By RJ Walters / For the Jackson Citizen Patriot
Jeff Heath enjoys a good running competition, and he loves raising money to help light up the holiday sky.
The Firecracker Run is the best of both worlds for Heath, who is in his 13th year as the race director for the Hanover-Horton Firecracker Run, an event small-town residents count on to help provide them a majestic aerial display on the Fourth of July.
“Hanover’s been real fortunate,” Heath said. “This is the 15th year this real tiny town has been able to afford a decent fireworks display.
“Part of the secret is this race — it funds almost half the fireworks.”
The half-hour fireworks display put on by Wolverine Fireworks costs roughly $5,000.
More than 300 people have registered for the 5-mile run in recent years, and Heath expects close to 325 participants this year, meaning an awesome show should be in store for the tightly packed streets come Sunday night.
The race itself is an unusual test for runners who compete in Jackson-area runs throughout the year. This race is one of only a few point-to-point races left in the state, and the winners of each age division are awarded pies from Flavor Fruit Farms.
There also is a $100 prize for anyone who can beat the course record of 25 minutes, 21 seconds, which was set by Nick Allen last year.
“When I took it over, we changed it to a point-to-point course from Horton to Hanover,” Heath said. “It used to be an around-the-block course from Hanover, and you would just circle the 5-mile block,” Heath said. “I think there’s a certain amount of charm in running from small town to small town.”
Participants should arrive in Hanover between 7 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. Sunday to catch a bus to Horton where the race begins at 8 a.m.
The runners will begin the run at the Horton Fire Station and finish at the Hanover Fire Station.
Heath said this race is important for many of the runners, because the Jackson Citizen Patriot Run/Walk series is heading down the homestretch.
“This little stretch between the Concord, Hanover and Clark Lake runs right now is where you’re going to see the big move in the points. You only count four races, and this is where you’ll start seeing it shake out,” he said.
There also is a 5k walk and a kids run that covers approximately three-quarters of a kilometer.
People can still register for the event on www.active.com or by e-mailing Heath at firstname.lastname@example.org. The cost is $22 with a T-shirt, $18 without a T-shirt, or $45 for a family, with four shirts included.