Run Blue Mountains!

The Run Blue Mountains event is coming up on October 16, 2016 and we spoke with the organizers, participants, volunteers and one of the Signature Support recipients to see what the day is all about!

Linda Wykes and Gerry McGregor are members of the Thornbury/Clarksburg Rotary Club. About 5 years ago they were brainstorming during a meeting, trying to come up with some new ideas for event fundraisers that could support some great local initiatives in the area. Jeremy Wentworth Stanley pitched the idea of a running race and mentioned coincidentally that a popular Collingwood run, organized by Ruth Hitchcock was looking for new leadership. Ruth was moving out West and invited Linda to attend the last race she hosted “I shadowed her throughout the day and learned so much”. The experience left Linda with no doubt that they had found a great fit for Rotary and decided to take over the event in 2013.

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The alchemy of a great event starts with the organizers and then branches out towards the community through participation, sponsorship and volunteerism. Thornbury/Clarksburg Rotary have mastered this concept which has resulted in a race that has earned it a 96% positive Banana review from the website mynextrace.com! There really is something for everyone at the event with a 1km kids run, 5 km, 10 km, half marathon and plenty of volunteer spots available if someone is not a runner.

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Linda thinks the key to their success has been “Listening to the athletes and getting as many reviews as we can, finding out what runners like and don’t like in an event”. This direct feedback has helped shape the run to include podium medals, a fantastic route with stunning views, supportive volunteers at water stations, a toque included in registration, a warm venue awaiting everyone at the end of the run and a hot meal as they finish their run! They even created a new age competition category “We got a call from a 70 year old athlete who was training hard and was feeling challenged by the idea of competing in a open category of 60+. We heard what he had to say and opened up a new category this year for the 70+ runners”. This level of customer service is rare these days and a great example of what makes this run so fantastic.

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Amelia Lockhart began running about 4 years ago as part of a healthier lifestyle that she had committed to. “Running is a form of exercise that works for me and I just love it”. She tries to race one event per month during the Spring/Summer & Fall and Run Blue Mountains is one of her favorite competitions! “It has such a great atmosphere with beautiful apple orchards for scenery and a hot meal at the end of the race”. “Last year the snow took us by surprise and the event was still so fun to run in, everyone was smiling and encouraging me, cheering each racer on as we passed the water stations.”

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The event provides two kinds of support for local charities and organizations. These take the form of an honorarium for volunteering at the water stations and Signature support for groups who make a request through rotary and are accepted by the board. For 2016 Signature support has been awarded to The Meaford Coyotes, Events for Life, Big Brothers & Sisters Georgian Triangle and Hope Haven.

There are seven volunteer organizations who are joining in on the fun for the 2016 event. They are an important part of the run as they set up and maintain the water stations throughout the course and provide cheering and motivation for the athletes! The Thornbury Sparks, Brownies and Guides will be at the finish line this year and Shirley Woolner (Guide Leader) said they love participating in this run. “It’s a great bridging event for us, it’s early in the Guiding year and the girls can get to know each other in a really fun environment”. “Everyone feels equal at this event, the little ones can cheer and yell just as loud at the older girls! It’s also an opportunity to open the girls eyes to the possibilities that you can be 20 or 70 and be athletic for life.” “Empowerment for girls is so important for us and so is inclusiveness, there is no girl that cannot join Guides, everyone is welcome.”

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Kevin Hooper is the head coach of the Meaford Coyotes Track Club and who is receiving Signature support says “This money is crucial for us to provide a quality program. Not all kids can afford to race and this helps us cover their RACE fees and gets them competing.” When we asked him just what kind of impact the program was having locally he said “We want to keep kids active and competition is a great way to do that. We have seen kids with ADHD transform through training and competing. We have also seen kids grown and become mature competitive athletes who have gone on to get university running scholarships.” The Coyotes organization has grown to include over 62 athletes and although a large part of their base is the younger set, the team is also attracting some more senior runners too. “We range from age 7 all the way up to age 65”. On any given week the Coyotes have 7-8 training groups with 1-2 coaches active in each squad. Kevin is very proud of the team as many are excelling in the sport and becoming role models for the younger runners. “One girl has become a National Junior XC Champion and another girl is setting Provincial records. We also have numerous “Diamonds in the rough that are improving each week”. It’s very exciting to see results like this and if these kids keep working hard, the future of the Meaford Coyotes looks very promising.”

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There is a very strong narrative running throughout the fabric of this event. Everyone we spoke with talked about inclusiveness, empowerment, fun and their strong sense of loyalty towards the community! When organizers understand and value the strength and passion that each individual brings to the table, something very magical happens. We very are lucky to have this event happening in our neighbourhood! For more info: Run Blue Mountains

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