Lee plans to take on journey around the lake.

What happens after all this is done?

Lee goes back to work. He took off five weeks to make this journey.

But also, and just as important, "probably have some beers and relax and take some time off of running and just enjoy myself."

You can follow his run and donate to his mission by going to the Running Lake Michigan website.

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