The Canal Run was started in 1975 and is the premier running event in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. Following the rolling hills along the Portage Lake Shipping Canal, the Canal Run offers four distances for runners and walkers of all levels, including a half marathon, 10-mile run, 10-mile walk, five-mile run, five-mile walk and two-mile fun run/walk.
Bob Olson founded the run in 1975. Olson was an avid runner and owned WMPL radio at the time. For several years he ran the event with his family and a couple volunteers. For his tireless effort to make the Canal Run a premier event, the race committee named the 10-mile run the 10-Mile Bob Olson Memorial Run and started a scholarship following his death in early 2018. The well ran race continued to grow, and after a few years, Olson contacted Ken Seaton, president of D&N Bank, which signed on to sponsor and support the event.
With the support of D&N Bank, the race continued to grow. In the early 2000s, Portage Health (2007) and Finlandia University (2010) signed on to help the event, which has grown to more than 800 participants a year.
In 2009 the race was expanded to include a five-mile option, a half marathon was added in 2013 and in 2018 a two-mile fun run/walk was added.
Each of the sponsoring organizations commits to having employees volunteer. It takes more than 150 volunteers to make this event possible.
The race is self-sustaining, bringing in enough money in registration fees and sponsorships to cover all the costs. Since 2011, the organizing committee has been able to donate $10,000 to area non-profit organizations as part of its Canal Run Gives Back program.
Do you have more information on the race’s history? E-mail us the information you have at firstname.lastname@example.org, if you have old photos, video or memorabilia, we’ll add it to our website!
Meet the Committee
The Canal Run is put on by a volunteer committee that meets monthly year round. Meet the committee below.
- Meet Todd Gast. Todd is originally from Dollar Bay spending most of his adult life working as an Art Director/Marketing Manager in New York City. He recently escaped the “rat race of the big city” and moved back to the local area working for Keweenaw Co-op as Marketing Manager and Outreach Coordinator. He maintains a client base in New York City, Providence (RI), Boston (MA) and Philadelphia (PA) and freelances on a contract basis, providing client services to various companies from his home in Dollar Bay. Todd began volunteering for Canal Run in 2017 representing Keweenaw Co-op. He brings his business, marketing and art direction experiences to create many of the Canal Run visuals to increase interest and market the event. “Canal Run is such a gem for the Keweenaw,” Gast says. “We work tirelessly to make this event bigger and better each year.”
- Meet Mary Myers. Mary is currently the longest standing member of the Canal Run Planning Committee, joining in 2005. Mary works for WLUC TV6 as an Account Manager full time from the station’s Houghton/Hancock Bureau. Mary joined the Canal Run planning committee many years ago after moving to the Copper Country from Portland, Oregon. Previously employed by the Daily Mining Gazette, Mary joined the committee as a member of the Hancock Business and Professionals Association, and has never looked back.
Heading up “Racer Services,” Mary is in charge of all things related to food and drink at the finish line tent, as well as working with area vendors and sponsors to make the after race-experience an awesome one. 2018 was Mary’s 13th Canal Run as a volunteer. And she admits to learning a lot along the way. “Every year it’s get a little bit easier, as we master the planning process,” Myers said. “I love Canal Run and have so much fun being a volunteer committee member. I’ve met so many incredible people, runners, walkers, business people. It’s an experience I enjoy whole heartedly.”
- Meet Michael Babcock. Michael has worked in the marketing and communications field since graduating from Michigan Tech in 2009. Currently he is the Director of Marketing and Communications at Finlandia University. He helps lead marketing efforts for the Canal Run, and has been on the committee since 2011. “This race is one of the best events in the U.P. year after year, and it’s an honor to keep that tradition going.”
- Angela Luskin
- Kendra Coppo
- Kelsae Fitzpatrick
- Cathy Lucchesi
- Jim Tervo
- Susan Rosemurgy