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41st Annual Brimson Sisu Race

When I told someone recently that I lived in Esko before I moved to Brimson, they com­mented that I had moved from one Finnish Community to another. Maybe that’s why we were able to feel at home so quickly after set­tling down here. Perhaps I like being in Finnish communities because Finns tend to have a lot of Sisu, a word I only recently learned, and that is a good quality to have in your neighbors.

Sisu, according to Wikipedia, is a Finnish concept described as grit, resilience, bravery, and determination. It is therefore apt that the 4.4-mile annual race through the local woods, trails, and backroads was dubbed the “Brimson Sisu”!

In 1983, Kathleen Anderson and her husband at the time, Jim Gruba, organized the run be­cause they didn’t want to have to drive far to take part in races. The first race, at Bassett Town Hall, was a success with around fifty partici­pants.

These days that number more than quadru­pled, with one hundred to two hundred people racing and another hundred or so showing up to listen to some local music, buy raffle tickets, bid on silent auction treasures, shop around the Brimson Market (which relocates for the oc­casion), and to cheer everyone on. “There’s a good feeling of camaraderie at the race,” said Bill Zwak, who has been the race’s director for the last four years. That camaraderie “brings more people in than just the racers.”

Bill, of Duluth, owns a cabin on Bassett Lake. When he took on directing the race from Lynn Boggie and Diane Dickey, who both volunteer at the Brimson Area Volunteer Fire Department, the virus was attempting to ruin the party. “We still wanted to have the race,” Bill recalled. “So, we had a virtual race and still sent out prizes.” Sounds sisu-y, to me!

You don’t have to be the fastest to win a prize at the Brimson Sisu. Awards are given in all sorts of categories in both the running and walking competitions. There is a prize for the youngest finisher, (usually the winner of this one is in a stroller). There is a prize for the first dog that finishes. There is even a prize for the first 100% Finnish Finnish-er. According to Bill, “The whole thing is celebrating Finnish heri­tage. That’s why they chose the word sisu in the first place.”

The entry fee of $28 will get you a spot in the race and a t-shirt sporting the selected “natural wonder mascot.” This year the osprey was cho­sen to represent but in previous years beavers, skunks, moose, and even water and rocks have been spotlighted. The shirts are collectibles and a few locals have stitched theirs together year after year to create quilts. Quite a keepsake!

“Last year we had our biggest year ever,” Bill said of the 2022 event that was held at Camp House. “We donated $7,500 to the Brimson Area Volunteer Fire Department. It was a good year!”

The 2023 Brimson Sisu is scheduled on Au­gust 19th, starting at 10 AM, at Toimi School. Preferred sign-up method is online. The appli­cation can be found at runsignup.com/race/MN/ Brimson/BrimsonSisu. Walk-ups are welcome before 9:45 on race day.

If you have questions regarding the Brimson Sisu contact brimsonsisu1@gmail.com . They also have a FaceBook page.

Feel free to contact me at sarahwritesnsj@yahoo.com with any news we should news about!

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