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Dr. Jake Flynn: Running Races and Runny Noses

Dr. Jake Flynn at Crystal Lake Clinic. Photo by Aubrey Ann Parker.

Questions & Answers with community faces

Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, 33-year-old Jake Flynn can be found at the Crystal Lake Clinic in Interlochen treating everyone from newborns to centenarians, everything from snotty noses to heart conditions. Flynn, born and raised in Benzie County, went away to get an education and then returned to practice family medicine in the small community that feels more like home to him than any of the exotic places where he studied. Though Flynn attended the Ross School of Medicine in the Caribbean and followed up with rotations in cities as diverse as Miami and Manhattan, he feels fortunate to have returned to his roots.

If you follow running at all, his name might sound familiar. A 2000 graduate from Benzie Central High School, Flynn was the cross country state champion for 1997, 1998, and 1999, as well as Mr. Michigan Cross Country in 1999. He still holds the Class C state record for five kilometers at 15 minutes and 12 seconds. Not only that, but he excelled at track, too: Flynn was state champion in the two-mile in 1999, and he still holds the school record of 4:14 for the mile. At Central Michigan University—where he studied exercise physiology—Flynn was named All American and Academic All American as the 23rd fastest in the nation. He has run seven marathons, including Boston, and thousands of races, including one of his favorites, the Firecracker 5k, which is held in Beulah every year on the morning of the Fourth of July.

Starting in 1995, the summer before he was to enter 8th grade, Flynn ran the Firecracker 5k for the first time. Since then, he has run it 19 out of the last 21 years, missing only once while he was away in medical school and once for injury.

Continuing with our interview series on impactful Benzie County characters, The Betsie Current caught up with Flynn—who celebrated one year at Crystal Lake Clinic on July 1—between patients.

The Betsie Current: When and why did you move back to Northern Michigan?

Flynn: Like so many locals, when I graduated from high school, I left and said that I was never coming back. I have lived and worked in hospitals all over the country, and I’ve seen so many beautiful places and met so many amazing people. However, at the end of my education, I took an audition rotation with Munson [in Traverse City] and was so impressed with the Northern Michigan way of life; kind, polite, laid-back people who would hold doors for people and say, “Good morning,” to strangers. That—coupled with family-like staff at Munson—let me know that I had found my place in the world. Here, I have all that I need in life for good running, plus the people I love and beautiful things to see: I prefer sunsets on Lake Michigan to mountains, so this is where I chose to be.

Current: When did you start working in Benzie County?

Flynn: In the final year of my contract with Munson, the Crystal Lake Clinic contacted me, as one of their providers would be leaving the following summer [which was last year]. These were my family doctors growing up and some of the smartest people that I had looked up to as a child who were asking me if I wanted to be part of their team: guys like Geoff Turner, Rick Neilson, and George Ryckman, who I knew well and respected, so I was very interested. I entertained other offers and opportunities to continue to travel around the country and practice medicine, but—at the end of the day—this is the area I want to be, with the people I love. So I signed.

Current: About how many patients do you see per week? What are you treating? Are you taking new patients?

Flynn: I see about 90 patients every week. Everything from viral colds to managing myocardial infarction. The average age of the patients I see if probably 55, and I see an equal amount of men and women. We have a pediatrician in the office, so—although I’m able to see pediatric patients—he takes most of them, and I handle most of the chronic care, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, COPD, and yearly physicals, etc. Yes, I am accepting new patients; I’m happy to see anyone. I do occasionally pick up shifts at the Paul Oliver Emergency Room in Frankfort, too.

Current: How have you seen your work grow and change since you started at Crystal Lake Clinic a year ago? And how do you hope it will continue to grow and change?

Flynn: I love my job—so much so that I bought in as partner. I’m committed here for life. It’s so much more fun to go to work now that I’m establishing relationships with my patients. When you know and truly care about the people you are seeing, it drives you to go the extra mile to give them the best care possible.

Current: With the busy life of a doctor, you still somehow manage to squeeze in daily workouts—how many miles do you run in a typical week?

Flynn: In college, I would run 90-100 miles per week. But these days I’m satisfied if I’m getting 30-40 miles per week. Shoes last longer now.

Current: You’ve run the Beulah Firecracker 5k many, many times. How many times have you won it? How do you expect to do this year?

Flynn: I don’t know how many years I’ve won it, but I think only nine or 10 times. I haven’t won in recent years, because there are so many talented runners produced by Benzie Central [High School] these days.

Current: How have you seen the Firecracker 5k change since you began running it more than two decades ago?

Flynn: The Firecracker is getting so popular, and it deserves to be. It’s a beautiful course that starts and ends at Crystal Lake. It was created by the living legend Coach [Pete] Moss. I personally remember the year that we first broke 100 runners! Timed with a stopwatch and 100 popsicle sticks, marked 1-100 to keep track of your finish. Drop your stick with your name on it into the coffee can with your age group and wait for them to be tallied—by hand! They had it down to a science, so results could be ready in as little as two to three hours, haha. Now, things are electronically timed with your own personal chip timer in your race bib and results are instantaneous, flawless, and posted online and to social media before you can even jump in the lake to cool off. Pretty amazing progress, I’d say. [Editor’s Note: Last year, the Firecracker had more than 600 runners participating.]

Current: What do you like best about the Firecracker 5k?

Flynn: My favorite thing about the Firecracker is Coach Moss. He’s the reason I train so hard for that race every year. He coached me and taught me how to be successful, and I always want to win for him. He taught me how to be successful in running, but it carried over to all things in life beautifully. Things like, “Don’t stop until you’ve crossed the finish line,” “Never look back; don’t worry about what’s behind you; focus on the race in front of you,” and “It doesn’t matter if you’re face down, in the mud, with a broken leg—you stand up, clean yourself off, and finish with a Benzie sprint, every time.” All of these lessons have resounded in my head throughout college and medical school.

Current: How have you seen Benzie County change since you moved away and came back? What are your hopes for the area in the future?

Flynn: I love the way Frankfort has continued to grow. Such a beautiful downtown. And I love what they’ve done with the public beach at Crystal Lake, and I’m interested to see what they’ll do next. It’s also exciting to see new development in Elberta.

Current: What else does Benzie County need?

Flynn: Beulah needs something to draw more traffic—I vote for a brewery! It’s such an amazing location, and Crystal Lake is the most beautiful inland lake. It has so much appeal, I think; it’s the right attraction to go along with the Hungry Tummy and the Cherry Hut.

Current: What are your favorite local events and activities? Any favorite dining, recreation, hiking spots?

Flynn: I do admit that I love Cherry Festival. Fourth of July fireworks in Frankfort. Favorite local dining has got to be The Fusion; a beer at Stormcloud; movies at The Garden. Recreation would be hiking at Pyramid Point and watching sunsets over Lake Michigan. Perfect.

Current: What’s your perfect summer day look like in Benzie County? How would you spend it?

Flynn: Wake up with some French press coffee on the dock with the dogs. 10-mile run around Crystal Lake. Golf with my dad. Sushi at Fusion. Bonfire on Lake Michigan with the people I love. Sunset. Wait for the stars to come out.

Interested in running the Firecracker 5k in Beulah at 8 a.m. on the Fourth of July? Show up at the pavilion in Beulah on July 3 from 5-7 p.m. with $20 to pre-register; day-of registration is $25 and begins at 6:45 a.m. on July 4 at the pavilion. Cost includes a T-shirt for the first 450 registrants.

Want to schedule an appointment with Dr. Jake Flynn at the Interlochen office of Crystal Lake Clinic? Call 231-275-7965, or check out www.CrystalLakeClinic.com to make an appointment with another healthcare provider at one of their other offices in Frankfort or Benzonia.

Feature photo: Dr. Jake Flynn at Crystal Lake Clinic. Photo by Aubrey Ann Parker.

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