Event raises funds for Lions Club organization


LAPEER COUNTY — Sarah Cilk of Imlay City has become the first woman to finish 100 miles under 24 hours during the Bear Lake Ultra held at the Lions Club Bear Lake Camp for the deaf and blind in Lapeer earlier this month.

She was one of 11 competitors from the Tri-City Times coverage area to take part in the race.

21 of the 110 participants were first time ultra runners with 14 of them running over 31 miles during the race, making that the farthest they have ever run.

The 42-year old Marlette High School graduate (1999) has lived in Imlay City for 12 years. She said she became aware of the event through the Imlay City Run Club.

“This was my second ultra race,” she said. “Last year was my first year at Bear Lake and my goal was 50 miles. This year, my second ultra goal was 100 miles and I was the top female finisher. I was pretty excited.”

Sarah Cilk of Imlay City set a new course record for females at the recent Bear Lake Ultra run. She covered 100 miles in under 24 hours to set the new record. Running beside her is Mark VanDenBerg, also of Imlay City.

She went on to add, “It is an amazing race with a lot of good runners and of course, I am excited to be the first woman in the history of the race of six years to hit 100 miles!”

Several other local runners logged many miles during the 24 hour ultramarathon. The race has been going on for six years and helps to raise funding for the camp.

30-year-old Shane Dean of Attica was the top men’s finisher from the area, covering 86.8 miles while Sarah Kessling of Dryden was 18th overall, doing 71 miles on the course.

Imlay City runners Mark VanDenBerg (22nd) and Melynda Finzer (52nd) covered 68 and 43 miles respectively while Miguel Rodriguez of Capac was 29th overall, putting in 62 miles.

Other runners from the Tri-City Times coverage area include Amanda Szewczyk (40th), Toni Thomas (96th) and Adam Terry (101).

In all, 111 runners took part in the event.

The BLU has had runners from 11 different states and 3 countries including California, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, Utah, Canada and Switzerland.

Over the years there have been 11 runners complete 100 miles or more.

The Bear Lake Ultra was created by Race Director Rob Lykins. Rob designed BLU after his favorite race “One Epic Run” in Spartanburg, S.C.

From day one, his family has been highly involved in BLU, kicking off the “family feel” of the race.

Rob’s Mom Gari AKA “Mom,” has spent countless hours sewing custom gifts for the runners, packing the “Pilot Packs” for each runner and oversees packet pick up and the aid station during the race.

Some of Lykins goals when developing BLU were to offer a high-quality race with a low registration price and to give the racers more than just a place to run.

Along the way, the race director hoped to create a “family” atmosphere, make the race personalized to each runner and to offer a race that all levels of runners can attend.

Through all of the races, Lykins wanted the proceeds to help a non-profit organization as a result of the race event.

Runners loop around Bear Lake Visually Impaired Camp along rolling hills on single-track trails, wide groomed trails (dirt), some grass and a few bridge crossings completing as many loops (3.1 miles) as they want and at any pace during the 24 hours.

At any time runners can take a break and continue on the course within the 24 hours.

Lykins said of the event, “Every year we try to improve on the past and add more to the race, aid station and atmosphere, striving to give the runners the best race money can buy and helping them achieve their goals. The race has had many runners attend and double their previous distance personal records.”

Over the past 5 years the race has covered over 17,000 miles and has raised over $28,000 for Lions Bear Lake Blind Camp.

Lions Bear Lake Camp is owned and operated by Lions Visually Impaired Youth Camp, Inc. and is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit corporation.

The camp first opened its doors in July, 2000, starting with only 53 campers the first year,

To date, Bear Lake has since been able to service more than 10,000 campers and visitors.

The camp is financially supported by the Lions, Lioness and Leos, as well as foundation grants and individual donors throughout Michigan.