Sunday of Labor Day weekend was an almost perfect north country day. The temperature was cool, the humidity minuscule and the skies blue as Lake Ontario showed off its grandeur.
And Sunday was the day of the 18.12 Challenge. In this anniversary celebration of the War of 1812 and Sackets Harbors role as a major ship-building hub to supply battleships for naval operations on Lake Ontario, it was especially fitting that 642 runners finished either a half marathon or a run of 18.12 miles on the Battlefield Park in Sackets looking over the vast expanse of Lake Ontario where 200 years ago great sailing battleships postured as British warships approached from Kingston and American ships set sail from Sackets.
Ageless runners came from across the north country, from Florida, Ontario and North Carolina, among other states. David Bruce, 70, from Florida was the fastest runner in the 70 to 99 year age group covering the half marathon in just under 2 hours and 24 minutes, finishing in 228th place. At the other end of the age spectrum Nathan Tyler, Adams, was the fastest male 17 and younger. Nola Pominville of Castorland was the fastest of all the youngsters, running in the female 17 and under age group.
The top runner in the half marathon was Nick Webster of Latham, who was the first to cross the finish line on the shores of Black River Bay. Martin Nicholson of Syracuse led the way in the 18.12 Challenge.
One soldier from Fort Drum completed the course in his combat trousers and boots. Spectators marveled at wildly colorful T-shirts and shorts, striking colors of running shoes, and youngsters joining a parent or grandparent for the final 100 yards. Throughout the course and at the finish line, hundreds of volunteers controlled traffic, provided water to parched runners, staffed a first aid tent and providing steady encouragement to runners determined to finish with their personal best race time.
And what marked the crowd of runners and spectators alike was a general air of health. Trim runners, and trim spectators, filled Battlefield Park. For a nation whose leaders spend so much time whining about the status of the health of Americans, experiencing last Sunday morning at Sackets would have been instructive.
They would have witnessed and admired an assemblage of the fittest who accomplished their goal without a federally recommended diet or a government mandated exercise regime or the calorie police of New York City dictating what they could buy at a fast-food restaurant. Sackets Harbor, the organizers of the 18.12 Challenge, the volunteers and, above all else, the healthy runners provide evidence of what is right about Americans, and it came on the weekend we celebrate the incredible success of Americas workers.