The speed of international athletes — many hailing from Kenya — is often the topic of conversation, good-natured jokes, and clever signs and T-shirts at the Bellin Run.
I can tell you that we are thrilled to bring some of the best athletes in the world to our event. In what other sport can you say you competed with that sport’s champion-caliber athletes? It’s a fantastic opportunity and interesting to see how you measure up.
There’s some history behind our approach.
During planning for the initial Bellin Heartwarming Run (later the Bellin Run) in 1977, the thought was that bringing in a notable runner would bring credibility to our race and help attract participants. Frank Shorter, an Olympic gold medalist and premier athlete, accepted our invitation.
Shorter won that race, with a time of 30:31. But just 10 seconds behind him was second-place finisher and Green Bay resident James Drews, with a time of 30:41.
Our race also attracts a number of Wisconsin’s best athletes. At the 2012 Bellin Run, Tyler Sigl of Seymour matched Shorter’s championship time from that first race in 1977. Sigl’s 30:31 earned him 4th place overall last year. Other racers from Pewaukee, Oneida, Denmark, Green Bay and Madison also finished in the top 10 in both the men’s and women’s fields.
Our great tradition of bringing the world’s best to Green Bay to run with local participants has included athletes such as Bill Rodgers, Joan Samuelson, Bruce Bickford, Ed Eyestone, Joseph Kimani, Uta Pippig and Tegla Loroupe.
Continuing this tradition is a way to lend support to the sport of running. It is a sport which has inspired and energized area residents in a way that we dreamed it would some 37 years ago.
Randy Van Straten is the Bellin Run executive race director