A run up Lover’s Leap or just a leisurely walk, the Hannibal Cannibal is for everyone

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Todd and Jay Arnold ready to take off at the 2018 Hannibal Cannibal. Contributed by Hannibal Regional System

HANNIBAL – Richard Valuck, cardiologist at Hannibal Regional Healthcare System, almost never misses the Hannibal Cannibal. For Valuck and many of his family members, the Hannibal Cannibal has become an annual tradition. 

This year marks 28 years of the Hannibal Cannibal. Part of the National Tom Sawyer Days celebration, the Hannibal Cannibal will take place on July 1 with a rolling start between 6:30-7 a.m. 

The Hannibal Cannibal is open to all skill levels of walkers and runners who can choose between a 5k, 10k, or 15k route. 

Participants begin in downtown Hannibal on North Main, proceed south along the Mississippi River and up Lover’s Leap. 

Valuck and his family make preparing for the annual event a challenge to stay active all year long. From his wife, daughters, son-in-laws, and other family members, he has made the run with most of them. 

“It’s like a festival downtown. You get to run down the street and everyone is cheering you on. It’s fun you see the same people year after year and get to know them. There is a camaraderie formed,” Valuck said. “A great time of year to get out and participate.”

The Hannibal Cannibal draws in approximately 1,500 participants each year. Last year’s event included 136 15K runners, 150 10K runners, 671 5K runners, and 541 5K walkers.   

It has also been featured in national magazines such as Runner’s World, which included a front page photo of the race. The Hannibal Cannibal is a USA Track and Field certified course.

Although the route may seem intimidating, Valuck said not to let fear get in the way. 

“If you are scared of it, just show up and walk. You don’t have to run or even do the entire route. There is a leisure walk also,” he said. “That’s the beauty of it, you only are competing against yourself. Unless you want to make it a competition.”

The Hannibal Cannibal makes sure that safety for participants is a priority with first-aid stations, volunteer medical staff, and plenty of water and gatorade stations along the route. 

Valuck said in 2015, he and his wife completed the 5K leisure walk after she had heart surgery. 

“We just walked it together and didn’t go too fast, but we completed it and felt really proud,” he said.

Valuck was also a recipient of the Bob Richards Legacy award in 2021, which recognizes an individual who is an avid supporter of the Cannibal and a promoter of healthy and active lifestyles.

Bob Richards participated in the Hannibal Cannibal until he was 90 years old. Valuck recalled the last few years when a medical assistant would accompany him.

“He would go up and three or four blocks up Main and turn around. He served as a great motivator for older people to keep signing up,” he said. “He did what he could.”

Richards died in 2017 at 99 years old.

Valuck, a physician for more than 30 years, stressed the importance of remaining active for as long as possible.

“It’s been well proven in many studies that people who stay active, especially as they get older, can prevent many of the conditions that are in their control,” he said. “Things like diabetes, high cholesterol, and coronary heart problems.”

The Hannibal Cannibal is presented by the Hannibal Regional Foundation, an organization mirroring Valuck’s dedication to promoting the importance of a healthy lifestyle. The official sponsor of 2023 is Advance Physical Therapy.

“Partnering with the foundation is great. Their idea is to help encourage people to stay in good condition and avoid a lot of what you can by having a healthy lifestyle,” he said.

Proceeds from the Hannibal Cannibal this year will benefit the Hannibal Regional Foundation’s Making Memories Matter Campaign to raise funds for Hospice of Northeast Missouri, a division of Hannibal Regional.

Early registration for the event will be until June 19. Click here for more information on registering.

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