New name, same great experience: Bridgefest 5K gets new name, new route

Photo provided by Brockit Photography Tim Viola (103) and his family participate with several others as part of last year’s Bridgefest 5K. This year, the race has been renamed for Thatcher Markham, and looks to be a bigger event for all to enjoy.

HOUGHTON — One year after the devastating Father’s Day flood wreaked havoc on the Copper Country, organizers of the Bridgefest 5K decided to rename the run in honor on the young man who lost his life that night.

Race director Ryan Towles got the idea to set up a race attached to Bridgefest weekend over a year ago, with last year being the first running of the event.

“It’s something that I had an idea about to put a 5K in front of the Bridgefest parade, but when I got involved with the Bridgefest committee, we had construction projects between Houghton and Hancock that didn’t allow us to do the regular parade route.

“Last year was the first year we were back to the regular parade route.”

Towles felt renaming the race the Thatcher Markham Memorial Run 5K was just the right thing to do.

“With what happened last year, I thought it was a good idea to reach out to the Markham family and see if they might want to create this marmoral (as) something that we’d do every year,” said Towles. “It would sort of coincide with the anniversary of what happened.”

Towles is excited that this year’s race should be what he has envisioned it to be, a melding of runners from all over and local businesses benefitting from participating.

“Everything is going great. We’re all set to be in front of the parade as usual,” said Towles. “We’ve got our timers, we’ve got shirts and awards all in process with local vendors, so everything is going really well.”

The race saw just over 100 participants last year, but is projected to grow this year. Funds from the event will be donated 31 Backpacks, a program that helps provide food for youth in the area.

“Last year we ended up (with) 107 total people on the day of the event,” Towles said. “Right now, two weeks out, we’re at 107 (participants) right now, so we’re going to be a lot bigger than last year.

“I think there are several benefits of it becoming a bigger event. First and foremost, we benefit, (but so does 31 Backpacks,) which is a local charity. The bigger the event, the more money we can donate. It’s (also) a great honor and remembrance for Thatcher Markham.

Having the race coincide with the parade makes it more fun for everyone involved.

“It’s very visible because everyone who’s there to see the parade is going to see the run go and understand what’s going on there, so that’s good,” said Towles. “Also, I think it’s good because it promotes wellness and an active lifestyle.”

Nice weather during the summer months proves to be the time for many local runs in the area, but Towles sees the Thatcher Markham Memorial Run as something unique.

“There are a fair amount of runs up here, and that’s good,” he said. “There’s a lot of people that participate in those, but this is going to be very visible in that we’ll have thousands of people in both downtown Hancock and Houghton to see this go by.

“I think that brings everyone together (so) everyone can support each other and just gives us another event to have a lot of pride in.”

With the growth of any event comes the need for more sponsorships. Aspirus Kewanaw is the event’s main sponsor, but many local business came together to help make the race run smoothly.

“For the event itself, we’re going to have Superior Timing this year, that’s probably going to be the biggest difference,” Towles said. “We’re big enough now that we can afford (them), between the size of the event and the amount of sponsors that we brought in.”

Runners interested in the race can still sign up at a cost of $25 per person.

“As far as people who have never done it,” said Towles, “running in front of a crowd is a really cool experience. I kind of did this after (experiencing) the Detroit Thanksgiving Day Parade. (They) have a really big 10K (Race) in front of it. That’s what really gave me the idea to do this.

“Having run that many times, there’s just a thrill to having people there where you’re doing one of these events. We’ll have a huge crowd and it’ll be a lot of fun. It’s going to be a fast course. Weather you want to run or walk, both are acceptable.”

Registration for the event will be open until 4 p.m. on race day.

“It’s going to be a great event,” he said. “It’s be a great way to remember Thatcher (while) benefiting a great cause. It’s going to be a lot of fun, (so) there are a lot of good reasons to get involved with it.”