Going the distance

68-year-old one of 211 racers at Spectrum Health 5k

REED CITY — Warming up before running her first 5k race, Sandy Sikkila said her goal was to reach the finish line “some time today.” The 68-year-old Reed City resident wanted to do her best, but not push herself beyond what she could handle. Sikkela was one of 211 racers in the eighth annual Spectrum Health 5K race Saturday morning in Reed City. Walking has been part of her daily routine for years and when her son, Mark, started running competitively two years ago, she decided to try it out for herself. “Every day I walk four to six miles — I go by how I feel,” Sikkila said. “When I come across U.S. 10, I have to run. Then I started running between lamp posts and I kept increasing my speed, so I thought I might as well give it a try.” Though she was among the oldest runners in the Spectrum Health 5k, Sikkila’s family members were determined to keep her from being discouraged. Her sisters, Judy and Linda Knutilla, both 66, made posters for Sikkila and placed them throughout the 3.1-mile stretch. As the course took Sikkila through the streets, trails and parks in Reed City, inspiring messages waited for her at each turn. “Go for the win Sandy!” “The goal is within sight!” and “Looking Good Sandy!” were among the signs strategically placed by Sikkila’s younger sisters. “It was nice that I didn’t have to read them out loud because I was out of breath,” Sikkila said jokingly after the race. After completing two-thirds of the race running solo, Sikkila was joined by her son, Mark, who finished the race with a time of 20:32 and went back and ran with his mom for her last mile. “I’m very proud of her,” Mark said. At the finish line, Linda sat waving pom-poms and Judy cheered on her sister as she took her last steps of the race. “I don’t care what time she came in, I’m just so proud that she finished,” Judy said. The Spectrum Health 5k race draws runners as young as 4-years-old and as old as 74, said Sue Snavely, Media and Marketing Manager at Spectrum Health Reed City Hospital. “It’s a healthy outreach we plan every year during the Crossroads Festival,” she said. “We have a lot of first-time runners who have never run a 5k and a lot people who come every year.” The race began in 2006 with 30 runners and has grown in participation each year. The 211 runners came from as far as Florida and Illinois along with local runners from Mecosta, Osceola, Lake, Mason, Kent and Montcalm counties in Michigan. Three-time race champion Joe Oehril completed the course in just over 16:30 and racers of all ages and experience followed. Rounding out the last leg of the race with her son by her side, Sandy met her goal and finished the race in 48 minutes. “Nothing is impossible,” Sandy said. “You just have to give it a try.”
Visit the photo gallery to see more photos from the 5k.