The family appeal
of the Firecracker Run
Holiday long weekends are a time for family,
a fact not lost on those who managed to squeeze in a little
exercise on Saturday, partaking in the annual Firecracker
Road Race in Lively.
Several of those on hand would first manage
to see the kids off, kick-starting the festivities with
a one kilometer run. Many of the slightly older youth,
however, would take a crack at tackling the 5 km course,
with some parents enjoying the calendar years where they
can still finish ahead of their offspring.
Lo-Ellen Park track and field coach Colin
Ward paced his son, Kaedan (11), en route to an impressive
time of 21:30, the father and son team of Steve Matusch
(age 54 - 20:42) and Brendan Matusch (age 13 - 24:41)
were both in fine form, while septuagenrian couple Maureen
and Louis Moustgaard provided a pair of very familiar
faces to the mix.
Few, however, enjoyed the family aspect
of the race quite as much as the De Vlugt clan. Completing
his Masters in Physics while spending the summer working
at Guelph University, Jeff De Vlugt made the trek home
with girlfriend Valerie Hodgins, with the trio rounded
out by the presence of Jeff's father, Paul De Vlugt.
"My girlfriend, Valerie, really loves
running," suggested Jeff. "Her and her mom have
really gotten into it, and my dad likes running as well.
I was really excited to come home and do a race with my
dad, this was our first race together."
In fact, the younger De Vlugt admitted
that he was likely about 13 years old when he completed
the five kilometer distance for the one and only previous
time in his life, though he will now head out for casual
lengthy jogs, taking a break from the demands of academia.
Not expecting a whole lot in Lively, De
Vlugt was more than a little pleased to break through
the line in 22:53, safely a new personal best for the
well-spoken young researcher. "I knew that I kind
of wanted to run it under 25 minutes, and it really helped
me to have people in front of me that I could push towards
and try and chase."
Unfortunately, given the nature of his
studies, it's far more likely that dad will have to make
the trek south in order to ensure another father and son
outing is in the offing. "I like the field that I'm
in, and I feel that there is lots of opportunity in Guelph,
a decent amount of interest in the research that we do
there. We study nuclear magnetic resonance, it's the more
hard science portion of MRI."
Meanwhile, girlfriend Valerie Hodgins,
a native of Toronto and fellow student at Guelph, has
just over a year remaining to complete her Masters in
Mathematics. (Seems like I had somehow walked into a local
episode of the "Big Bang Theory").
Completing her five km in 24:08, Hodgins
was more than happy to share the accolades with her beau
on this evening. "I started as the runner, but he
(Jeff) beat me, so I think he's the runner now,"
she said with a laugh.
A runner since the age of fourteen, the
23 year-old started with a five km, but quickly moved
up, eventually completing a 10 km race and a pair of half
marathons. "I am not a 5 km runner," Hodgins
stated. "I like running further. I'm not a fast runner,
so I really like running distance a lot more, because
I feel a lot more accomplished. I seem to end up with
In the end, it was the atmosphere that
garnered her prevailing thoughts, recapping the takeaway
from this break to her holiday weekend. "It was an
awesome course, it's nice how green it is," said
Hodgins. "There's lots of nice people here, a good
sense of community when you do something like this. Everybody
is very much in the spirit."
Even those who have no immediate family
on hand. Nineteen year old Little Current runner Romme
Kabron moved to Canada some 18 months ago, leaving behind
much of his family in the eastern African state of Eritrea,
a smallish country which borders on the Red Sea Coast.
His entry to this race would be prompted
by Manitoulin Island running coach Steve Fessenden, which
children Sofia and Simon both taking part in the one kilometer
Edging out Andrew Hawkins for first place
at the wire, with both men clocked at 17:39, Kabron is
thankful for any opportunity he is given. "I appreciate
having the chance to come out and run with these people,"
"Before I came to Canada, when I
was back home, I just played soccer and trained a little
bit for running. But when I came to Little Current, there's
not much soccer. That's why I run."
Some final words from advice from Fessenden
would be all that was needed to formulate a winning strategy.
"When we started the run, I went behind the first
few guys," said Kabron. "Finally, near the end,
I started to sprint past them."