Rhonda Workman and her crew of happy volunteers welcomed 126 runners and walkers in the Mesick Mushroom Festival Fun Run to lovely Northern Exposure Campgrounds, near Mesick, along the backwaters of the Manistee River behind Hodenpyle Dam. All proceeds benefited the Mesick High School Track Team. Door prizes were randomly presented to many participants complements of generous Mesick area businesses. Prizes were awarded to the top three male and female finishers in each age group of the Mesick Mushroom Festival Fun Run. We raced along beautiful, primitive trails surrounding the campground. Often the trail was only two feet wide with thick stands of trees on both sides and overhead. Runners felt as if they were in a tree-lined tunnel.


My “winners” were not the fastest participants in the Mesick Mushroom Festival Fun Run, but their accomplishment is worthy of a win. Walkers Ann Culp, 47, from Copemish, and her friend, Nicole Pitman, 47, of Garden City, are my winners because they are big “losers.” Ann lost 80 pounds, while Nicole lost, get this, 220 POUNDS! In fact, Nicole is my champion loser of all time. I have talked to other losers but no one has lost 220 pounds. Both Ann and Nicole had bariatric surgery. Many who have had the procedure eventually put weight back on, but both of these ladies are careful of their food intake and both exercise regularly. Congratulations to my winners Ann and Nicole. We met another winner, Jennifer Smith, who lost 80 pounds for over a year by eating healthy and running. Jennifer is a true inspiration. What these three ladies have accomplished is an example to us all.

Ken Vanderberg, 75, from downstate, had genetically high blood pressure as a youth. Today the blood pressure is normal. Ken has been running for 34 years. He has completed more than 50 marathons and one 100 mile ultra-marathon, the Rocky Raccoon in Texas. Ken’s wife, Barb, 74, has been running 30 years. Running has kept them close; they train and run marathons together as a family. Ken beat me and took second place in my age group. Next year I will catch you, Ken. Erica Mail, 38, from Cadillac, ran with her son, Eli, age 10. They are starting to run with their six month Great Dane puppy. Erica ran track and cross country for Hope College. She recently tore her Achilles Tendon playing basketball; this was her first 5K after returning from surgery. Jennifer Sprinkle, 35, from Wellston, had never run races before she had her daughter. When her daughter was one, Jennifer, walked her first race. In 2015, she took a 5K training course at the Cadillac YMCA and fell in love with running. In 2016, she set a goal of one 5K each month and has now completed 20 races! Jennifer says; “What I love most is the friendliness and support of the running community.” I wish many happy races for Jennifer. Deb Cronin, 59, of Traverse City, just loves running. She says she “just can’t stop now.”

Tim Tank, 59, from Mesick, runs with his wife as a family event. Running helps Tim with exercise. Robyn DeYoung, 59, from Howard City, runs to be fit and healthy. Robin lost 25 pounds by running. Her daughter, Becky DeYoung, 36, from Manton, runs to be healthy. Gerald Rohn, 71, of Freeland, has been running 40 years. He is running with two knee replacements with doctor’s approval. Gerald beat me like a drum in my age group. Russ Shavalier, 53, of Ravenna, runs for stress relief.

Now you get to meet the volunteer champions of all volunteers. Julie VanLanen, came all the way from Green Bay, along with husband, Dale, to help her sister, Rhonda, conduct this race. Julie and Dale stuffed goody bags, helped with registration, and in short, helped with many of the necessary duties to pull off this 5K. Thanks to Julie and Dale. Without your help, we all wouldn’t have the chance to experience this incredible race.

Race director Rhonda Workman wants you to join her next year in Mesick, on the backwaters of the Manistee River, for this memorable event. You will be glad you made the effort. Remember to ask your doctor for permission before starting an exercise program.

Mickey Fivenson, 75, of TC, is a stroke survivor. Mickey’s doctor credits running to his survival. He is the former director of the National Cherry Festival Races. Mickey founded the Cherry Festival Golden Mile and Wheelchair Races. He completed over 60 marathons and holds a marathon record with sons, Zack and Adam. He has trained 150,000+ miles in 48 years of running. Today, he took third place in his age group. If you’d like tips on running, on marathons, if you have a story to share how running has impacted your life, or if you would like coverage of your race, contact Mickey through the editor.

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Photo(s) by Mickey Fivenson