In the past year, 44-year-old Ted Solberg of Chippewa Falls has lost more than 40 pounds, largely by running at noon. Solberg and his wife, Christina, competed in their first-ever Buckshot Run for Special Olympics on Saturday. It was just the fourth overall race for Ted Solberg. They started the 5-mile course together.
“We were going to be in town, and we’re getting ready for a half-marathon in October,” he said. “It’s a nice course. The start of the fourth mile (going uphill into Carson Park) was tough. It’s a good cause. And I’m glad the rain stopped.”
Christina Solberg also gave the race a positive review.
“It’s a great setup, with minimal hills and a lot of shade,” she said. “It was a good morning.”
When most of the competitors arrived for the 5-mile race, a hard rain and lightning storm greeted them in the park. However, the skies cleared, and the races began just a few minutes late, with humidity kicking up after the rain departed.
Proceeds from the race benefit the 18-county northwestern Indianhead region of Special Olympics Wisconsin. Karina Tomei, development director for the region, said the race generated at least $12,000 for the organization Saturday. Since its inception, the event has raised more than $1.5 million for the organization.
“It’s absolutely amazing and overwhelming,” Tomei said of the turnout. “Seeing the families and the community come together makes me appreciate it more.”
The Buckshot Run also includes a 2-mile run on the Saturday of the 5-miler, a 2-mile event on the Tuesday preceding the weekend and a kids’ event on Saturday.
The 5-mile race has been renamed “The Dan Conway 5-mile,” in honor of the world-class runner who competed in the race more than 30 times, winning the inaugural event in 1983. Conway died in May from pancreatic cancer.
Kathi Madden of Duluth, Minn., was in a group of 15 runners that came down from the Duluth-Superior area to be part of the race festivities in honor of Conway. Madden said she had done the race four times with Conway.
“It’s the first time for most of our group,” Madden said. “We’re here because we love this race, and we’re doing it for Dan. He loved it. It’s a good race and a good cause, and was made better by Dan.”
Wade Zwiener, 59, of Eau Claire has competed in more than 20 Buckshot Runs and was glad to be back on the course this year.
“I’ve always enjoyed it because I see so many of my friends I’ve made while running over the years,” Zwiener said. “I wanted to run in memory of Dan Conway, because he made this race special. He had a wonderful sense of humor, and he was inspiring in many ways.”
Zwiener also praised Leader-Telegram sports reporter Ron Buckli, the namesake of the race who helped start it 36 years ago.
“I respect what he’s done to support local running,” Zwiener said. “It is one of the races that has built up Eau Claire as running hotbed.”
Jerry Poling, a former Leader-Telegram editor, has run in all 36 Buckshot Runs, one of just a handful of people to do so. Poling, 60, said he ran the first one because Buckli encouraged him to participate.
“I wanted to be part of a great community event, where you see friends and neighbors,” Poling said. “And it’s a great way to stay in shape over the summer.”
While Poling and Zwiener have been in numerous Buckshot Runs, many competitors Saturday were participating for the first time. Mike Dahlby, 45, of Chippewa Falls said this was his third-ever race. A friend convinced him to come to it.
“I’ve never ran this course before,” Dahlby said. “It was great being down by the river. I loved that they have a dedicated course on the trail. It’s just a great cause and a lot of great people.”
Katie Toutant, 8, competed in the 5-mile race for the second straight year. She boasted that her 55-minute finish beat her previous record. Toutant, granddaughter of Eau Claire Marathon race director Pat Toutant, has competed in numerous 5K races in the past couple of years as well.
“My family is a running family, so it pushes me to do it,” Toutant said.
Buckshot Run race director Mike Salm said he was relieved the heavy rain ended before the races began.
“Things went surprisingly smoothly, considering it felt like we had a lightning strike next door,” Salm said. “It’s really something to see the community support Special Olympics, even when the weather isn’t great.”
A total of 235 runners completed the 5-mile course Saturday, along with 289 participants in the 2-mile run.