HANCOCK – When he and his family were the only volunteers for an race they firmly believed in, Bob Olson could not have imagined that 41 years later, the Hancock Canal Run would become the experience it now is. From its humble beginnings as a single race to a five-race event, the Hancock Canal Run celebrated its 41st running on Saturday.
Olson was on hand to see Houghton’s Stephen Eles, who won last year’s race, finish as the top competitor again, winning the half marathon with a time (1 hour, 14 minutes, 35.9 seconds) more than nine minutes faster than the nearest opponent.
With temperatures in the high 50s at the time, Eles, along with many other racers, was pleased with the conditions.
“It was great,” said Eles. “When I was running along the canal, the water was just flat like glass. This year was perfect.”
An experienced marathoner, having run the New York and Boston marathons, Eles loves the Canal Run in part because of its simplicity.
“I live right in Houghton,” said Eles. “I didn’t even drive over, I biked to catch the shuttle to the start. A 10-minute bike ride is fantastic when compared to one of the bigger races. I ran the New York City Marathon in November and it took longer to get to the starting line than it did to run the race.”
Clarkson’s Mike Molony placed second with a time of 1:23:42.6. Houghton’s Jacob Colling placed third and was the top competitor among those in the 16-19 age group.
On the women’s side, Hancock native Kate McCloud started out a little slow, but caught the leaders around the midpoint in the race. Taking over from there, she did not look back, placing a winning time of 1:30:08.4.
Her strategy of keeping the lead pack in sight paid dividends.
“Actually there were a couple of girls who took off hard,” said McCloud. “I had a goal to catch the lead girl around mile five or six. There were some guys who had really good pace. [It was] motivational to keep up with them.”
Another experienced runner, McCloud enjoys having a race like the Canal Run almost right outside her door.
“It was nice,” said McCloud. “I got up about a half an hour before the bus and ran down the hill and caught it. It brought us right out there, no hassle, no mess. I got to sleep in.”
Gwendolyn Grabig of Laurium placed second with a time of 1:33:57.0. Marquette’s Dawn Lundin and Hancock’s Amy Aldrich took third and fourth, respectively.
Ryan Normand of Tempe, Arizona, won the 10-mile run, finishing just three minutes ahead of former winner Jonathan Kilpela, who placed third. Normand, who completed the course in 53:56.9, competes during the school year for Arizona State University, but prefers to spend his summers in the local area.
“I am used to being up here in the summers,” said Normand. “I am just so fortunate because it is real hot down there.”
Hancock’s Jake Isaacson placed second with a time of 55:02.6.
In the women’s race, Houghton’s Jennifer Dannenbring took the top spot with a time of 1:10:11.1. She was followed closely by Hancock’s Christy Hoppe, who finished 2:19.6 after her.
In the five-mile run, Mark Hallman of Amasa was the top finisher with a time of 28:22.6, edging out Oshkosh’s Corey Zeutzius, who was just under 31 seconds later.
Recent Chassell graduate Shitaye Sam was the top female racer with a time of 33:58.2 in what proved to be a very tight race. Hancock’s Shelly Galliah, Concord’s Samantha Saenz, and Houghton’s Anabel Needham all finished within two minutes of Sam.
Mass City’s Dean Juntunen was the lone competitor in the half marathon wheelchair competition, but that did not stop him from enjoying the course as he pushed himself to finish strong with a time of 55:17.5.
“This is my all-time favorite course,” said Juntunen. “I think I’ve done this 14 years now. Going along the canal, it has nice little gradual hills and the on the curves, it is just the prettiest thing. [There is] no course better than this one.”
Hubbell’s Karen Ham was the top overall finisher in the 10-mile walk thanks to a time of 1:14:46.0. Chris Sochay of Calumet was the top male with a time of 1:51:36.1.
In the five-mile walk, Amy Hughes of Hancock placed first with a time of 1:00:43.3. She edged out Bronwyn Nettell of Atlantic Mine, who was just 1:00.6 behind her. Laurium’s Heidi Helminen was just 2.1 seconds behind Nettell.
Hancock’s Mike Lahti was the top male competitor with a time of 1:02:28.5.