The Bill Neilsen Trail Run (BTR) is celebrating its fifth year in Lacombe and is continuing to carry on the legacy of Lacombe resident Bill Neilsen.
Neilsen, who passed away four months before the first BTR of pancreatic cancer, was avid trail runner and enthusiast who ran 100 marathons in his lifetime — 30 of which he ran after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.
“Bill was a person that used the trails, ran on the trails and maintained the trails so after he passed away we decided to start the Bill Neilsen Trial Society and our only fundraiser is the trail run,” Larry Michielsen, president, said.
Since it’s inception in 2014, the BTR has raised over $20,000 with the funds going towards maintaining, promoting and upgrading Lacombe’s trail network.
“Right now, we are using that to maintain the trails but a lot of it is also sitting in the bank because we also want to link the trails from Cranna Lake to Elizabeth Lake,” Michielsen said.
He added they are also working with the City and Burman University to upgrade the trails.
“Our goal is to link the trail system of Lacombe and one of the areas we are looking at currently is linking the trail between Westview Drive on the west side of Lacombe to Cranna Lake,” he said. “The project costs over $100,000, so it is not small and we have to save a for a few years.”
While they wait for the City, the society spends their funds on items to maintain the trail including lawnmowers, weedeaters and also new woodchips.
Vice President Diane Hayduk said that once they receive approvals, they will begin helping the City in planning new trails and trail infrastructure.
“We can help build the trail and suggest where they should go,” she said. “It is $1,000 per metre for a bridge, which is huge. We want to have the funds ready so that we can say, ‘We can do it’.”
The BTR, however, is more than just raising funds.
“It is also about encouraging people to run and walk. We want to promote running and exercise for mental and physical health,” Michielsen said.
This year, over 350 people came out to support the cause and promote active lifestyles.
“It is 100 more people than normal,” Michielsen said, adding that each participant will receive a finishing medal for the first time this year.
“That was a big thing when you went into Bill’s garage,” Hayduk said. “He had 100 medals from all the marathons he ran.”
Hayduk and Michielsen added they want to to thank the over 100 volunteers who helped out and the business sponsors that helped them put on the event.
“The feedback from the racers is that we have the best marked course with the happiest volunteers. You never get lost,” she said.