at the races The Prairies Roar Back with In-Person Races

The Prairies Roar Back with In-Person Races

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The in-person race season is getting a big shot in the arm this fall with the Manitoba Marathon, Scotiabank Calgary Marathon, and the GMS Queen City Marathon leading the way.

All three events are run by experienced professionals, open to all provinces, offer races in multiple distances, and, most importantly, are scheduled to be held in person.

​”We are excited to have the opportunity to be among the first large races back in 2021,” says Shawn Weimer, executive director of Run Regina, who’s been at the helm of his race since 2014. The event, held over three days and beginning September 10, offers a 5K, 10K, half marathon and marathon. Weimer says: “The GMS Queen City Marathon is an opportunity for the  Saskatchewan race community to come together, safely, to celebrate all those who continued to train during the past 16 months and to welcome those who took up the sport during the pandemic.”

Obviously, racing after the pandemic is different than what we’ve experienced in previous years. The after-parties are over and gathering of all kind is discouraged, if not flat-out banned. Expect less bells and whistles, no post-race massage. The race, more or less, is now the thing, with runners showing up on the line, staying with their corral, competing, and then leaving the event in an orderly fashion. It’s something we’ve been hungry for—racing, in person, timed and competitive, even if it’s bare bones.

“As we have planned our return to racing over the past two years, our focus has been on trying to keep some of the race experience intact, as we keep the runners and volunteers safe,” says Rachel Munday, executive director, Manitoba Marathon Foundation, and a running industry veteran since 2004. The Manitoba Marathon is being held September 4 and 5 and offers races of all distances, and a youth run. “We have moved to a two-day format, smaller waves at the start line, pulse starts, changes to our routes to allow for less impact on city services, modified aid stations, and the list goes,” Munday says. “What will not change, however, is the energy and excitement of race day! We can’t wait to set up the arches, turn on the music and cheer our runners on as they get back on the roads.”

Kirsten Fleming, executive director of the Scotiabank Calgary Marathon, quotes Joni Mitchell when mentioning the anticipation of her in-person fall event: “Don’t it always seem to go/we don’t know what we want til it’s gone.” Like the other race leaders, she sees the increase of new runners from the pandemic and the pent-up excitement behind the return of racing and predicts this first-round of Prairie-held in-person races playing a pivotal role in the next running wave.

Racing is back in Canada, says Fleming, and she’s proud to see herself and her local race directors—all close friends like the extended community of race directors across the country—leading the way.

“Growth and innovation come out of necessity so I feel energized about the dawn of a new era in our industry and excited to see 18 months of collaboration start to actualize at start lines all over the globe,” says Fleming, who’s put on 11 virtual races during the pandemic and adds that there’s 70 spots left for her marathon—open to all of Canada—one of the few in-person 2021 Boston-qualifiers. “If I were a participant, partner or charity I would be extremely optimistic about the future of races.”