The summer spectacle of the Manitoba Marathon returns in full force Sunday after being scrapped entirely in 2020 — owing to the pandemic — and then pushed back to fall in ‘21.
The marathon starts near IG Field and finishes at the 33,000-seat stadium, and, while the Blue Bombers are on the road this week, it’ll be packed with thousands of runners and spectators.
"We’re very excited," said Manitoba Marathon executive director Rachel Munday. "We can’t wait to have people back at the university for the start lines and even more than that, at the finish lines on the turf at IG Field."
Participants in all events — about 6,000 this year, double the total from last September — will be off and running early in the morning, with full-marathon (42 kilometres) and half-marathon runners heading out at 7 a.m.
Runners in the relay, 10-kilometre and five-km events will take off between 7:10 a.m. and 7:20 a.m.
They might have to brave the warmest day of the year, although most will be off the road when the sweltering heat really kicks in. According to Environment Canada, the mercury could rise above 30 C by early afternoon.
Munday said the organizing committee is prepared for all scenarios but noted there’s no threat of a cancellation. She said wet-bulb readings — which assess the exposure level of a runner to heat stress — will be done every 20 minutes.
If a sudden closure of the course is necessary owing to the heat, buses will be on standby to get runners swiftly off the course. If an accelerated closure did occur, it wouldn’t be until about 11 a.m., she said.
"We always have a lot of plans in place for keeping runners safe and cool on the course," said Munday. "In some years we don’t use them and people don’t know they exist because they’re not visible, but when it reaches a certain temperature on the course, that’s when we start to implement them."
“We can’t wait to have people back at the university for the start lines and even more than that, at the finish lines on the turf at IG Field.” – Executive director Rachel Munday
Water stations will have an increased capacity, and showers will be available for participants along with sponges soaked in cold water that can be grabbed and used on the fly. Munday is also encouraging residents along the course to leave their sprinklers on — or really get in on the fun and spray down runners as they pass by.
"We’ve reached out to some of our friends in other cities… who have put on races and they’ve had success with things like that," she said.
The field includes everyone from recreational runners to a former Canadian Olympian.
Two-time Olympian Cam Levins of Black Creek, B.C., is looking to set a Canadian record in the half-marathon.
Levins ran a 1:01:04 last year — 24 seconds faster than the official record — but it wasn’t at a certified event or on a real course.
He competed in the 5,000-metre and 10,000m events at the 2012 Summer Games in London, and then ran the marathon at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Local runners to keep an eye out for include Nick Kosmenko, who was the fifth-best male finisher in last year’s full marathon, and Daniel Heschuk, who crossed the finish line first in the 2021 half-marathon.
Brian Walker, the top male finisher in the full marathon last fall, will run the half-marathon this year.
The event also has some international flavour, with New Zealand’s Katherine Camp set to race in the half-marathon. Camp is a decorated runner, who once held a world ranking of 30th in the women’s 800m.
"It’s going to be a great way to showcase our beautiful course and gorgeous city," said Munday.
The wait is almost over and months of training are about to be put to the test for runners of all levels.
"Everyone’s had their struggles over the last few years," said Munday. "Crossing the finish line, hearing your name and seeing yourself on the screen and getting your medal, it’s gonna be really special."