5:22 A.M. — The sun is just rising over Investors Group Field, but Abe Wiebe has already been long at work.
Wiebe is the starting-line coordinator, and along with 10 volunteers, was in charge of setting up. He said the volunteers started work at 3 a.m., but he started at 2:45 a.m.
"It was still dark then, before most people got out of bed," he said.
5:38 A.M. — Candace McCorrister arrives, kids in tow, for her first half-marathon. Although she’s been training for 12 weeks, she said she didn’t feel prepared.
"Twelve weeks is a normal plan, except I hadn’t run at all before 12 weeks, so I’m a little nervous," she said.
McCorrister said she participated in the race because she wanted to get back in shape.
"It gives focus, and (gave me) a very good goal that would make me get out and run, and I had no choice but to do it," she said.
As for a goal time, she said this year the finish line is goal enough.
"This will be the longest and farthest I’ve ever run in my life. My goal really is to finish," she said.
Even though she wasn’t looking for a record, McCorrister would be part of a victory, anyway. Her son, Maddox, won the Mini Mites race. Unlike his mother, he said he hadn’t trained a lot. His secret to winning? "Pushing my arm," he said.
6:30 A.M. — Kinsmen volunteer Dave Parkinson is up with the sun, getting the Raglan Road hospitality station ready. "It’s a lot of fun," said Parkinson, who marshalled volunteers to offer refreshments to Manitoba Marathon participants. "It’s the excitement when you see them going by," said Kinette volunteer Diane Theriault. "There’s such an age group — you see an elderly gentleman running and you’re inspired. It makes you feel really good."
6:40 A.M. — A long line of runners queues up in an orderly fashion for a final pit stop at the Porta-potties at the University of Manitoba before the Manitoba Marathon.
"It’s always like this," said Tracy Francis and her two daughters, Amanda, 20, and Alex, 17, ready to begin their seventh run together as a trio. She had an arm in a sling but that wasn’t going to stop the mom from joining her girls in the half-marathon and their traditional Father’s Day trek.
6:45 A.M. — Near the starting line, Donald Flett invokes a blessing on the 13,380 Manitoba Marathon participants, and its many volunteers and supporters. "We run together with excitement — eager, yet anxious to do our very best." The starter’s pistol sounds, wheelchair athletes take off with the theme song to Rick Hansen’s Man in Motion tour, St. Elmo’s Fire. 7 A.M. — The starter’s pistol fires again, cue the theme to Chariots of Fire. The first group of runners taking part in the full, 26.2-mile marathon leaves the Fort Garry campus.
8:02 A.M. — At Raglan Road, just past the halfway point, folk duo Odanah performs with guitars on the shady side of the street next to Omand’s Creek. "The Manitoba Marathon is a great thing to be volunteering for," said Brady Allard, strumming his guitar. Mike Fox agreed, even though the bartender in the Exchange District didn’t get to bed until 5 a.m. "I had a brief nap," he said, playing his heart out as the wheelchair athletes sped past, followed not long after by the first full-marathon runners.
8:20 A.M. — Don Neal’s neighbours on Raglan Road are on lawn chairs eating pancakes — some are in their pyjamas — enjoying the show chugging along down their street. Neal said his kids used to make him breakfast for Father’s Day and he’d dine alfresco while watching the marathon. Now they’re old enough to volunteer at the hospitality station, and Neal’s happy to cheer on the runners. "It’s a spectator sport," said Neal, looking forward to the latecomers — those struggling at the halfway point. He said he likes to encourage them with "Don’t worry — You’re not the last ones!"
8:30 A.M. — The first two female marathon runners round the corner past the halfway point from Portage Avenue onto Raglan Road.
8:48 A.M. — Ashley Allen is legally blind, has a cochlear implant and some motor impairment, which means she wasn’t able to run in the marathon. But it didn’t mean she couldn’t participate.
Dave Allen, Ashley’s father, pushed Ashley in her wheelchair for the 10-K race, finishing in about an hour and 20 minutes. They also raised money for the Society for Manitobans with Disabilities.
"We decided that this is the only way we can participate in this wonderful day together," Allen said.
8:56 A.M. — The runners from shorter distances begin to pour in, and when they do, Ashley Hyra is immediately there to welcome them. Hyra is a volunteer at the marathon who worked as a "hugger," someone who approaches the runners when they finish, talks to them and brings them to the back where they can get water or medical attention if they need.
Hyra is a Grade 12 Dakota Collegiate student. Every year, the school sends out about 150 volunteers to help, she said.
"(I) just find someone who looks like they need help, or looks like someone who’s been having a rough time, see how they’re doing," she said.
She said she particularly enjoys the stories the runners tell her in the roughly 20 seconds she spends with them.
"Lots of them have run so many times, or they’re trying so hard to beat their goals, and it feels nice to get their good vibes," she said.
9:03 A.M. — Brandon runner Jacqueline Di Muro, 26, beams as she accepts her second-place medal for the women’s half-marathon, with a time of 1:28:39. She’d come in third before, at the 2011 race, but this time she had a different goal than mere time in mind: "I just wanted to beat my husband," Di Muro quipped. "And I did."
9:30 A.M. — The relay-exchange zone in front of Laura Secord School in Wolseley is packed with people as it is every year, and volunteers have to gently nudge the enthusiastic crowd off the route. A tall, lean bald man wearing a Coke costume pushes a scarlet stroller containing a cooler of the beverages. The full-marathon runner grins as he bolts by folks in the neighbourhood known as Winnipeg’s "granola belt."
9:33 A.M. — Relay runner Leonard Anneck is greeted with high-fives and hugs as he finishes his leg in good time, on both legs, two weeks shy of his 60th birthday. He ran the full marathon when he was 40 and is happy to still be mobile 20 years later. He said he’s not used to the pavement — he runs on the grass in Kildonan Park — and said he may be hurting later on. It’s worth it, said Anneck. The marathon is a family affair. His relay team — Four Bucks and a Doe — includes him, his son, his brother, his nephew and daughter-in-law. "We’re all family," he beamed.
9:52 A.M. — When Carolyn Wonneck crossed the finish line of the halfmarathon, she already had one under her belt. But that was before she lost her leg.
Wonneck ran Sunday’s race using a special prosthesis meant for running. Wonneck said she lost her leg after she fell three storeys off a climbing wall when she was 16. Now 20, she said running the race was a way to prove to herself she could still do it.
"I had just run the half-marathon before my accident, so I kind of wanted to come back and do it again with a prosthesis," she said.
During training, she said she relied on those around her to motivate her.
"My friends, my family, my faith just kept me going and motivated me," she said.
When Wonneck entered the stadium for the final lap, the stadium erupted in cheers. Hearing everyone cheer her on came as a little bit of a surprise, she said.
"I was not expecting that, that was amazing," she said.
Wonneck finished the race in just under three hours. That moment of finishing was especially important for her, she said, because it proved she was capable of doing everything she could before.
"(It) was amazing. It’s just — I’m back. I ran it," she said.
"I can do anything I want to do," she said.
10:05 A.M. — At the Lyndale Drive relay exchange and hospitality station, volunteer Marvin Dueck bellows "Welcome to Mile 18 — you’re looking good!" Runners pound the pavement under the sun — some not looking so good. The hospitality station has a couple of people down with leg cramps. Alexis Remillard, an athletic therapy student volunteering at the medical station, has seen cramping, nausea and vomiting but nothing too serious. The intensity of the runners’ mental commitment to finish is sometimes is stronger than their physical ability. "If you’re vomiting, your body’s telling you to stop," she said.
10:30 A.M. — New mom Diana Stahl finishes her leg of the relay to the cheers of 11-month-old baby, Josephine, and husband, Nathan Stahl. "I loved it — it was emotional," said Stahl, moved by Winnipeg’s community spirit in the volunteers along the route. She started training for the marathon six weeks after her daughter was born but it was the cheering along the way that pushed her to finish in good time and in a good mood. "Next year, I’m going to run the half," vowed Stahl, who ran her leg of the relay plus half of a team member who had to drop out.
11:11 A.M. — Jennifer Hansell crosses the finish line after completing her first marathon and immediately bursts into tears.
The reason, she said, is because she was running for multiple family members who died last year. She said she lost three uncles to heart disease and a close family friend to lung cancer. She said she wanted to run for them.
"It was my personal goal to get out there and do it," she said.
She wasn’t the only one from her family running, she said. Her husband ran in the relay, and her cousin also ran a marathon.
Running the race was a dream for her for a long time, she said.
"I guess it’s one of the things on my bucket list... this was a goal I never dreamed that I would attain," she said.
12:02 p.m.: Jayne’s story
AT the finish line, Cheryl Mullen from Surrey, B.C., waits for her daughter, Jayne, to cross the finish line. Jayne Mullen, a U of M fine arts student, took up running two years ago and was running her first full marathon. Jayne graduated this year and her folks wanted to attend convocation.
"She said, ‘I’d rather have you here for the marathon,’ " said her mom, Cheryl. Running has transformed and empowered her daughter, said Cheryl, waiting with Jayne’s dad, David and Jayne’s boyfriend, Ian Cormack. Jayne, 23, struggled with body-image issues she conquered with running, her mom says.
12:44 P.M. — Time is running out for the marathon runners. At 1 p.m., the gates to the old football stadium close, and no more runners will be able to cross the finish line.
12:56 P.M. — Still no Jayne. Her mom, Cheryl, says the triumph for her daughter wasn’t about finishing on time but finding a strong and healthy way to live.
12:59 P.M. — Jayne’s neon-green running pants rounded the corner into the stadium. Just in the nick of time, she crosses the finish line, finishing strong and with tears of joy.
"The reason I am so thankful for coming to discover running is that it became about what my body can do as opposed to how my body looked," Jayne said after the race. "I did lose a fair amount of weight in the process but, for the first time, it was just a part of running. I saw my body as strong when, for as long as I can remember, I saw my body as the enemy."
12:10 p.m.: Ching-te Huang’s story
AFTER more than five hours of running, 64-year-old Ching-te Huang crosses the finish line of the marathon. But it is not the time of his race that is impressive, but the number, as the finish marks Huang’s 348th completed marathon.
Huang has been running marathons since 1984, from places such as his home, Taipei, Taiwan, to the Netherlands and all the way to Canada. He has run 24 marathons in 2013 so far, which amounts to almost one marathon a week. He said for him, marathons are his life after retiring.
"This is my second business for me, to restart my life," he said shortly after completing the marathon.
But he said marathons are also about much more than running.
"It is much more than you can imagine. If you want to start your first step, I think your life will be different," he said.
Though he’s run marathons in numerous countries, Huang says he particularly enjoys the Manitoba Marathon for its flat course and the energy of the volunteers.
"The volunteers and the spectators on the way, they are so lovely. I love them. I love Canada," he said.
With this marathon behind him, Huang said he hopes to continue running as long as he can. At least, he said, he doesn’t see an ending in sight in the near future.
"No ending. I hope I can run until the end of my life. I would like to find how many miles I can finish before the end of my life," he said.
"Just keep on running."
Marathon participation has hit a plateau in recent years - is it time for a shakeup? Should there be a new route, new date, or at the very least finish inside the new football stadium? Join the conversation in the comments below.