By Ron Rop

Greg Helmer’s early-morning workouts paid off on Saturday in the 31st Annual Mercy Health Seaway run.

Helmer, from Muskegon, used that preparation to capture the masters division in the 5K portion of the event.

Michael Trier, left, ran the Mercy Health Seaway Run in a cape, pair of pink tights and a pair of underwear over the top of his compression shorts. Photo/Mark Lewis

“That’s what they were saying that I was the first old man over the line,” said Helmer, who completed the course in 16:54. That time was also good for fourth overall in the men’s half of the race.

Rob Moore, from Groveport, Ohio, is a familiar name at the race. He’s won 16 titles overall in his Seaway Run career. He came in second in the masters race with a time of 17:16. Moore, 47, won the masters division a year ago.

But this time around, he had some new competition. Helmer just broke into the masters division by turning 40 this past spring.

Helmer had been really cranking out the miles during his training, but then a hamstring injury popped up and slowed him down.

Helmer’s training begins at 5 a.m. It has to be that way since his work schedule and spending time with his family take up much of the remainder of his day.

“I’m training before the birds start chirping,” Helmer said.

Quite the costume

Michael Trier, a recent graduate of Muskegon Catholic Central High School, won the official title of “best costume” for the get-up he wore for the 15K run.

Trier donned a blanket as a cape that was pinned around his neck. His legs were covered by a sparkly pair of pink tights and he wore a pair of Fruit of the Loom underwear over the top of a pair of Under Armor compression shorts.

“I spent more time working on the costume than I did training for the race,” Trier said.

His original plan was to run the 5K race, but ended up running the 15K.

“That was fine,” said Trier. “The first couple of miles were tough, but then I settled into a good pace. I felt really good at the end.

“It was a little out of my element running 9 miles,” he said.

Trier was a member of the Crusader 3,200-meter relay team that competed in the MSHAA Division 4 state track meet.

Trier also was a swimmer at Muskegon Catholic.

Record-setting day

Last year, the Seaway Run set a record with 1,600 participants.

That number was blown away on Saturday with 1,924 runners and 955 walkers for a total of 2,879 participants.

Race co-director Lisa Brady said there were several factors in the huge boost in numbers.

“With having Mercy being the signature sponsor, they had a big part in this,” Brady said. “The had a big push in getting their employees involved.”

Area sponsors also allowed the Seaway Run committee to give runners under the age of 18 a discount for their entry fee.

There were area schools that got involved to help push the number upward.

Some corporations also issued challenges to their employees to train and participate in the race.

“All that stuff combined pushed the numbers up,” Brady said. “And area sponsorships allowed it to be more affordable for families.”