Steve's Run is a family affair for Dowagiac native

Dick Judd receives a ribbon Saturday for winning his age category.

DOWAGIAC — Staying active is important to 81-year-old Dick Judd of Dowagiac, and Saturday he proved he still has it.

Judd was one of over 400 runners taking part in the annual Steve’s Run race on the Southwestern Michigan College campus.

Judd was once again the top runner in his 80-plus age category, finishing the 5K course in 50 minutes and 54 seconds.

“I go slower all the time, but it’s still fun,” he said. “I did the 10K a few years ago in the same time I ran the 5K last year.”

“The race gives me the chance to see a lot of old friends who come back to participate,” he said. “It’s a great tradition for the community. It’s just good family fun.”

Joining Judd this year for the race were his nephew, Keith Rupp, and his family who came from Phoenix to run with him. They’ve come the last six or seven years to visit with Judd and his family and to take part in Steve’s Run.

Most people know Judd from his longtime family business, Judd Lumber, which he sold earlier this year to Brian Smith of U.S. Lumber.

“The company is 160 years old,” he said. “I have three daughters and none of them wanted to take over. We were one of the only independent lumber yards in Berrien and Cass counties.”

Judd said Saturday that he ran his first race in 1972 and has run most years since. He didn’t run track in high school but got started running as an adult.

“I’d walk two blocks and run two blocks,” he said. “Now, I still run two to three miles five days a week. I want to be able to be as active as I can as long as I can.”

He said his secret to long life has been to enjoy life as much as he can.

“I tell people to enjoy life, do the best they can with what they have, have a good attitude and have a belief in a higher power,” he said.

He got involved in competing in races through his association with Ron Gunn’s Monday Night Running Club in Dowagiac. Through that club, he’s taken part in 5K, 10K and marathons around Michigan and around the nation.

“In 1980, we all went to Honolulu to run a marathon, there were 40 or 50 of us who were in our 40s and 50s,” he said.

A Dowagiac native, Judd has strong ties to SMC. His daughter, Beth Cripe, is on the SMC Board of Trustees and he’s on the SMC Foundation Board. He also has been a longtime friend of the Briegel family. Dave Briegel was the fifth president of SMC and Steve’s Run is named after his son, Steve Briegel, who died of cancer in 1990 at the age of 22.

Steve’s mother, Camille Briegel, ran this year, coming in first in the 75-79 age category and then handing out ribbons and awards afterwards with her two grandchildren.

“It’s so much fun to see all the people who come year after year, even from a distance,” she said. “It gives you a high and my son would be so proud to see everybody come out.”

Briegel said she was thankful for everyone who continues to come to support the run. Proceeds from the race go each year to the SMC scholarship fund and to the Mayo Clinic to fund cancer research. She noted advances in cancer research have resulted in more and more people surviving after getting a cancer diagnosis.

Those who have survived cancer included guest speaker Emmy Rickert of Pinckney, Mich. Rickert was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013 at age 24. She underwent surgery and chemotherapy right away but was able to freeze eggs so she could have children in the future.

Rickert has been profiled twice in People magazine after the birth of two of her three children. She is now cancer free and thankful to share her message of survival with others.

“One of the best ways to fight cancer is to choose life every day,” she said. “Cancer took everything but it came be a formidable will to fight and embrace life.”