48th Annual Canal Run: A great day for a run
800 participate in Hancock event
By Eddie O’Neill
HANCOCK – They came from as far as southern India and as close as Hancock. They were as young as four and as old as retirement age and beyond. However, they all had one thing in common – a smile and a sense of accomplishment after completing the 48th annual Canal Run on Saturday morning in Hancock.
Close to 800 runners registered to run in the various races which included a half marathon, a 10-mile run and a five-mile run or walk among other events which all started north of Hancock near McLain State Park.
Nik Thomas, a student-athlete at Michigan Tech, was the overall winner of the half marathon with a time of 1:13:04. Francis Prins, of Houghton, was the first woman runner to cross the finish line with a time of 1:31:52.
Both first-place finishers noted that the weather was a key factor in their successful runs.
“The cool temps (mid 60s) were great,” said Thomas after crossing the finish line. “I ran this a couple of years ago but took last year off due to an injury. I was happy with my time today as I set a personal best.”
This was Prins second year in a row at the Canal’s half-marathon, and she too set a personal best.
“I was about eight minutes faster than last year,” she said with a smile. “I credit my training and diet as keys to a good run.”
While Prins and Thomas were the winners for their respective genders of the half-marathon run, they were not the first racers to cross the finish line. Wheelchair racer Dean Juntunen, of Mass City, claimed that honor this year, as he has done in the past. He, too, set a personal best thanks to a brand-new, hand-peddle bike. He arrived at the finish line at 50:50.
“This new bike is great. It is fast on the excellent pavement,” he explained. “The temperature was comfortable the whole way down. There was no wind. I think I bettered my time by eight minutes from last year.”
Juntunen added that this was the 29th or 30th Canal Run he had raced in, and while he is usually the only wheelchair athlete participating in this summertime tradition, this year he had a partner on wheels.
Jen Shaud, of Houghton, spun her way across the finish line at 1:15:20 and credits Juntunen as her inspiration for getting involved this year as an adaptive athlete.
“Dean is a true inspiration,” she said. “I thought why not give this a try. I started training in late May. I was either cycling or swimming to get ready for this, and it all paid off. It felt great, and I will definitely be back next year.”
Canal Run organizer Angela Luskin said that not only did this year’s number of registered runners (800) exceed last years, but just about every volunteer spot for the race was covered by a team of about 150 people.
“We also have more sponsors than ever before,” she explained. “It just goes to show what a great community this is. We have people who are dedicated to this year in and year out, and it makes this a well-oiled machine.”
She added that proceeds from this year’s race will go to 31 Backpacks – an area nonprofit that provides necessities to more than 2,000 at-risk Copper Country children weekly.
Among the volunteers were Kelly Weiss and Dawn Tack, who were handing out medals to individual age-group winners. While this was Weiss’s second year helping, Tack was quick to point out that she was just a couple of hours in as a volunteer.
“I love it,” said Tack. “It’s been a lot of fun, and I’m hooked. I’ll be back for certain.”