2018-05-19 / Top News

First Spring 5-Mile Race Through Park Draws 400


Between the historic buildings at Fort Mackinac, runners and walkers gather near the North Sally Port anticipating the start of the inaugural Fort2Fort Five Mile Challenge Saturday, May 12. Between the historic buildings at Fort Mackinac, runners and walkers gather near the North Sally Port anticipating the start of the inaugural Fort2Fort Five Mile Challenge Saturday, May 12. Fort Mackinac hosted its inaugural Fort2Fort Five Mile Challenge

Saturday, May 12, kicking off the 2018 season and sending 400 contestants along a course past historic

sights in the state park.

Participants and their families were greeted with sunshine and dry conditions when the race began at 9 a.m., and to make the day even brighter, competitors were given all-day access to Fort Mackinac and the Richard and Jane Manoogian Art Museum.

Runners and walkers gathered on the parade grounds inside the fort to await rifle fire from soldier interpreters Alex Arnold, Hayden Conley, and Sage Hallberg, which sent them along a challenging route to Arch Rock and Fort Holmes, then back down to the finish line at the Scout Barracks behind Fort Mackinac. Participants ran past Sugar Loaf Rock, Skull Cave, the cemeteries and the Governor’s summer residence. After the rifle salute, interpreters Trevor Rettell and Evan James fired the cannon.


Julia Viel, Grand Hotel’s head gardener, finished second overall and first in the women’s category with a time of 31:35. Julia Viel, Grand Hotel’s head gardener, finished second overall and first in the women’s category with a time of 31:35. The first runners to reach Fort Holmes were greeted by a musket salute, this one fired by interpreter Tristan Decesare dressed in the British uniform from the War of 1812 era.

Abed Haidar of Ontario was the first runner to cross the finish, placing first overall and first in the men’s division with a run of 30 minutes, 15 seconds. Julia Viel of Mackinac Island was second overall and first in the women’s division with a time of 31:35.

“I was drawn to the race because it’s local and I love all of the other races hosted here,” said Ms. Viel, who returned this year to the Island after a seven year absence and is the head gardener at Grand Hotel. “It’s right in our backyard, and it’s hard to get off the Island to compete in other races. I like Leslie Avenue because of the wooded area, and I also loved the moment in the race when you got to the top of Fort Holmes and it was all downhill from there.”


Spectators at the Avenue of Flags watch racers exit Fort Mackinac toward Fort Holmes. Spectators at the Avenue of Flags watch racers exit Fort Mackinac toward Fort Holmes. Anne Gault, an organizer of the competition, was pleasantly surprised by the number of people who signed up to compete. All participants received a commemorative wood plaque for finishing the race.

“People could really get into the Island and see preserved parts of history,” she said. “There are amazing areas where regular tourists just don’t get to, and we wanted to show that off. What we tried to do here is highlight the parks and the forts.”


At left: Michael and Tammy Miller with their son, Griffin, traveled from Chicago so Michael could compete in the Fort2Fort Five Mile Challenge. At left: Michael and Tammy Miller with their son, Griffin, traveled from Chicago so Michael could compete in the Fort2Fort Five Mile Challenge. Ms. Gault and her husband, John, organize other well-known races around the Island, like the Lilac Festival 10K, the Mackinac Island Eight Mile, and the Great Turtle Half Marathon. Mr. Gault was involved with the original group that brought the Eight Mile race to Mackinac Island, which is a fundraiser for the St. Ignace Kiwanis Club and will turn 50 years old in two years. They manage the website runmackinac.com, which promotes all of their races.

“We pulled this together on pretty short notice, so I’m happy that so many people came,” Ms. Gault said. “We decided to do it with a smaller field so that we could work out any kinks that come along. This race has a good distance and enough challenge that makes it worth coming up for, and I think that it’s only going to grow next year.”


Runners and spectators gather inside the North Sally Port at Fort Mackinac, the staging area for the Fort2Fort race. Runners and spectators gather inside the North Sally Port at Fort Mackinac, the staging area for the Fort2Fort race. Tammy Miller and her son, Griffin, 4, traveled from Chicago to cheer on her husband, Michael. The Millers were married at Harbour View Inn in 2012 and try to celebrate their anniversary here annually.

“This is his first race,” Mrs. Miller said of her husband. “He took up running about a year ago, and we saw advertising come through online and decided that day that we were going to come up and he was going to run in it. We love the fort, too.”



Runners approach the finish line behind Fort Mackinac: (from left) Mark Bunker of Mackinac Island, Timothy Thompson of Grand Rapids, and Scott Kromer of Green Bay. Runners approach the finish line behind Fort Mackinac: (from left) Mark Bunker of Mackinac Island, Timothy Thompson of Grand Rapids, and Scott Kromer of Green Bay.

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