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      Runners take to the trails of Grand Island

      J ust under 500 people took to the trails of Grand Island Saturday in the eighth annual Grand Island Trail Marathon and Half-Marathon.

      N estled in the Hiawatha National Forest, the island provides a pristine background for the grueling endeavor.

      "Extraordinary beauty, Lake Superior, the beautiful sand stone cliffs and sandy beaches all attract people year after year," said Jeff Crumbaugh, the race director.

      T he race brings people from all over the country and the world.

      T he runners did have some help along the way with a handful of aid stations stocked with water and energy supplements.

      Sean Seekins, 34, of Traverse City, ran in the full marathon, his first time ever running one. He pushed himself to the finish line to place 22nd overall.

      "It's not about anybody else, it's about me and pushing myself to the fullest of what I got," said Seekins.

      A group of enthusiastic volunteers offer encouraging smiles and sometimes a point in the right direction at the aid stations.

      "I really do enjoy this and I want to give back," explained Deb LeBlanc, a volunteer worker who has been helping the trail run for the past eight years. "I do work with a lot of volunteers myself, and I appreciate their work so much. So if there's something I can do to help Jeff and the Grand Island Trail Marathon, it's just really enjoyable."

      T he beauty of the island and the rigor of the sport will bring many of these runners back to tackle the island.

      "Definitely, we'll be back," Seekins said.