Charlotte and Alan Brookes helped support the road racing community during the pandemic | National sports

TORONTO – Charlotte Brookes will be stationed in the Command Center when the starter gun goes off on Sunday in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon 10K race.

She expects there will be tears.

Sunday marks the biggest road race in Canada since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and marks a triumphant return live – at last – from a community of runners that Charlotte and her father Alan Brookes have helped keep in place at the over the past 20 months.

“I’m crying (even now),” Brookes laughed during an interview with Zoom this week. “We had our team formation for the big events last week (on Zoom), and I was asked to do the intro, and I start with ‘We’re so glad you’re … oh my God.’ I started to cry. Of course I had to record for people who couldn’t do it. And I was like, “How do you get on top of me crying?”

“I will have a time (Sunday) where I will probably cry.”

Five thousand runners will line up for the STWM 10K race on Sunday, which is the official Canadian 10K championship this year. Normally held as Tamarack Race Weekend in Ottawa, this May race was canceled due to the pandemic and the two races combined their efforts, with Athletics Canada, to host Sunday’s event.

Five thousand other runners registered to finish it virtually.

The popular fall rendezvous on the road racing scene in Canada will only have a distance of 10 km this year, in accordance with COVID-19 protocols. The runners will start in groups of 100.

“When we looked at what that might be like and the runners physically walked away… we thought how many people could we do that with? Said Charlotte, National Event Director for the Canada Running Series.

The groups of 100 starting in 50 waves, the first runners will start at 8 am and the last at 11:30 am.

Evan Dunfee will be among them, two months after winning Olympic bronze in the 50km walk. Dunfee has a friendly competition with his brother Adam. Evan – whose Canadian 10k walk record is 38 minutes 39.72 seconds – will walk. Adam is going to run.

It’s the camaraderie within the road racing community that Dunfee – who will be easy to spot on Sunday with his red hair and pivoting gait – has truly missed.

“I’m not one of the runners who take off that will never be seen again until you turn the turn in 5K,” said the 31-year-old runner from Richmond, BC. “So I have a little more time to interact with people (during the race), to chat with people, to encourage people.

“That big (emotional) moment for me will be the little interactions I have with people, hearing the ‘why’, the reason they’re out there doing this thing that day. that attracts me, their motivation and all their different goals. It will be special. “

Another elite athlete to watch is Natasha Wodak. The 39-year-old from Vancouver, who finished 13th in the Tokyo Olympic Marathon, is looking forward to hitting the start line alongside hundreds of other runners.

“I haven’t done a road race in Canada for two falls, and it’s been such a struggle for all of our race directors and all of the elite athletes and I think especially the general running public, they have missed the most, because I still had chances to run obviously, ”she said.

“It’s really great for the thousands and thousands of runners who have continued through the pandemic, running alone, on their own and finally being able to run again, being part of the running community, it’s so great.”

The global pandemic erased the global marathon calendar for over a year, and like so many businesses, the road racing community has had to change gears. Alan Brookes, executive director of running and president of the Canada Running Series, joked that the popular drinking game was about drinking every time someone said ‘spin’.

But those first weeks, he added, “have been terrible.”

“There were tears in the team including Charlotte,” Alan said. “It was the unknown, it was just boom. The world exploded.”

The Canada Running Series has gone virtual, giving runners the ability to cover popular race distances within a given time frame, while receiving the precious bags of loot and finishing medals. Charlotte pointed to the wall behind her computer where a dozen or so medals hung – from virtual races she had done.

A virtual event, the TTC Challenge, allowed runners to travel the length of the subway line of Toronto’s transit system in a month. The event was sold out in eight days.

“The positive feedback we got from people … everyone said it was the first time they felt like they were back in person, it was a really cool way to re-explore the city “said Charlotte.

Wodak and Dunfee said race directors have done everything possible to create opportunities, including a virtual 10km championship – with cash prizes – for elite runners with no race available in their preparation for Tokyo. .

“I lined up for the virtual 10k road racing championships, and put on all my racing kit, and I was nervous,” said Wodak. “I did it right because I felt like we wanted to bring our A game just as much as Alan Brookes and the other race directors brought their A game to make sure we always had those opportunities.”

Charlotte said the vaccine rollout marked a turning point early last summer, when they finally got to see the light at the end of the tunnel. They got the green light in mid-July for an in-person event.

In the meantime, virtual races have allowed the Canada Running Series to retain a full-time staff of around 20 employees throughout the pandemic. Alan Brookes said their sponsors have stuck with them. And virtual races have maintained the much-needed fundraising component for which the STWM is well known.

The Brookes hope to raise $ 3 million on Sunday for the 151 charities represented in the Charity Challenge.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on October 15, 2021.

About Walter J. Leslie

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