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By SPENCER GLEASON
Daily News Sports Editor
Kids of all ages lined the intersection of Main and Grant streets on Saturday morning, as the Blueberry Fun Run jump started the Saturday events of 43rd Annual Blueberry Arts Festival. More than 100 people took part in the Fun Run and registered online for either the one-mile event, 5K walk or run, or a 10K run that began at the Ketchikan Police Station.
The event, which is sponsored by the Ketchikan Running and Walking Club, has been a festival event for more than two decades.
“It’s a great event,” Dan Ortiz said. Ortiz’s wife, Lori, has organized the Fun Run for the past 10 years.
“There’s been a lot of participation over the years,” he said. “It’s the biggest participation event for the year for the Ketchikan Running Club, in terms of the most runners in any particular race. It’s mainly because there’s a lot of attraction to come to the Blueberry Festival and there are a lot of visitors in town.”
Nearly 30 volunteers helped on race-day. And both the Kayhi cross country team and U.S. Coast Guard helped as traffic guards.
“The course is right in the heart of Ketchikan, so it’s easy for people to find,” Dan Ortiz said.
The route for the 5K and 10K were similar. After starting at the police station, runners wound their way through downtown Ketchikan and down the bike trail toward the U.S. Coast Guard Base. The 10K extended farther down the bike trail and turned around at South Tongass Service.
But Dan Ortiz said the one-mile event was his favorite.
“The kids got out there and ran,” he said. “That, to me, is probably the biggest positive about the race. It gets kids started at a young age, gets them thinking about being runners. And it gets them thinking about getting out there and getting active.”
After the kids were done running, they received a coupon for one of the Blueberry stands.
“We try to make it really fun for the kids,” Lori Ortiz said.
This was the second year participants were able to register online, which Lori Ortiz said helps track results. And this was the first year participants could receive a Blueberry Fun Run T-shirt.
“We had a high school student design our T-shirts,” Lori Ortiz said. “That was pretty exciting.”
Because online registration costs, fees for the event were more expensive than in the previous years. Pre-race registration for the one-mile event was $10. It was $15 for 18-years-old or younger for the 5K and 10K, and $30 for 19-years-old and older. Registration was more expensive on Saturday. But Lori Oritz said that they hope to have a corporate sponsor next year, so all of the one-mile participants can run for free.
“We really want to generate that lifelong love for the race,” she said.
Lori Ortiz said that they get about 40 to 60 one-mile participants and their parents run with them.
“It’s a great opportunity for families,” Dan Ortiz said. “And it’s a great opportunity for young people to start thinking about themselves as runners.”
Lori Ortiz said that “it’s a lot of work” to organize the event, and that they are currently looking for another race director to take over. But at the end of the day, the Blueberry Fun Run was just that — fun.
“It’s part of the energy of the Blueberry Festival,” Lori Ortiz said.