If you are an avid runner, a trip to Thunder Bay, Ontario, on the Canadian May long weekend is a must to take part in one of Canada's oldest road races.
Held each year on Victoria Day Monday, this exciting and historic race has featured top runners from around the world. In fact, the course records for both men and women are held by runners from Finland, a direct tie to Thunder Bay's Finnish cultural roots.
Pekka Paivarenti's fastest time of 47:09 was set in 1975, while Erja Ervonen ran 57:16 in 1994. Kenyan runners have won the men's race the past few years, while Minnesota runners are always contenders in the women's division.
Thunder Bay runners have excelled in the race with Sue Kainulainen holding the record for the most victories (7) in the women's division and Jonathon Balabuck posting 5 consecutive victories in the men's division.
Attraction for Visiting Runners
In recent years, the popular race (which also includes a relay event) now attracts anywhere from 700 to 1000 runners. Each year, visiting runners travel from Minnesota, Wisconin. Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario for the popular spring run.
The 10-mile course is a beautiful out and back course with the start/finish on May St. in the down-town south core near City Hall and the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame. The race connects the former cities of Fort William and Port Arthur with the turnaround point looping through beautiful Marina Park on the scenic shores of Lake Superior over looking the Sleeping Giant in Thunder Bay harbour.
Strong Community Support
The race would be nothing without the cheering spectators that line the city-long route especially along the final mile on May St and also in Bay-Algoma Neighbourhood known as Thunder Bay's connection to Finnish heritage.
The race draws strong community support from the almost 200 volunteers involved with the race who along with local spectators play an enormous role in generating excitement and spurring on every runner to perform to their potential. Anybody who has participated in this event will attest to the powerful impact of a cheering crowd as they compete.
Fresh Air is the Presenting Sponsor offering cash prizes to the top male and top female finishers. The Thunder Bay Professional Fire Fighters Association continues to be a proud supporter of this event, as many of their members will be running the full race and participating in the popular relay event.