Heritage Half-Marathon is big draw

ESCANABA – A larger than anticipated field of runners will be on hand Saturday for the first Delta County Heritage Half-Marathon.

The 13.1-mile race starts at Van Cleve Park in Gladstone at 7:30 a.m. and finishes at Ludington Park in Escanaba.

Entries, however, are closed as the inaugural event has reached the 300-runner limit.

“We originally got a group of runners together and discussed what we thought the race could do,” said race director Gina Zanon. “We didn’t think we’d draw more than 100. We felt if we could hit 300, it would be huge. We probably could have drawn 500. That’s not an exaggeration. We felt in the best interests of keeping it a quality event, we had to cut it off.”

There was also a waiting list of 25 as of Tuesday night, according to Zanon.

“I talked to a guy in Tennessee who told me he’s coming up here because he has a summer home in the area and enjoys coming up here,” she added.

Fifteen states will be represented, with runners coming from as far as California, Oregon, Arizona and Florida.

The race also appears to have a strong local base, including 75 from Escanaba.

“We also have quite a few coming from Gladstone and other parts of Delta County,” said Zanon.

Zanon expressed appreciation of the many local business which have sponsored the event.

“I cannot believe how great every person in Delta County has been,” she said. “The businesses have been great to work it. We couldn’t hold the race without them.”

One north/eastbound lane along M-35, U.S. 2 and 41 from Wells to Gladstone will be closed to ensure the safety of the runners.

“Getting the road permit (through the Michigan Department of Transportation) took a lot of time,” said Zanon. “But with help from the Delta County Road Commission, we have the road closure.”

Zanon came up with the idea two years ago and has since received plenty of help.

“I see Pat Johnson as a chiropractor and talked him into helping me out with it,” she said. “Then, we put a notice in the paper (Daily Press) and developed a facebook. We also got ideas from different runners. Jessica Kelly has definitely promoted this race and Brenda Lippens (manager of the Delta County Credit Union) has been on board since Day 1. I also worked with Bobbie Stacey on the (Bay de Noc) Home Run and learned a ton from her.

“Plus, I have some good helpers. Julie Moker has been an absolute lifesaver. She’s very organized and has helped out with traffic control. She and Sandy Keepers have done all the volunteer and participant bags.”

Plenty of aid stations will be available on the course and the USW has offered its union hall as a resting point and first-aid station.

“We feel pretty good about the number of aid stations we have,” said Zanon. “We’ll also have a doctor and first responders on the course, and the Hellcats (women’s bike group) will also be helping with the aid stations and traffic control.”

There will also be plenty of room for spectators along the course, but are asked to be mindful of where they park their vehicles.

Packet pick-up will take place Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Van Cleve Park, following the July 4 parade in Gladstone.

It will continue Friday from 7:30-10 p.m. in Ludington Park after the Sesquicentennial Parade in Escanaba and Saturday from 6-7 a.m. at Van Cleve Park.

Chip timing will be provided by Superior Timing of Marquette.

“We didn’t spare any expense,” said Zanon. “We wanted to create a race in which we didn’t have to worry about profit. We want runners to leave with the idea this was a great race.”