Falling in love with Michigan’s other International marathon was as easy as the sunrise sparkling over the Soo Locks. As the gun started this 26.2 mile road race and brought on the sunrise, the beginning strides were as crisp as the fall air which had just arrived in Michigan’s first city, Sault Saint Marie. This brisk air brought with it a splattering of deep colors to the local foliage that lined the open streets, dirt roads, and sidewalks of this 5-year old course that incorporated stretches along the river, tree-lined back neighborhoods, a charming downtown, open countryside, and the iconic Soo Locks. The huge, double-humped, International bridge which in the first four miles took competitors over the river to Canada and back, gave runners a constant sense of fellowship as upon the Canadian side turn-around, racers were greeted with a steady stream of waves, thumbs up, and words of encouragement from fellow runners. It was a unique way to connect with nearly everyone running the marathon and then of course getting a perspective of where one stood amongst the competition.
The men’s small-town race unfolded with big-time drama and excitement. Kyle Kiel and Frank Magyar took an early lead and while they were talking running and sharing past race stories at the start, they still eyed each other competitively. The two men stayed close to one another opening up a size-able lead on the rest of the field in the first 10k. Unfortunately, they stayed together through a wrong turn along one of the tree-lined, back dirt roads. However idyllic this race morning was, this wrong turn opened the door for would be winner, Hank Risely, to run his race to crossing the finish line as the over-all male winner with a finish time of, 2:50:11.
When he was made aware that he was in the lead, he knew he still had his work cut out for him. The men who would come in as runners up, were digging deep to make up their extra steps and he had to step just as quickly to keep his place. Knowing that the men’s division had strong runners like Kyle Kiel, Frank Magyar, and Detroit boys Rob Slater and Don Kinsley (4th and 5th respectively), chasing him, kept Hank from letting up. Risely ran a remarkably steady race with nearly perfect 1:25 splits. This ultimately created too much distance for any of the chase pack to make up, allowing him to break the tape first over-all.
The over-all winning woman faced her own challenges as she broke the tape nearly a half hour in front of the next female runner. Running a marathon alone brings with it, it’s own challenges and Tulley was grateful for a pair of old school Detroit friends who traveled with her for the chance to experience the change of season in the UP and the non-closed course. Long time friends, Jeannette Jerore and Dawn Zachariah (who also traveled with Tulley to the 2014 Boston, Marathon) were amazed by the difference in the race-chase experience between the stifling masses lining the Boston route and the open and drivable streets of Sault Saint Marie that allowed them to chase and find Tulley at multiple mile-marks. The day didn’t bring for Tulley her marathon goal time, but it did award her with a chance to call home to her six-year-old daughter and happily share with her, that her Mama had won a marathon; something that Tulley doesn’t take lightly. It’s an accomplishment to cherish and shoes worth saving.
The stories behind the many months of training for anyone that toes a line for a marathon usually bring up strong emotions. This marathon may have been small, but the reasons for running were no less enormous than the most corralled races. Lucie Gingras ran for her father that had passed, taking nearly six hours to cross the line. Every step of her six hours embraced as she traveled towards the goal that her father would have been so proud to see her accomplish. Waiting for Lucie was made no less powerful as her boyfriend, for every minute she was running, waited patiently for her at the finish line while holding a bouquet of roses. Watching her cross the line with a picture of her father taped to her shoulder, receiving her bouquet, made everyone in the crowd bloom. A pregnant woman ran for her child yet unborn. Through her own journey to stay healthy through her pregnancy she was hoping to pass this health on to her child. A mother and son brightly smiled and gave thumbs up to everyone they passed along the bright and sunny course as they ran jovially together Bridge Run event that day. A father ran for his family whose kids along the route, held a hand made sign that read, “My Daddy’s faster than your Daddy.” And countless fans, like third woman over-all, Kimberly Murphy’s son, took advantage of the final open road and straight away to cheer and run their racers in to crossing the Everal Race Management finish mat. Sault Saint Marie International Marathon Race Director, Stephanie Kisner, who along with 150+ local volunteers finds that, “The reasons people run and watching them finish is the absolute highlight of the race. The marathoner’s stories never cease to amaze me and strike that emotional cord with every one of them.”