“Joyous” is a word that we haven’t spoken enough of during this long pandemic, but it’s the word that the Manitoba Marathon race director Rachel Munday uses to explain the return of her event, held on Sunday. “We had so many people thanking us, saying that they feel like themselves again,” says Munday, reached over Zoom after watching 2,500 people cross the finish line at her successful event. “The whole experience was so emotional. It was joyous—there really is no better word.”
Over the weekend, the Manitoba Marathon joined the Levi Half Marathon in Quebec and other select Canadian races that have been able to hold their races as in-person events. On the heels of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon requiring vaccinations from their participants, the world of in-person racing seems to be a rapidly moving starting line.
However, from the runners who’ve been able to race on actual in-person Canadian courses, it seems the events hold huge emotional appeal.
“It felt freeing,” says Cheryl Ann, who completed the half marathon this weekend in Manitoba. “I loved running the course and seeing all of my running friends that I haven’t seen in so long. I usually run with earbuds and music, but I made it a point to remove them as I was approaching the finish line, just to hear the volunteers and the crowd cheers. It was a memorable, emotional finish.”
A marathoner who’s completed 116 marathons, says Sunday’s event was one of the most gratifying that he’s ever ran. He wasn’t happy with his finishing time. He also didn’t really care. “I was just glad to be back,” says Len Rolfson, who hasn’t missed a Manitoba Marathon since it first started, in 1979. “I felt safe with all the COVID protocols and they worked pretty seamlessly. There was something about seeing all of the familiar faces that really felt special, like something better than good.”
That good feeling isn’t only going to be found in Manitoba. Rachel Munday, the Manitoba Marathon race director, has been working with RDs across Canada for the past two years on their race safety precautions and she had the race director from the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon at her event. A popular white paper shared by Running USA claims that races hold minimal transmission risk. Outdoor transmission is .1% of all transmission events, the report reads. And with the Manitoba Marathon completed, the learnings from that event will soon be shared countrywide.
“All of the big city race directors in Canada have been collaborating for two years and we’ve been working together for runners to make a plan for a safe return,” Munday says. “Now that we’ve had our event, we can take what we’ve learned and move it to other events around the country: we’re all working together for runners so that safe, in-person Canadian events, like ours, can return.”