It started in 2002 with just a 5K run and walk competition.
The champions for the first Bastille Day Walk and Run had a local flavor as Kirk Walrath (16:18) won the men’s division and Karen Alexander (20:20) won the women’s division of the 5K run. The 5K walk victors were David Pichey (28:03) for the men and Stephanie Konsza (30:17) for the women.
It was a pretty encouraging start for the Bastille Day Run. It was so encouraging that a year later the event also hosted a 15K race around the streets of Fenton. And now, the Bastille Day is a Fenton mainstay for the running community.
This season’s won’t be happening around the streets of Fenton due to the COVID-19 outbreak, so to celebrate the annual event, the sports staff has decided to honor it by looking back at its past.
Winning spouses: Eric and Sue Larsen may be the first couple running in Fenton, and during the first 15K race in 2003, the couple proved it. Husband Eric was the overall winner with a time of 52:04. Not too far behind Eric was his wife, Sue, in 1:00.48.
“There were a lot of good runners out here,” Eric said. “It is a really nice feeling to win. I was happy with my time.”
“I was happy with my performance,” Sue said. “I thought I could be up there with the top few women.”
The first 15K race drew 186 runners and there were 609 participants in the three events. That was up from 530 during the first year.
Susan Mora-Fassett dominates early on: Fenton’s Mora-Fassett won the 5K women’s walk event each year from 2003 until 2006. She also collected the women’s title in 2008 and 2011, giving her six titles in the 5K walk event.
Harry Garrison owns six walk titles as well: Harry Garrison has won the men’s 5K walk event six times since the 2012 event. He is the current two-time defending 5K walk men’s champion, winning it in 2018 and 2019.
But Garrison, a Flushing resident, is more than one of the elite walkers in the field. The Flushing native spends a lot of his time encouraging other walkers to finish the event after he finishes.
“Winning is not that important,” the 73-year old athlete (at the time) said after winning the 2018 race. “It’s just doing it. Anybody that crosses that finish line is a winner, and that’s how I feel.”
Three years in a row for Jesse Anderson and Kelsey Bragg: From 2014 to 2016, Jesse Anderson and Kelsey Bragg, both Fenton residents, won their gender’s 15K event.
Anderson’s third win came with a time of 53:24, beating the field by more than five minutes. Bragg had the fifth fastest time regarless of gender in the event (59:20), but it would represent the last time she ran in the event because she was getting ready to move to England.
“My fiancé lives there,” Bragg said. “So I’m getting married and moving over there. I was like I have to do Bastille. I don’t know when I’ll be able to do it again, and it’s one of my favorite races.”
Anderson is one of many that enjoy keeping the titles within the tri-county area.
“I have always said that Fenton is the hotbed for running,” Anderson said. “You have people like Lisa Veneziano winning Runner of the Year every year, … and the coverboy for the Detroit Free Press Marathon. Everywhere you go, whether it is Canada or the newsstands across Michigan, Fenton runners are represented. It’s a really cool atmosphere.”
Only two repeat men’s 5K run champions: Linden’s Brad Ferrara became the first 5K run men’s defending champion in 2009 when he won the race for the second straight year.
Ferrara won his second race with a time of 16:18.
The second repeat champion was Holly’s Michael McCarty who won the men’s 5K event back-to-back in 2012 and 2013 McCarty won his second title with a time of 16:12.
“Last year I came here and ran a 16:54 for my first race, so to come here and get a 40-second improvement is fantastic to me,” said the Holly graduate. “I’ve done no real workouts, no intervals. ... I’m really happy with it.”
McCarty owns another record. He’s the only male 5K runner to win the race three times. He won his third in 2015 with a time of 16:55.
The superstar of Bastille Day, Sue Larsen: Larsen won the first women’s 15K event in 2003, and has made a habit of winning titles ever since. Larsen has won an eye-popping 10 titles. She’s won the 5K women’s race eight times (2004, 05, 07, 08, 12, 15, 17 and 18) while winning the 15K title twice (2010 was her second). Larsen’s eighth 5K title (and 10th overall came in 2018.
“It’s at home and they are roads I run every day,” Larsen said. “I don’t know how many more years I can do it. I am getting older, so I enjoy each one a little more probably.”
The ageless wonder: Fenton’s Lisa Veneziano is the area’s ageless wonder. She won her third 15K female title in 2019.
“I’m on the verge of 55. I’ll be 55 in mid-September,” Veneziano said at the time. “It’s so funny, when I go on my treadmill, I have to put my age in and I put in ‘54’ and think who is that? And soon, I’ll be putting in ‘55.’”