Fitness events are becoming more and more popular in the Keweenaw, and as the community health coordinator at Portage Health, I couldn't be more pleased.
A prime example is the Canal Run, which was held this past weekend in Hancock with a record 551 participants.
I'd love to blame it on good organization, but the simple fact of it is, our community is yearning for stuff like this.
As little as five years ago we averaged only 150 people, then that number swelled to 283 in 2008, 329 in 2009, 520 last year and our impressive 551 this year.
It's a trend that has also been seen in other active events such as the Great Bear Chase (Nordic skiing), the Copperman Triathlon (coming Aug. 6) and the Breakers-to-Bay run.
It's a trend that our community should be very proud of, as it shows an interest in becoming healthier, and each event has a unique community-building atmosphere.
The health benefits are why our local hospitals are excited to jump on board and support these events. Participants aren't only doing a 5-mile run that day, but they're also training ahead of time.
Many Canal Run participants that I talked to Saturday said they've been gearing up for this event for months, increasing their walking and running so that they'd be ready for the big event.
It's also contagious. Who wants to come out on a Saturday morning and walk 10 miles alone? No one, so friends are recruited.
Suddenly, instead of one person participating in a healthy activity, it's two or three. It grows from there to the point where hundreds are at the starting line.
The events also offer participants a chance to monetarily give back to an organization. Many of these events support specific things, such as the Great Bear Chase, whose profits are donated to the trails association, or the upcoming Kuparisaari tri (Aug. 14), which will donate to local charities.
Even more important, though, is the sense of community it can bring when suddenly these towns are buzzing with activity, and not just any activity, but a healthy lifestyle activity.
To see that come true, just come watch the Great Deer Chase (a biking event) on Aug. 20 when downtown Calumet will suddenly seem like the city that was nearly the state's capital, or the Wild Goose Chase 5k run in Lake Linden, which will bring traffic in Lake Linden to near-Fourth of July levels.
These events and their popularity are a true testimony to our dedicated community and a big step toward Michigan solving its obesity problems.
Copperman triathlon -August 6
Kuparisaari tri - Aug. 14
Great Deer Chase (bike) -Aug. 20
Labor Day Bridge Walk - Sept. 5
Wild Goose Chase (run/walk) - Sept. 24
Editor's note: Angela Luskin is the community health coordinator for Portage Health.