Hometown Hero

By Joel Charron

It turned out exactly the way Shannon Falconer hoped.

A hometown runner crossing the line first in the hometown race.

On Sunday morning, while many residents were still sound asleep in bed, a total of 633 runners and walkers took to the street in the World Alzheimer’s Day “Run for Heroes” marathon.

There were five races in all including a 5K run/walk, a 10K run as well as a half-marathon, 32K route and a full 42K marathon. Runners came from all over southwestern Ontario, including the Toronto-area, as well as from as far south in the United States as North Carolina.

Early estimates of the fundraising total for the “Run for the Heroes”  are between $15-20,000.

Sally Bennett, CEO of the Alzheimer Society of Windsor and Essex County mentioned that the first four years of the run brought in roughly $80,000.

“We’re hoping this year it tops the $100,000 mark,” she said.

Race Director Chris Uszynski said he came up with the name “Run for Heroes” from his mother.

“My mom is my hero,” he said. “Frankly its about the heroes in all of our families.”

This was the fifth year that Uszynski organized a run, however the previous four years were runs across Windsor-Essex County that started at 65-kilometres in 2007 and expanded to 100-kilometres the last two years but this year, the decision was made to keep the run entirely in Amherstburg. It started and ended at the United Communities Credit Union Complex.

Uszynski called the “Run for Heroes” an “overwhelming success” and mentioned that it was “humanly impossible” for one person to handle everything on their own.

“It’s guys like Rennie Rota from Sobey’s who do so much,” he said. “I couldn’t have done this event without Rennie. He really helped with the whole food end of it. Guys like that don’t get enough thanks.”

Uszynski noted that he proved a marathon in Amherstburg works but says he needs the support of the community.

“Now its time to reach out into the community and say I can’t do this alone and if we are going to do this we have to do it together.”

He also added that directing the race is something he takes very seriously.

“I want to make sure that people know thatputting on this race is an honour and I do not take it lightly,” he said. “I use public assets, roads, police, rec center and I inconvenience motorists. I am greatful and want citizens to know that together we can continue to make this an Amherstburg tradition for everyone. Our own marathon weekend in September.”

Amongst the participants in the 5K run was Essex MP Jeff Watson and wife Sarah Watson, who ran the 5K race in honour of family members suffering from Alzheimer’s.

“We’re out here raising money for very important research,” said Watson.

Watson, who was impressed at how many people turned out for the event also, noted that the marathon was “good for the town.”

“I think it show cases the very best of Amherstburg,” he said.  “We have the capability and the facilities to host such a wonderful event such as the Run for Heroes marathon. It’s good to see the community get behind something like this.”

Mayor Wayne Hurst welcomed the runners shortly before they hit the course at 7:15 a.m. for the larger runs.

“This is amazing,” said Hurst. “We are so pleased that we have residents within our community that are so engrossed with trying to make things happen they come up with ideas such as this.’

Hurst praised the hard work of Uszynski and all his volunteers.

“They should all be commended for all this,” said Hurst. “Each and every one of you are heroes this morning.”

Hurst was joined by Deputy Mayor Ron Sutherland, Councilors Bart DiPasquale and Diane Pouget to hand out medal to everyone who crossed the finish line.

Councilor John Sutton ran the 32K, called it a great run with great runners.

Half-marathon female winner Julia Thomas is all smiles after Councilor Bart Dipasquale places a medal around her neck

Julia Thomas, who was the first woman to finish the half-marathon, was complimentary of the course.

“I really enjoyed it,” she said. “It was great for someone like me who is a rhythm runner, lots of long straight sections.”

Thomas, who is originally from the Windsor area but now resides in Peterborough, said this was a good reason to return to the area and mentioned that the “Run for Heroes” marathon was good training for the upcoming Detroit Free Press Marathon.

“This is perfect timing for Detroit,” she said. ‘I was really happy to have a chance to come out and work out all the kinks in the pre-race strategy.”

Falconer, an Iron Man triathlon guru admits that he had his doubts that it was going to be his day as he ran neck-and-neck with a runner that was 20 years younger but was able to eventually pull away for the win. He crossed the finished line in two hours, 58 minutes and 33 seconds.

Paula Reid, a 41-year-old Tecumseh resident was the first female to finish the race in a time of three hours, 26 minutes and 30 seconds

“I honestly thought it was going to be his day instead of an old guy like me,” joked Falconer. “At mile 22 he just broke and he gave it to me and I said thank you very much.”

Falconer said he was very pleased with the course, stating that the route he ran is his training course.

“This course is perfect for me,” he said.

Falconer mentioned that he planned on taking it easy from competitions this year, however he changed his mind when asked to compete in the hometown race. He added he trained nine weeks for the marathon and mentioned the usual training period for a marathon is 16 weeks.

“Part of the main goal was to have a hometown guy finish first in the marathon,” he said. “I wanted to show the community that I do work hard and I want to represent them. The main thing was that I wanted to do it for Amherstburg.”

One response to “Hometown Hero”

  1. Thank you River Town Times and Joel for the coverage and support. This ‘Amherstburg Marathon’ is just that. A great race in a great town and we are going to share our race and our town with the world. This is the start of something real big for our community. Thanks for letting me do it. See you on the course. Keep Running Amherstburg. Check out the pictures of the competitors at http://www.sportszonephotography.ca/World-Alzheimers-Run

    Chris Uszynski
    Amherstburg Resident