HANCOCK - In the 39 years of its existence, the Canal Run has grown from a mostly local event to a series of races with regional interest.
The Canal Run races take place July 19 this year.
Angela Luskin, community health coordinator with Canal Run organizer Portage Health, said now, besides the 10-mile run, other races include a 10-mile walk, a 5-mile run/walk and a half marathon.
Luskin said in 1975, WMPL radio employee and avid runner, Bob Olson, started the race.
"It started with the 10-mile run," she said.
Eventually, Luskin said Olson partnered with D&N Bank employee Ken Seaton, which led to a long-term sponsorship of the race by the bank.
In 2007, Portage Health took over the organizing of the race, Luskin said. Portage Health, Finlandia University and First Merit Bank are now the main sponsors of the Canal Run.
Since 2007, participation in the race has grown, Luskin said, particularly over the past five years.
"We have had tremendous growth," she said. "From 2008 to 2013, we've exceeded every year."
In 2008, Luskin said there were 262 participants in the Canal Run, and there were 802 participants in 2013.
"What's really neat about this race is we have 72 percent of the participants that are local, which is incredible," she said.
Luskin said other states participants have come from include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wisconsin, among others.
"Almost all of the states are covered," she said. "(Participants) plan their vacation around the canal run."
The Canal Run is a draw on its own for some participants, Luskin said.
"Some people do come just for the canal run," she said. "We get a lot of people from Marquette that do that. Since we added that half marathon, that has been a greater appeal for people that come from further distances."
The 10-mile run is the signature race for the event, Luskin said. The other races have been added over the years.
The start locations for the various races start in different locations, but all travel on M-203 towards Hancock, Luskin said. The half marathon starts at 7:30 a.m. at Koskela Road 3 miles past McLain State Park. The 10-mile race starts at 8 a.m. McLain State Park, the 5-mile run starts at 8:50 a.m. at the top of High Point Road northwest of Hancock, the 10-mile walk starts at 7:15 a.m. at McLain State Park, the 5-mile walk starts at 8:55 a.m. at the top of High Point Road, the Kids Dash starts at 10 a.m. at the Krist convenience store at the intersection of Quincy and Hancock streets.
There are age restrictions for some of the races, Luskin said: For the half marathon, participants must be at least 16 years old; for the 10-mile run, minimum age is 13; for the 5-mile run, children under 10 years old must be accompanied by an adult.
There is a difference this year for the awards presentations, also, Luskin said.
"We actually created lower age categories this year for the awards because of the large amount of youth (participation)," she said.
There will be aid stations along the race route for participants, Luskin said. Police, athletic trainers and medical personnel will also patrol watching for participants who might be in trouble.
Vehicles will still be allowed on M-203 during the race, but Luskin said most local people know about the race, so traffic is usually light on race day. However, Quincy Street in Hancock will be closed from Ravine Street to the point where Quincy and Hancock streets meet at Krist convenience store. The races end at the Finlandia University's Quincy Green.
From 8:15 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., there will be two-way traffic on Hancock Street, Luskin said.
"We want to let the community know to expect some delays because of that closure (of Quincy Street)," she said.
Another change this year, Luskin said, involves the digital timing chips the participants wear. Rather than wearing them on straps on their ankles, now the chips are attached to the number bibs.
As of July 2, Luskin said about 450 people have registered to take part in the Canal Run, which is about half of the total organizers are hoping for.
"We're thinking around 900," she said.
On July 2, 2013, Luskin said 377 people were registered for the Canal Run. Registration can be done online at hancockcanalrun.com. Registration forms can be picked up at the Portage Health Fitness Center on Razorback Drive. To receive a brochure about the event, call 483-1153.
The Canal Run is not for profit, Luskin said.
"Any profits that we do make, we generate back to the community," she said. "Any non-profit organizations can apply for for that donation. So far, we've given $4,500 back to our community."
Luskin said her time working on the Canal Run is donated by Portage Health. There are also eight other people on the event committee, and they are also volunteers.
The Canal Run gets good community support, so Luskin said Portage Health officials are committed to being heavily involved with it.
"We plan to continue this event," she said.