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Brimson Sisu: Over three decades of community spirit

Second place men's winner Grant Nelson shows of his fine feathered trophy. Photo by Tammy Francois1 / 2
Brimson Sisu race veterans, Kaite O'Sullivan and Betty Brasgala, have run annually for 31 years. Photo by Tammy Francois.2 / 2

The Brimson Area Fire Department held its 31st annual Brimson Sisu 4.4 mile race last Saturday with runners competing from as far away as China. The event, organized by race director Lynn Boggie and a team of volunteers, drew 253 athletes. Race headquarters was set up at the Toimi School Community Center, where vendors sold their wares and fire department volunteers served lunch. The proceeds were earmarked to support the efforts of the BAFD and meet needs in the community, said race volunteer, Wendy Robertson.

The race welcomed walkers and runners of all ages and abilities, and awarded prizes in both categories, but also had special awards for "first Finn" over the finish line and oldest Brimson Sisu race t-shirt. There was even a bit of race-day swag for the competitor whose focus was more on the journey than the destination -- the last place finisher. Prizes were donated by businesses, craftspersons and community members. Baskets collected over the course of the year, said Robertson, were filled with a unique assortment of items.

Runners and walkers who placed in the top of their categories, received a stuffed black bird mounted on a wood base -- the race's 2013 mascot.

"It's the year of the raven," said men's second place finisher Grant Nelson holding his feathered prize.

"We think it's not real," said Anna Schield of the raven she received as the race's first place women's finisher. Schield is new to the Brimson Sisu this year, and said she enjoyed the event.

"I ran it with my friend Sonja (Peterson); she does it all the time. It was my first year running this race, but I think I'd like to get it down as one of my traditions," Schield said, adding that it was the community atmosphere and spirit that impressed her. Her winner's basket was evidence of the contributions of many.

"There were beets, a cucumber, some broccoli and Swiss chard. There was a wallet from Granite Gear, some socks and jewelry that someone had made, and some notecards. It looked like community members donated from their own talents and supplies," she said enthusiastically.

This year's roster of athletes also included two women who have run the race since its beginning -- Betty Brasgala and Katy O'Sullivan. Brasgala now lives in the Grand Rapids area, but makes the race a priority.

"(I've run) all 31 years. This has been a great event," said Brasgala," I always know where I'm going to be the second weekend in August." O'Sullivan,a Brimson resident and avid runner, has run numerous regional races, but remains loyal to the local event.

"Betty's been more of an elite runner, but I've run the Garry Bjorklund half-marathon and other races and you can't not run your own home race," she said. " It's just a nice event for the community."

First place women's runner: Anna Sheild

Second place women's runner: Kira Peterson

First place men's runner: Drew Johnson

Second place men's runner: Grant Nelson

First place women's walker: Joceky Pihjala

First place men's walker: Urho Johnson

First Finn to finish: Jari Mackie

Last place finisher: LeaRae Keyes