Sault Stryders
Running Club

Van beats Festival to the finish line
Reported June 5, 2006 by Greg Layson for The Sault Star
Sault Ste Marie, Ontario

Mario Festival’s wish was granted, and it cost him a championship.

A year ago, the 51-year-old long-distance runner was left to wonder where the young runners were when the gun fired to start the Run the Great Lakes half marathon.

Sunday, a 21-year-old racer from the Michigan Sault answered Festival’s call and arrived on scene to dethrone the half-marathon champion.

“It was good to see,” Festival said of the record-setting field of 224 competitors. “I was just glad to have a race.”

Last year, Festival ran away with the race in a time of 1:22:12, with his toughest competition being the clock.

Sunday, Curt Van pushed the champ for the first 15 kilometres.

“We set a good pace,” Festival said. “I enjoy the competition. I actually had a faster time this year.”

Festival ran the circuit in 1:21:06.00, and in his first-ever Run the Great Lakes, Van won the event in 1:19:38.00.

“It’s Canada, it’s beautiful,” Van said when asked what motivated him to register for the event. “I loved running through the (Bellevue) Park.”

Van, who ran long distances in high school, but never in university or college, also took part in the Green Bay Marathon two weeks ago. And, he has two five-kilometres, two 10 km and a pair of half marathons remaining on his race schedule.

“I just try and think about finishing, and push myself as hard as I can,” Van said. “I just wanted to make sure I had enough left in me (Sunday) so I didn’t have to stop and walk.”

Michael Drescher finished third in 1:25:37.00.

“When (Curt) pulled away, I knew it was over,” Festival conceded.

In the women’s half marathon, Jan MacKay was golden twice over.

After turning the golden age of 50 in January, MacKay was bumped from the 40-49 category Sunday and managed to not only win the women’s 50-59 category, but finished first in the female field with a time of 1:36:59.00.

“I started off fast with my running partner Marlene (O’Laney),” said MacKay, who was faster this year than last.

In 2005 MacKay finished in 1:39:00.00. O’Laney finished third last year.

Sunday Lisa Desjardins finished second (1:38:52.00) and O’Laney finished third (1:38:58.00).

“Lots of races seems to help. Training is good but racing helps you pick up the speed,” said MacKay, now a winner in four of four races this summer.

Last week, she won a trail race on St. Joseph’s Island and she was perfect in two five-kilometre races before that.

“I was feeling good (Sunday),” she said. “I was sort of on a high. This was my fourth win in four races.”