Heritage Half Marathon: Esky’s DeLong is slow to sign up, fast to finish

ESCANABA – Twenty-four hours prior to the first Delta County Heritage Half-Marathon, Dan DeLong wasn’t sure he’d able to enter.

Everything worked out for Escanaba High School’s girls’ track coach on Saturday, however, despite entries being officially closed earlier in the week.

“I’m a last-minute guy,” said DeLong, who won the 12.7-mile race in one hour, 21.54 minutes. “I wanted to enter, but saw in the paper (Wednesday’s Daily Press) the field was filled. Then, I contacted a lady (Hannah Manier) on facebook who was selling her number. I paid her the same amount she paid for it ($70), and here I am.”

The race was intended to be 13.1 miles. But several runners commented the course was nearly a half-mile short.

Ken Martin of Tampa, Fla., who led until the final two miles, was runner-up (1:26:20), with Gabrielle McCullough of Tucson, Ariz. third (1:30:34).

“After I hit Ludington Street, I felt pretty good and passed him (Martin) about halfway down,” said DeLong. “He said he was having hamstring problems. I went through the first mile at 6:45, which is right where I wanted to be. Then, I think I went through the second mile a little too hard and was tired at Mile 5. The aid stations really helped. I kept splashing water on myself.”

Elizabeth Jones of Marquette was women’s champion at 1:26:44, followed by Kate Johnson of Lansing (1:32:14) and Kristi Olson of Norway (1:36:11).

“I felt real strong about halfway through,” said Jones. “Then at Mile 8, I started looking for the finish. I thought I would run it in about 1:25, but I’m coming off a hamstring injury and have been going to therapy. I’m still happy with my time. I also think they did a nice job putting on this race. There was plenty of water on the course and it was well marked.”

Johnson, wife of former Gladstone resident Mark Johnson, plans to run in the Marquette Marathon on Aug. 31.

“I was shooting for a 7:25 pace and did 7:19,” said Johnson. “I’m pleased with that, although the course was a little short. It was a nice course, though. I’ve already qualified for Boston. But we enjoy coming up here and I just want to get a better qualifying time.”

At least 240 runners finished the race under sunny and humid conditions with temperatures near 70.