Over 900 runners, dogs and babies in strollers wore their green for the 9th annual National Cherry Festival/Fifth Third Bank Leapin’ Leprechaun 5K foot race March 16th starting at 9AM in Traverse City’s Warehouse District. New this year, according to the race website, proceeds from the LL5K benefited the Munson Healthcare Foundation in support of their new Family Birth and Children’s Center that will serve all of Northern Michigan. After the run, runners were invited to a Post-Race Party at Workshop Brewing Company. Each racer received a commemorative t-shirt, tasty post-race snacks, accurate timing and results. Medals for top three finishers in each age group were awarded along with prizes for best Irish costume. A complimentary beverage was available with photo ID. After the singing of the National Anthem, Todd McCall, representing local Hibernians, started the race. For a proper send-off, Todd wore colorful Irish garb and waved an Irish flag.
Sponsored by Strava Training, Fifth Third Bank, and Planet Fitness, runners received samples of Cherry Bay Orchards Dried Cherries and GoGo Squeez flavored applesauce. GoGo Squeez was represented by Amy Fritz and her team of “Fantastic Squeezers” consisting of Shari Dragosh, Michelle Steel, Florian Dramaz, Tamela Knapp, Micheal Schaub, Lindsey Kotulski, and Michelle Allen. Race results can be found at this link; Race Results 5K .
Everyone in the race was a “winner” just by showing up and participating. Following are “winners” I had the privilege of talking to. For example, Carl Whittington, 37, of Traverse City, was a unique runner. When Carl pulled off his hat, he was bald, not because of natural hair loss, but because Carl took part in a gofundme in honor of his five year-old cousin, who had been diagnosed with cancer. Ryan Kwasniewski-Whittington also took part in the fund raiser. Together, they were instrumental in raising over $2,000! Today, they were celebrating the Irish! The link for you to use to assist them with their fundraiser is; https://www.gofundme.com/help-claire-fight-cancer. Bill Swift keeps amazing us. From Traverse City, at age 76, Bill was competing in his 1086 race. Congratulations, Bill. Scott and Keki Sheaffer, 48 & 47 and Jazy McFarland of Petoskey, run so they can drink beer and for the good vibes.
And now for the really fun part of writing these articles. I was privileged to interview the National Cherry Queen. Queen Grace Boyles, 21, is a junior at the UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN, GO BLUE!!! Grace was very gracious and wins the LL5K GO BLUE award. Grace is majoring in communication and sports broadcasting and hopes to enter the sports broadcasting field after graduation. Grace was accompanied by Queen’s committee member, Stacy Murray. In addition to representing the National Cherry Festival, Grace and Stacy ran the 5K race. They must have beaten me, because I did not see them during the race. Grace was accompanied by her dad, Pete. Pete is also a U of M graduate. The Boyles family bleeds Maize and Blue!!
The competition between Rhonda Workman and me continues. Rhonda, age 64, director of the scenic Mushroom Festival 5K, held near Mother’s day in Mesick, and veteran, (thank you for your service), beat me across the finish line. Today, Rhonda won. Tomorrow, who knows? Our finish was close. We may have run in the middle of the pack, but our competition is just as serious as the top finishers!! Bragging rights go to Rhonda. Kaitlyn Troutman, 33, from Traverse, runs for the enjoyment of being with friends, and to honor her dad who had a heart attack at age 50 along with a quadruple bypass. Wade Whittington, drove here all the way from Houghton Lake. Roads were so bad, Wade missed the race start, but he walked and enjoyed the race course. Rodger Wagner, 62, ran in his first 5K, Tricia Pleva, 45, lost 20 pounds, and was convinced to try running by friends (now she is sold on running). Duane Pleva and Jayne Wagner were their cheering section. All are from Kalkaska. Jeremy Engel, 44, of TC, was cured of high triglycerides and high cholesterol because his doctor told him he needed to exercise. His triglycerides were as high as 600. Now they have dropped to around 100. His cholesterol was 210 and the bad cholesterol was too high. Now that dangerous trend is reversed. Jeremy has a family history of high triglycerides. Jeremy’s advice to others? “Start slow and build up. You can do it!” David and Nikki Findley 37 & 36 from Kalkaska, had extra fun during the race as they each carried a bottle of brew. The Findley’s run to lift their mood. David ran in a daring kilt, bare legs and all. Their daughters, Paige and Lexi Kempistry, 18 & 13, ran in colorful green. Barb Olk, 60, of Okemos, runs to “keep the old lady out, to stay young forever”. I had the pleasure to run during the race with Barb. Barb was running with her sister, Cathie Harmann, 53, of Clarkson. Together they ran to honor their dad, a runner, who died at age 67 from cancer, “so his legacy lives forever in the running spirit”. Pam Ryan, 53, of Webberville, suffered from pneumonia, influenza and bronchitis two years ago. Her lungs had filled with fluids. Pam’s doctor suggested she run to alleviate the congestion. Running worked! Pam is making a quilt from her many running shirts in memory of her brother-in-law who died of MS and her sister who passed from ALS. Mackenzie Grulke, 34, of Okemos, runs for his kids, to be around and to teach them good habits. His blood pressure has dropped and he has lost 30 pounds running. Richard Adams, 33, of Farmington Hills runs to stay in shape and to drink the free beer. Dave Matthews, 65, is from Gaylord. What can we say about Dave that has not already been said. After 20 marathons, 71 half marathons and enumerable shorter races, Dave is still looking good and feeling good. Dave attributes his good health to running and to eating 1 meal each day consisting of egg whites, fruits and veggies. Wow!
The race would not happen without the generous participation of volunteers such as Mark Ewing and the Boy Scouts of Troop 88 of Kingsley. Troop 88 boys were stationed throughout the course as marshals guiding us along the route. Kay Smith, worked packet pickup, handing out bibs and tee shirts. Michelle Mercer and Marylyn Vogel handed out food after the race. Denny and Jeri Braun passed out beer to runners. Denny is past president of the National Cherry Festival. We were pleased to chat with National Cherry Festival Executive Director, Kat Paye. Kat recently welcomed a son, with the middle name of Jeffery, an honor to the memory of Jeff Nash, former National Cherry Festival Director of the Wheelchair Races, and himself a quadriplegic. We will talk about the memory of Jeff when we write our Festival of Races article.
The National Cherry Festival, and race director Alexis Bremer, hope you will join in next year’s Fifth Third Bank Leapin’ Leprechaun race. Maybe you will participate on July 6 in the National Cherry Festival of Races? Remember to ask your doctor for permission to start an exercise program.
Your author, Mickey Fivenson, age 76, of Traverse City, lost over 100 pounds and trained 150,000 miles in 48 years of running. He completed over 60 marathons (3:01 PR) and holds a marathon world record with his sons, Zack and Adam. Mickey is the former director of the National Cherry Festival Runs. Mickey’s doctors credit running toward surviving several strokes. He is an ordained rabbi, an Advanced Scuba Diver and credits his running fitness and his scuba skills with surviving a fall through the ice in over 600’ of water in middle of West Grand Traverse Bay,,,,,, and saving his dog! A U of M grad like his kids, (GO BLUE), he plays blues harmonica globally and with area bands. If you’d like Mickey to cover your race, if you need training tips, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Today, Mickey took first place his age group, 75-79.