Oceanside Running Club Association members Mary Beil and Paul Watson completed the Virtual Half Marathon challenge and receive the award created by organizer Penny Youngash. (ORCA photo)

Island running clubs keeping the feet churning through the pandemic

Oceanside Running Club challenges members to raise funds on their own for charity

Mid-Island runners may have seen the pandemic sideline some of their favourite events, but that’s not keeping them off their feet this summer.

Groups out of Parksville and the Comox Valley are making sure there are reasons to keep you sneakers on the move.

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The Oceanside Mother’s Day 5K and 10K is the Oceanside Running Club Association’s major fundraising event every year.

Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the popular event was cancelled. And that meant ORCA, a non-profit organization, will not have the ability to contribute its usual amount of money to local community charities.

To augment ORCA’s current financial position, the group is now issuing a virtual challenge they hope will motivate not only members but also others in the community to raise funds for charities on their own.

“What we’ve done as a group is to raise money aside from those organized events on a personal level,” said club president Paul Watson.

Mary Beil, a graduate of ORCA’s Learn to Run progam, is the torch-bearer of this virtual challenge for a good cause.

READ MORE: 101-year-old Vancouver Island man to walk 101 laps for charity

“She ran a half-marathon on June 20 and raised just shy of $1,300 towards the Haven House cause, which is one of our main charities that we contribute to and local food bank,” Watson said. “Her race, which was the Vancouver Half-Marathon, was cancelled and she opted to go this route on a virtual race and had sponsors. She put it out to the community, put it out on Facebook and raised this money.”

Watson is doing the same thing.

He is disappointed he was not able to run the Vancouver Scotia Bank Half-Marathon in April as it was also cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“That was on my bucket list,” said Watson. “I was going to run this with my daughter, Lauren. It would have been the first time we have ever run together in all of our years running.”

Watson still plans to run this distance with his daughter who will visit him in August. He said they will compete against each other, but not in running.

“We will see who can raise the most money,” said Watson. “She’s got her Facebook page. I have mine. We will be out hounding the neighbours to see how much money we can raise.”

Watson said he hopes this virtual challenge will encourage ORCA members and other people in the community to do the same.

“We want to take this out to the community that this can be done,” said Watson.

“Other people can get involved. They don’t have to be our sponsors. They can go out there and do their own thing whether its running, walking, cycling or swimming. It doesn’t really matter but to come up with something creative to raise funds to give back to the community to support the charities that are hurting desperately.

“We think it’s something we can achieve in spite of COVID-19.”

ORCA has also organized a virtual half marathon just to challenge members. If you complete the 21.1-kilometre distance between June and July 15, the club will present you with a creative award designed by organizer Penny Youngash.

Beil and Watson have already achived this challenge.

You can cover the distance by either running, walking or a combination of both. Two route options will be posted by the club so participants can plan their route.

For those who are not used to running longer distances, you can run five or 10 kilometres and consider just walking the rest.

You do need to be a current ORCA member to receive an ORCA award. Club membership is $15.

For more information visit the ORCA website at https://orcarunning.ca/weekly-runs/virtual-half-marathon-route-options/

***

Virtually speaking, race organizers of the 5th Street Mile are keeping the annual Canada Day tradition alive in Courtenay.

The earliest mention in the Comox Valley Road Runners’ records of a Canada Day event was a foot race on July 1, 1981. Through the ’80s, it was a four-and-a-quarter mile race that took place at various areas of the city.

By 1996, the race had moved to its current running route on 5th Street, preceding the Canada Day Parade. That year saw 15 runners under the first race director, John Siemens. The winning times were Scott Sexton at 4:33 and Marguerite Masson-Wood at 5:34.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the race. As such, the CVRR will continue the tradition and run the mile virtually.

The Canada Day Virtual Mile allows participants to select a safe, physically distanced mile to run at their leisure on Wednesday, July 1. Pick a quiet place to safely distance from others. It can be a trail, sidewalk or pathway. Measure your route before the race day to ensure it is accurate. Runners are asked to not use 5th because it will not be blocked off as in past years.

There are random draw prizes to be selected from all participant names, thanks to donations from Extreme Runners, Graham’s Jewellers, The Cumby and The Comox Valley Regional District.

Have fun. It’s not about winning this year, but about getting out and living in the new normal.

Participants are encouraged to ‘dress it up in red’ for Canada Day.

More information can be found at cvrr.ca or email 5streetmile@cvrr.ca

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