The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Runners brave heat for inaugural race


Richard Jenkins/Daily Globe

RUNNERS LEAVE the starting line at Depot Park in Ironwood Saturday during the inaugural Bridges and Bluffs Half-Marathon.


Ironwood - With the sounds of the "Chariots of Fire" theme playing in the background, participants completed the inaugural Bridges and Bluffs half-marathon and two-mile runs Saturday at Ironwood's Depot Park.

At least 226 runners braved a heat index in the 90s to participate in the event - with roughly 104 runners completing the half-marathon. Another 44 completed the course as part of a relay team and 78 competitors ran the two-mile race.

Even with the heat, race director Phil Strong was pleased with the turnout.

"I'm blown away by how the community came together - not just to come out and register for the race, but the volunteers that came out to help out with the race last night and today and all the other activities that got attached to the race," Strong said. "It started out as a running race and the Ironwood Cross Country team had a fundraiser at Cold Iron Brewing last night and they had an excellent turnout ... Cold Iron Brewing had the race registration and the pasta feed last night ... the farmers market group is having a brat feed cookout this afternoon."

The half-marathon's 13.1-mile course began in Depot Park and followed the Iron Belle Trail through Ironwood to Bessemer and the city's Ethnic Commons and then back to Depot Park.

Larry Lapachine was the half-marathon's overall winner, with a time of 1:27:47, with Andy Warren taking second with a time of 1:29:05 and Edward Martin rounding out the top three with a time of 1:33:29. Team Radical Runners won the relay with a time of 1:29:22. Uriah Aili, Tim Rowe and Cade Mazzon were the top finishers of the two-mile run with times of 11:12, 11:14 and 11: 18 respectively.

Strong said he first heard of the idea for the half-marathon last summer as work was being completed to extend the trail to Bessemer.

"The thought was, 'Hey, once this trail gets built to Bessemer, we should have a race on it as a fundraiser for the trail authority.' So that's where the idea got spawned," Strong said, with the race committee really starting to organize the event last November.

Strong said, given the success of the first year, the race will definitely become an annual event on the Gogebic Range.

Holding the race Saturday was fortuitous, according to Strong, as the Michigan's Department of Natural Resources' Michigan Trails Week started Saturday and runs through Sept. 30.

"With this being on a DNR trail, it was a really good tie-in," Strong said.

As the Iron Belle Trail was constructed on a former rail grade, Strong said participants got to run on a fairly flat course.

"It's a gradual downhill to Bessemer and gradual uphill coming back," Strong said.

It's fitting the community came together to make the race a success, according to Strong, as the trail is ultimately about community.

"This whole trail links communities," he said. "What we have right now is linking Ironwood to Bessemer. The future (plan is to) link up Ramsay, Wakefield in Michigan and link up Hurley and Montreal in Wisconsin. (The trail) ties people together."

Full results from the event are available through the Bridges and Bluffs' Facebook page.


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