One race organizer has created an ambitious relay across Canada, and Portage la Prairie is home to two of its 205 legs.
The 205 Marathons Virtual Challenge is set to begin Mon., May 17 in Vancouver, B.C. and work its way to St. John’s, N.L. by Fri., Aug. 27. Athletes will run through Portage la Prairie on Mon., June 21.
Participants will cross through Winnipeg on June 21 and Tue., June 22.
Zoe Clarke planned the event from her living room in Fergus, Ont. last fall.
"Our country is so diverse geographically and community-wise, and yet we’re all experiencing this isolation and separation," she said. "I think going across Canada is sort of symbolic, in a sense."
Clarke, 23, has mapped out 205 marathons — 42 kilometres each — with the hope that different people will run every segment. Folks can run a marathon on their own or in a group of up to four.
"I’ve never viewed the event as a race," Clarke said. "The motivating factor for myself has been combining as diverse of a group as possible from all across Canada and getting everyone together to accomplish this challenge."
Different groups likely won’t see each other, nor will there be food or water provided along the run. It’s meant to be pandemic-friendly, Clarke said.
She mapped the event on a route planning website and tried to stay away from busy areas. However, the track isn’t perfect, Clarke said.
"The sequential idea is great, and it’s romantic, but in the end, it’s safety first," she said. "If I put this on a busy road by mistake … Runners are totally free to deviate their routes onto a safer route. That’s expected, really."
Since this is a virtual affair, participants have wiggle room regarding when they want to begin. Each runner pays a $20 fee; they’re insured through Athletics Ontario for a five-day window around their race leg’s actual start date.
Based on an online schedule on Race Roster, a marathon will begin every morning and afternoon once the event starts.
The relay is also a way to raise money — all cash collected that doesn’t go to insurance or Race Roster will go to five national charities, Clarke said.
She chose Jack.org, True North Aid, Wildlife Conservation Society Canada, The AFC and the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness because she felt they’re under-represented, and she wanted to highlight organizations who deal with national issues.
Bryan Mintenko and three friends have registered to run one of the stretches covering Portage la Prairie.
Mintenko grew up in Oakville and has since moved to Winnipeg. He and his three partners, who all live in Portage la Prairie, are tackling 10 kilometres each.
"Especially during this pandemic period, I think (running has) been therapeutic for all of us," Mintenko said.
He volunteers for the Manitoba Runners’ Association, working its social media accounts. Clarke asked that her event be posted, and after, Mintenko looked into it and rallied the troops to sign up.
Mintenko said he’s entered one to two virtual races per month over the course of the pandemic — it’s helped him physically and mentally, and it gives him a reason to explore the province.
In his volunteer position, he’s noticed people from across the world participating in Manitoban events. And, he’s seen more Manitobans join online runs.
"It’s encouraging to see more people entering running events," he said.
Details on the 205 Marathons Virtual Challenge are available online.
The Headliner community journalist
Gabrielle Piché is the community journalist for The Headliner. Gabby is a cub reporter fresh from Red River College’s creative communications program. She majored in journalism and spent the summer of 2020 as an intern at the Winnipeg Free Press. Gabby also has a B.A. in communications from the University of Winnipeg. She reported for newspapers in the Interlake, including the Selkirk Record, in 2019, and received the Eric and Jack Wells Excellence in Journalism award in 2020. When she’s not chasing stories, you can find Gabby listening to podcasts, attempting yoga or petting somebody’s dog Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org