By Paul Gains
International and domestic road racing schedules have been decimated by the global pandemic leaving athletes scrambling to find competition. In response, Athletics Canada has now partnered with the Canada Running Series to produce the Athletics Canada 42.2k Relay Challenge.
This extraordinary ‘virtual’ initiative will provide a competitive target for athletes in a fun-filled atmosphere over the weekend of October 17-18th which, under normal circumstances, would be the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon race weekend. The race was also slated to be the 2020 Athletics Canada National Marathon Championship.
Teams consisting of four elite athletes - in male, female and mixed (2+2) categories - will compete for fun prizes and for the opportunity to put to use the training they have completed despite the uncertainty in the racing calendar. Prizing includes Athletics Canada national team merchandise gift certificates, Flying Monkeys beer, branded souvenir beer mugs, nuun hydration gift packs and more. Everyone who participates will also earn unique finishers’ medals – four different aspects of the iconic Toronto Old City Hall Clock Tower that stands at the Waterfront Marathon finish line, which then fit together.
Each athlete will have the opportunity to run their chosen distance, a minimum of 5k, with the four legs totaling 42.2k. They can choose a convenient time during the weekend to run and will then confirm their time and distance by uploading and submitting a screen shot from their GPS log (Strava, Garmin, MapMyRun etc) to Race Roster. Moreover, racers need not be in the same city as one another.
Though this format doesn’t replace an actual marathon competition it may be just what is needed during these challenging times.
For Athletics Canada’s Chief Operating Officer, Mat Gentes, the opportunity to continue a working relationship with Canada Running Series while providing runners with an outlet was compelling.
"There are still athletes putting the time in not knowing when they get to race or compete," says Gentes. "As opposed to outright canceling and having nothing, which we could have easily done, we thought we would put something together that is fun and that is something that can put their training to use.
"There will be a bit of a strategy involved. You can break up that 42k however you want between you and your teammates. We have visions of some ‘dream teams’ being put together. I hope it is fun and provides social media fodder," says Gentes.
Canada Running Series President, Alan Brookes, welcomes the Athletics Canada 42.2k Challenge as another opportunity for his 15 strong team of professional event managers to adapt to the changed landscape caused by the pandemic.
"Our mission for 30 years has been building community through running which includes fitness, lifestyle, social runners as one group, charity runners, and also high performance and competitive runners," Brookes declares with pride. "We need to keep our community whole. I think this collaboration with Athletics Canada is going to provide motivation and incentive and a fun thing too that will keep us going."
Brookes notes that over the years the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon has provided Olympians such as Lanni Marchant, Krista DuChene, Natasha Wodak, Reid Coolsaet, Eric Gillis, Dylan Wykes and Cam Levins a platform on which to compete against the world’s best on home soil. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of runners have raised more than $42 million for local charities through the Scotiabank Charity Challenge.
Gentes views the relay challenge as a successful initiative at a critical point in these challenging times.
"We are not going to replace any of the events that have been cancelled, not even close," Gentes says. "As Alan knows very well there’s the excitement, the financial revenues, you are not going to achieve that with a virtual race. When I talked with Alan and his crew we wanted just to come up with something that is fun for the athletes to participate in."
While the Athletics Canada Invitational Relay Challenge will attract some of Canada’s elite distance runners the event is by no mean restricted to elites. Anyone may assemble a team and join the Open four-person marathon relay by registering at STWM.ca, for a cost of CAD$135.
Each participant receives a souvenir t-shirt, a unique medal, discounts from Running Room and more.
Now the quest to form competitive racing relay teams begins in earnest. Visit TorontoWaterFrontMarathon.com.
About the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon
One of only 5 World Athletics Gold Label marathons in all of The Americas, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon is Canada’s premier, big-city running event, the Athletics Canada National Marathon Championships, and the Grand Finale of the 8-race Canada Running Series. In 2019, it attracted 25,000 participants from 70 countries, raised $3.5 million for nearly 200 charities through the Scotiabank Charity Challenge, and contributed an estimated $35 million to the local economy. The livestream broadcast was watched by more than 132,000 viewers from 79 countries. (STWM.ca)
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