Canal Running fever

HANCOCK – With each passing year, the Canal Run keeps growing in popularity and support.

And for the 2013 edition, length as well.

With a record 802 runners for the 2013 Canal Run Saturday in Hancock, 125 participated in the first half-marathon, with the rest of the runners divided between a 5-mile and the signature 10-mile run.

With the addition of the half-marathon, the 802 participants surged over the 642-runner record set at last year’s race. In fact, the Canal Run has now set a participation record five years in a row as the race continues to gain in popularity across the U.P.

“I don’t think it could have turned out any better,” race director Angela Luskin said. “Growing a race by 150 people will always bring challenges of course, but I think we did a good job preparing and planning and everything went smoothly. There wasn’t much congestion issues and everyone was where they needed to be at the start. From what I could tell the majority of the racers were very pleased with the event.”

None more so than competitive marathon runner Tracey Lokken, a native of Marquette.

Lokken – who placed 31st overall at the Boston Marathon in April – took home the inaugural half-marathon title with a scintillating 1 hour, 11 minutes and 44 second finish (less than a 5:30 mile pace), defeating runner-up Evan Richardson by over 11 minutes. Andrew Lund of Calumet took third as the top local male finisher.

For the women’s division, Amy Aldrich (Hancock) cruised to the title with a 1 hour, 32 minute race along the canal, finishing to a wealth of applause outside FirstMerit Bank in downtown Hancock.

“It is a really nice course,” Lokken said. “I have run the 10-miler before, and it is kind of rolling, kind of up hill, down hill like that. Just a course with a lot of beauty and a really nice course to run.”

“This has always been a great event. And adding the half (marathon) just made it even better.”

Lokken said the half-marathon fit smoothly into his training schedule for the next Boston Marathon, but likely would have competed even if it hadn’t to support the U.P. racing community.

The 47-year-old separated himself from the field early, running solo by the time he hit McLain State Park at the three-mile mark.

“I said ‘I got to get home,'” Lokken joked. “So I went pretty quickly. But everybody was out there having a good time at all levels and that’s what a race like this is all about.”

For the 10-mile run, Amy Janeshek (Hancock) fended off the women’s field to win for the sixth year in a row, with a 1 hour and five minute time. Jonathan Kilpela (Atlantic Mine) repeated as a winner as well, with a 53-minute, 50-second victory.

In the five-mile, Marissa Yovetich (Houghton) won the women’s short course at just under 34 minutes and Tim Dunstan (Dollar Bar) took the title for the men.

“I am so happy and pleased with how it went,” Luskin said. “It took an army of people to pull this off, we had over 150 volunteers and it really shows what a great community we have.”

As for the half-marathon, expect to see the 13.1 mile race in 2014 and beyond.

“We were looking at ways to grow as a race, and we thought a half (marathon) would help bring in runners from Marquette, the Green Bay area and the rest of the U.P.,” Luskin said. “It was very successful. … But of course we are going to keep looking at the feedback from all the runners and keep trying to make the race better.”