Ron Marinucci - June Column

Ron Marinucci - June Column

Provided by Ron Marinucci

By 1989, if not sooner, the Crim had certainly taken on an international flavor. Over the years, runners have traveled to Flint from two dozen or more countries. In fact, the last two American winners of the Crim 10 Mile are Ken Martin and Anne Marie Letko, back in 1990 and 1994 respectively.

In 1990, fourteen nations from outside the United States were represented. For the first time a Russian runner appeared. And the foreign runners made their marks. John Campbell, from New Zealand, flirted with the overall championship before settling for a new world masters (age 40 and older) record. Uta Pippig was the overall women’s winner. Only a year before, Pippig had fled the communist regime in East Germany.

If not exactly a pioneer, in 1991 the Crim replaced appearance fees for top runners with prize money. That first year’s purse was $58,600. Both men’s and women’s winners of the 10 Mile won $8000, while runners-up received $6000. A sliding scale was put in place for other top finishers. There were also payoffs ($5000) for masters and wheeler (now separate for quadriplegics and paraplegics) winners and for top Michigan finishers. Perhaps the coming of the foreign runners encouraged others as a record 5276 ran the 10-mile and another 6363 finished the other events.

The Kenyans invaded in 1992 and the Crim was forever changed. That year, Simon Karori won in a course record 46:20. The next four spots were claimed by his countrymen, all of them finishing in less than 47 minutes.

In 1993, with a record turnout of 13.137 for all events, Gary Morgan won the first 8K racewalk in 38:14. Morgan, an Olympian from Clarkston, MI, had already run the 10-mile race in under an hour.

Lois Craig stepped down as race director in 1996. “I never had more fun in my life,” she later enthused. Her successor was Anne Gault, well known in the Flint-area running community. “It was a smooth transition,” Gault recalled. “I had been the assistant director in ’94 and ’95.”

1996 was a big year for the Crim, the 20th anniversary. Both 10-mile (5766) and overall (15,175) participation set records. To boot, Joseph Kamau, another Kenyan, established the current course record of 45:43. He was within five seconds of the world best. And, to win, he had to be fast; four of his fellow Kenyans finished under 46 minutes.

Gault later laughed at some of the memories. That 20th anniversary year, 1996, more than a dozen runners “missed the start,” she said. “The elevator at the hotel broke.” Although not funny at the time, the runners were stranded for two hours. “’OK’ I [Gault] asked myself, ‘how many elites are on that elevator?’ I counted at the starting line and we thought about delaying the race, but we really couldn’t.”

She remembered another year when the course photographer “overslept. He missed the press truck.” When he did arrive, more than a bit late, Gault laughed, “a biker group” offered to catch him up with the runners—and it did!

Gault turned over the reins to Sherlynn Everly in 1999. Everly’s initial memory was “riding the press truck for the first time.” Of course, she knew what the Crim meant to Flint, but this really emphasized that. “It was amazing seeing so many people out on the streets. Every other person had a Crim shirt on!”

In 2002, Everly was confronted by a controversy of her own. Winner Catherine Ndereba from Kenya (a six-time winner) protested that another runner, Asmae Leghzaoui from Morocco, “was assisted by her husband,” an elite runner himself, during the race. Everly noted, “He was running with her and getting her water for her. He ran forward and behind, telling her where the other [female] runners were.” Everly knew enough to bring in an expert, Greg Myer, “someone who knows how to do it [judging].” WFUM broadcast host Jim Gaver checked the televised footage confirming the illegal assistance. Meyer also discovered “She [Leghzaoui] had received warnings at other races.” Leghzaoui was disqualified.

What would the Crim be without a little troublesome weather once in a while? In 2004, Everly was faced with a start-time decision of her own. A thunderstorm had blown in. “Should I hold back the race?” she thought. “All of the races?” She opted for a 30-minute delay of the 10-mile, one that many runners don’t even remember. “I thought I did the right thing. We didn’t want to keep the volunteers out on the course any longer than necessary. And we didn’t want to mess with the other races.” The skies cleared enough to forgo further troubles.

Deb Kiertzner took over in 2005 and in her first year as race director she faced a problem. The men’s race was hampered by the lead vehicles. Long-time area newspaper reporter Bill Khan has been associated with the Crim as a runner since 1984 ad as a newsman since 1991. He remembered that lead vehicle snafu. “They [the folks in the lead vehicles] were having a good time out there. It was a parade to them. There were some close calls with the lead runners,” who were running 4:40 paces that morning. Fortunately, there were no mishaps or injuries, “just close calls.”

Kiertzer was faced with other tribulations, too, and not just ones on the roads. Due to Michigan’s poor economy of a decade ago, the Crim lost some sponsors. Buick, which came on as a major sponsor in 1984, was a key source of finances. But, in 2009, as a condition of accepting federal TARP funds, it was forced to withdraw its sponsorship.

Yet, she and the Crim continued to pick up awards and accolades. A sister race, the Brooksie Way Half Marathon was added in Oakland County. Of the Brooksie’s particularly hilly last half, Kiertzner chuckled and said, “We had to add some Bradley’s,” the notorious hills at the five-mile mark at the Crim.

And the 2009 Crim attracted a record 10-mile field (9466) as well as a record turn-out for all events (15,517). The next year, the Crim served as the USATF 10-Mile Championship.

Ever positive, Kiertzner pointed out, “The Crim means so much to Flint. It has become, truly, the biggest event in town.” To demonstrate that this was not mere puffery, she cited a study conducted in 2003 by the University of Michigan-Flint School of Management on the impact of the Crim on Flint and surrounding Genesee County. Authors Mark Perry and Darryl Barker show that the Crim, from 1992 to 2003, had an economic impact of $91.5 million on the area economy. That money resulted in “income for local employees and increased profits for local firms.” Because of the Crim, “as many as 184 full- and part-time jobs were created or supported [which] generated $3.4 million a year.” Annually, “50,000 people [runners, walkers, spectators] from 40 or more states, almost two dozen countries, and five continents” spend their money in local restaurants, hotels, and stores, on entertainment, gasoline, and even race registration. Millions of dollars, too, has been contributed to the Special Olympics, the impetus for the first Crim, and other local charities.

That would have been some legacy for the Crim, but here we are, more than a dozen years later, and the Crim keeps on keepin’ on……