"Let the good times roll" was the motto Friday as the Manitoba Marathon Foundation kicked off its annual festivities.
The marathon, which starts Sunday at 7 a.m., will be the 35th since being founded in 1979. The theme this year is Mardi Gras, an idea inspired by the good time everyone has no matter what part of the run they are involved with, said Leilani Kagan, the Manitoba Marathon Foundation chairwoman.
"We brainstormed for a long time. It started off with a play on the words good time -- good time, being from a runner's perspective, the race time; from a volunteer's perspective, a good time; and for the recipients of our charity, being able to live independently and inclusively in our community," she said.
As part of that theme, people will be able to buy beads at the marathon, with proceeds donated to charities associated with the marathon.
2013 is the first year the foundation is running its 26 for 26 program. Kagan said the program was created to let other charities use the marathon as an opportunity to raise funds. The idea was to have a total of 26 charities, one for every mile. This year, the foundation has partnered with 11, including its original charity supporting people with intellectual disabilities.
Kagan said she's happy with the turnout.
"This being our first year, we didn't know what to expect, but we got a really good response," she said.
Friday saw some real firsts at the launch in the form of runners and organizers of the 1979 marathon. R.A. (Sam) Fabro was one of the organizers of the first race. He said seeing the event go from the roughly 4,500 participants back then to an expected 14,000 this year is unbelievable.
"It's something we couldn't envisage at that time," he said.
"It was the blind leading the blind."
The original vision for the marathon came from former Free Press and CBC journalist John Robertson, Fabro said.
"He just came back from Montreal, and he had a thing about helping the people who were (intellectually disabled)," Fabro said.
Several people planning to participate in the marathon were also present at the event, including Canadian Paralympic athlete Colin Mathieson. He said the marathon has a special meaning for him.
"It's very symbolic for me. I've watched it from the very beginning, since I was a little boy, and it's exciting to participate in it," he said.
Mathieson will compete in the half-marathon.
The Manitoba event is the first local marathon since the Boston Marathon bombings in April, but Mathieson said he isn't worried.
"I don't think you can afford to give in to the fear. I think that the Manitoba Marathon is a fantastic group. I'm sure they've got everything under control, and as an athlete you just have to assume so," he said.
Shirley Lumb, executive director of the marathon, said safety procedures won't be different from those in past years.
"We examined everything that we do, and we feel that we're pretty on top of things," she said.