Letters

Letters 05-02-2016

Facts About Trails I would like to correct some misinformation provided in Kristi Kates’ article about the Shore-to-Shore Trail in your April 18 issue. The Shore-to-Shore Trail is not the longest continuous trail in the Lower Peninsula. That honor belongs to the North Country Trail (NCT), which stretches for over 400 miles in the Lower Peninsula. In fact, 100 miles of the NCT is within a 30-minute drive of Traverse City, and is maintained by the Grand Traverse Hiking Club...

North Korea Is Bluffing I eagerly read Jack Segal’s columns and attend his lectures whenever possible. However, I think his April 24th column falls into an all too common trap. He casually refers to a nuclear-armed North Korea when there is no proof whatever that North Korea has any such weapons. Sure, they have set off some underground explosions but so what? Tonga could do that. Every nuclear-armed country on Earth has carried out at least one aboveground test, just to prove they could do it if for no other reason. All we have is North Korea’s word for their supposed capabilities, which is no proof at all...

Double Dipping? In Greg Shy’s recent letter, he indicated that his Social Security benefit was being unfairly reduced simply due to the fact that he worked for the government. Somehow I think something is missing here. As I read it this law is only for those who worked for the government and are getting a pension from us generous taxpayers. Now Greg wants his pension and he also wants a full measure of Social Security benefits even though he did not pay into Social Security...

Critical Thinking Needed Our media gives ample coverage to some presidential candidates calling each other a liar and a sleaze bag. While entertaining to some, this certainly should lower one’s respect for either candidate. This race to the bottom comes as no surprise given their lack of respect for the rigors of critical thinking. The world’s esteemed scientists take great steps to preserve the integrity of their findings. Not only are their findings peer reviewed by fellow experts in their specialty, whenever possible the findings are cross-checked by independent studies...

Home · Articles · News · Features · By George!
. . . .

By George!

Cherry Fest races founder, George Kuhn, keeps pace at 81

Erin Crowell - July 1st, 2013  


If you’ve made it a tradition to walk or run in the National Cherry Festival races, George Kuhn has been right there with you. Kuhn is not only the founder of the 1973 race but has also participated every single year, including this year’s 40th annual race on July 6 at the age of 81.

With black-rimmed glasses and a stack of brilliant white hair, Kuhn resembles the main character of the Disney/Pixar animated film, “Up,” Mr. Fredericksen – but instead of a tweed jacket and a plump body, Kuhn sports a pair of black spandex bicycle shorts. Veins snake along his muscular arms and legs, which have been darkened by years of the sun during daily workouts.

“You just have to make it part of your day,” Kuhn said about his daily workouts, which range from morning walks to pedaling his Trek road bike the 38 miles to Suttons Bay and back. “I’ve always kept it in my schedule. There was just no question if I was going to do something active. I’m just going to do it.”

That included overcoming hip surgery at the age of 64 and getting through a case of West Nile Virus.

“I got bit by the wrong mosquito and was in the ICU for four days. There were four cases in Northern Michigan. Afterwards, the doctor told me how worried he had been for me,” said Kuhn.

Both incidents threw a wrench in Kuhn’s exercises, but by six weeks post-surgery, Kuhn was on his bicycle – even riding 50 miles just two months after he was discharged.

When it comes to his diet, Kuhn has simply shifted from a protein-based, meatheavy focus to a balance of starches – and of course his nightly serving of ice cream.

THE FATHER OF FITNESS

Kuhn has become synonymous with running in Traverse City. Aside from organizing the first Cherry Festival race, he helped found the Traverse City Track Club, which celebrated its 50th year in 2011.

“George was always at the weekly track club races, ready to run because part of why he organized it is because he wanted to be able to do it himself,” said Lisa Taylor, director of the Meijer Festival of Races. “For my husband and I, (the track club) was our welcome wagon into the community.”

That same self-starter attitude has carried over into other aspects of Kuhn’s life, including his role in creating the school computer center at TBAISD.

“Who ran in the ’60s? Nobody. Who had a computer in the ’60s? Nobody. You’ve got to start things because no one else will,” said Kuhn.

‘IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL…’ OH, YOU GET THE IDEA

As of press time, there were close to 2,400 walkers and runners signed up for the 5K and 15K races, said Taylor.

“We usually get about 300 walk-ups the day before and maybe 100 more on the morning of the race,” she said, despite the race date being moved ahead a week from previous years. “I’ve noticed it’s also really a family event. It’s not surprising to see mom, dad and the kids all registered.”

That wasn’t the case when Kuhn started the event.

“Back in the ’70s, one of the Cherry Fest board members said, ‘we ought to have a marathon for the festival.’ Well, back then there weren’t many marathoners around so we decided to do a 10K,” Kuhn said of the original race.

Within a few years, word had spread and nearly 600 participants were signing up.

“It got to the point where it became too much a hassle to bus so many people out to the peninsula (the original starting point), so we changed it to a 15K and tried to narrow down the field.”

Even after adding the route over McKinley Hill, that race continued to draw participants.

“Eventually the numbers grew again,” he chuckled.

CELEBRATING HEALTH

Now divided into a 5K and 15K, the Meijer Festival of Races invites people of all ages to get moving during the National Cherry Festival.

And like years past, Kuhn will be present – rounding out the back of the pack with his ski walking poles and determined attitude.

“I talked to him the other day and he goes, ‘Well, it’s going to be a long 5K but I’ve been preparing for it.’ He takes it seriously,” said Taylor about her mentor and hero. “I remember when he turned 60… he had a chin-up bar in the backyard and would celebrate his birthday by doing a pull-up for every year he turned. He walked right up to that bar and did 60 pull-ups. Some of the 30 and 40-year-old guys were standing there with their mouths open.”

The 40th Annual Meijer Festival of Races will take place on Saturday, July 6. Both the 5K and 15K distances will start at the main campus of Northwestern Michigan College and end along the Grand Royale Parade route in downtown Traverse City. Registration is still open and available at cherryfestival.org/festival-of-races.

 
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