Road race start

Runners head up Simpson Street on Monday at the start of the 2023 Fire Fighters Ten Mile Road Race.

A pair of newcomers captured wins in Thunder Bay’s annual Fire Fighters Ten Mile Road Race.

Lakehead University runner Andrew Lehman dominated the men’s field with a time of 52:06.9 — 2:27 clear of second-place finisher Jett Dobson. Emma Vaillancourt recorded a 1:03.48.2 for a 43.3-second win over second-place finisher Rebecca Bennitt.

Veteran runner Gary Young ran his 53rd 10-Miler, clearing the tape at 1:56:42.

An estimated 100 volunteers lined the course and another 60 or so supported the runners at the finish line.

“Good, good, we had great race conditions,” said Lehman. “Like to thank my coach, Dave. We’ve been on an 11-week training plan. My buddies Jett and Nick (Nicholas Lightwood) were also in the race. (We pushed) each other in training. Nice to see a lot of people out here. There were probably people every 100 metres cheering us on.”

Dobson and Lightwood are fellow members on the Lakehead track team.

A total of 521 solo racers took part, with 26 teams of five in the relay ranks. The Sneaky Ninjas won the relay portion with a time just under 58 minutes.

“Opened up a gap in the first five kilometres, kept it easy up until the hill, then took it out for the last little push there. It was solid,” said Lehman, a 23-year-old-year runner from Medicine Hat, Alta.

Runners from Thunder Bay and district dominated the entries, but many out-of-towners including a contingent from Sandy Lake were also present.

Vaillancourt made her first appearance count.

“Feels really good. Came in with the goal of hoping to be in the top-three, so coming out with the win was a lot of fun today. Great day, lots of energy out on the course,” said Vaillancourt, who finished 19th overall.

“About half-way I was feeling really good. Put in a little bit of a surge. Thankfully that was enough to support a gap on the field. I was able to hold it coming in,” she continued.

The Manitoulin Island native recently moved to Thunder Bay. The Fire Fighters 10-miler was last run in the traditional race format in 2019, before Vaillancourt’s time in the city.

“It’s so nice to have such community support. So many community sponsors for the event. Even to have people lining the course and cheering us on the whole way really helped us carry down to the finish line. Hoping to be back next year,” Vaillancourt added.

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