When a cannon sounded Saturday morning, officially starting the 18th annual Hannibal Cannibal, a flood of humanity surged south on North Main Street.

When a cannon sounded Saturday morning, officially starting the 18th annual Hannibal Cannibal, a flood of humanity surged south on North Main Street.

According to the Hannibal Cannibal Facebook page, this year’s participant count not only raced past 2,000, it edged past the 2,100 plateau. Race Director Angie Wilcoxson used Facebook to announce that 2,106 runners, joggers and walkers took part.

A late surge of entrants helped push the sign-up total beyond 2,100. As of Friday, over 1,900 people had signed up.

This year’s field of participants blew away last year’s group of over 1,800 runners/walkers.

Saturday’s event, the proceeds of which go entirely to the Hannibal Regional Hospital Foundation, featured 5-, 10- and 15-kilometer races, a 5-K walk, plus a fun run for youngsters.

Long before the cannon shot that started the race, numerous runners could be seen running up and down Main Street in an effort to prepare muscles for the course ahead.

With the race starting at 7 a.m., far more people were in the streets than on the sidewalks watching. Many of the spectators found benches or seats outside of closed bars on which to sit and watch the sea of humanity pass.

Once the event began, runners fell in behind a Missouri State Highway Patrol vehicle, whose lights were flashing.

A few blocks into the race, the thoroughbreds of the field had already made their way to the front. Like well-trained race horses, one could almost feel the invisible reins being pulled so as not to set an unrealistic pace too early.

After the lean running machines swept past, another brand of serious runner followed. They did not have illusions of winning; their objective was to beat their previous best time.

In the minutes that followed came men and women runners of all sizes and ages. Their opponent wasn’t the clock so much as being able to tell friends and family that they had faced the Hannibal Cannibal challenge and had lived to tell the tale.

At the outset of the race, only the pounding of hundreds of sneakers against the Main Street pavement was heard. However, as more of the field passed, more voices of people conversing could be heard mixed in with the sneakers.

After a majority of the runners had disappeared, a second countdown could be heard coming from North Street. It was followed by another cannon shot which freed the field of walkers. A handful of joggers broke out from the pack before settling into a walker’s gait.

Unlike the runners, who for the most part wore a trace-like look as they passed, a majority of the walkers were smiling and chatting as they made their way down Main Street.

While the runners were attired in serious runners garb, many walkers showed more creativity in their wardrobe. At least one individual wore a bow tie. At the end of the pack were a handful of men in firefighter gear.

Later in the morning Main Street was still closed down from Center Street northward as the youngsters’ fun run took place. Based on their all-out pace, they relished being in the spotlight, no doubt fantasizing of one day joining their mom, dad or older siblings in the main event - the Hannibal Cannibal.