Since the first race in 2002, Fenton’s annual Bastille Day 5k run/walk and 15k run has grown from a modest 250 runners and walkers to the 2010 record of 1,037 competitors. Although the 10th Annual Bastille Day Run on Saturday morning was just short of a new record with 1,017 participants, it was a successful morning with quality competition.
“People tend to like a local race, and we get a lot of Fenton people who consider it a hometown race,” Mark Hamel, a race director and owner of local restaurant French Laundry, said. “There are some hills on the 5k course, so it’s challenging, and the 15k is brutal, but it’s a good pre-Crim race. A lot of people come and race this race prior to the Crim and they always say if you can do this race, you can do the Crim.”
Proceeds from both races go to support the Genesee County Habitat for Humanity. This year, over $20,000 was raised to help provide simple and decent housing for area families in need.
“Since day one [it’s supported Habitat for Humanity],” Hamel said. “We have a great relationship with Habitat, they are so involved and they support us 100 percent, so they do a really great job.”
The day began with the 15k.
This 9.3 mile race, which leaves from downtown Fenton, loops south to Runyan Lake, then turns back toward Fenton, with runners battling the intense hills along Denton Hill Road before finishing.
The 5k race loops through the neighborhoods around downtown Fenton, and also boasts some good hills.
“I like the hills, it’s a really good challenge,” Addie May, 15, of Flushing, who repeated her first overall woman finish for the 5k in 19:44, said. “I was hoping to get into the 18s, but I just went out way too hard in the first mile then got to the hills and just died. But it felt good to come back and get the same place.”
Fenton resident Rochelle Jones was the women’s Masters division winner, in the time of 24:14. This is the fourth time Jones has competed in the Bastille Day 5k race.
“I live in Fenton, and love that it’s a local, hometown race,” Jones said. “I was out with an injury for a while, but now I’m back and feeling really good. I’m definitely [coming back next year], but thinking about the 15k instead.”
Another Fenton resident, Lisa Veneziano, took the women’s Masters division win for the 15k with a finish time of 59:23. This was the first time Veneziano competed in the Bastille 15k, she had won the Masters 5k for women in 2008 and 2007 with times of 18:40 and 18:17, respectively.
“Actually, I think it’s kind of a fast course because every time you go up, you get to come down, so it’s pretty cool and I really liked it,” Veneziano said. “I was surprised actually, I had a really good race. You know how that goes, sometimes you have a really great day, and sometimes you don’t, I was just lucky to have had a really good day today.”
The 15k men’s Masters winner, Fenton resident Kirk Walrath, finished in 53:29. Kirk, along with wife, Timianne Walrath, have participated in the Bastille Day Run every year since 2002, with the exception of 2003. Between them, there are two age group second place finishes, seven age group wins, two Masters wins, and seven overall wins in both the 5k and 15k races. Kirk’s brother, Ken Walrath, who won the 2008 15k Masters division (56:30) and the 2009 15k 40-44 age group (56:46), took second in Saturday’s 15k 40-44 age group in 57:58.
“My husband and I live in Fenton, and this is a local race so we always try to make sure we participate,” Timianne said. “It’s a very hilly course, but I’ve been training on the course for the past four or five weeks, so yes it’s hilly out there, but it was more the humidity that got to me. I am very happy with my time though.”
The races, which honor the French holiday marking the beginning of the French Revolution in 1789, certainly hold true to its cultural origin. Before each race, the U.S. National Anthem is preceded by the French anthem, La Marseillaise. Hamel, who has been speaking French for about 25 years, also pays homage by making announcements first in French, then offering the English translation. Post-race snacks also go along with the theme, featuring full French baguettes, along with keg root beer, fruit and water for the participants.
You can view full results here.
For more information on the race, visit www.geneseehabitat.org.