Sunday, October 8, 2017

Sparking the Dream; An Autumn Marathon in peg City?

If I'm going to do it, I'm going to do it right.

Jonathan Torchia, RD WFPS Half Marathon (5 km 10 km)

Jonathan Torchia WFPS Race Director
The Common, Winnipeg

Several weeks ago See Mike Run waxed poetic about a made in Winnipeg Autumn full marathon. I imagine a dreamy course with no holds barred; a course that showcases Winnipeg's strength and diversity. Having run thousands of miles along ancient river trails and achingly gorgeous cityscapes, I feel compelled to share the dream.

Jonathan Torchia also has a dream, but his dream is hampered by bureaucratic red tape, sponsors, time away from family, and dozens of other considerations.... more of a nightmare really.

"The trouble with dreaming" says Jonathan  "is your dreams quickly get crushed."

Jonathan's dream of hosting a full marathon began on November 3, 2014 and nags him incessantly to this day.  This is the day he first plotted a full marathon course. My blog prompted Jonathan to "restart the conversation" and "spark the dream".

We met at The Forks Common for a pint of Torque Red Line. We dreamed audaciously, laughed, talked, and sipped.  The outcome of that pint? We both believe an Autumn marathon in 'peg city is entirely possible and, in fact, imminent.

Despite his bubbling enthusiasm and kryptonic credibility in the running community his dream stalls out in bureaucratic quicksand and complicated logistics.  The naysayers are a dime a dozen and pray hard on positive energy. When all you hear is 'no' time after time, year after year, one's confidence wanes and needs the occasional spark to remain alive.

I Have A Dream was that spark.

I suggested the WFPS RUN offer an option to run the course twice and call it a full marathon to which Jonathan replied,

"That's garbage! The WFPS RUN Race Committee would lose all the credibility we've built up over the years. If I'm going to do it, I'm going to do it right."

To be perfectly clear, planning and executing an event of this magnitude is daunting. Like fallen boulders on the path to success, multiple obstacles need to be tunneled under, climbed over, traversed gingerly, or just simply blown to smithereens. It will take pluck, leadership, and an unwavering commitment to accomplish this herculean task.

Street closures, police support, signage, volunteers, medical support, municipal government, red tape, money, time and dozens more all block the path to success.

"People don't realize the cost of closing down a street" says Jonathan. We need someone with "deep pockets" and then rattles off the names of Winnipeg's wealthy in the hopes they would commit or at the very least, lend support.

Smaller races like Ted's Run for Literacy cost about $5000- $7000 to host, plus another $4000 to $5000 which we donate to literacy programming in Winnipeg's inner city. We require about 70 volunteers to run smoothly. WFPS RUN costs between $150,000 to $175,000 and requires approximately 700 volunteers. Both are gold standard events which could be delivered cheaper and with fewer volunteers, but you the runner would notice. You would vote with your feet and be inclined not to return.

You can get it cheap or you can get it good, but you can't get it good and cheap (to borrow a carpenter's phrase).

"What would it cost to host a full marathon?"  I asked, "what's your ballpark number?"

"Probably an additional $50,000 to $75,000" replied Jonathan.

There's a reason why most running events in Winnipeg are in the south west quadrant of the city. Neighbourhoods like Wellington Crescent, Wolseley, Fort Garry, Lyndale, Kingston Row, Churchill Drive are in the south west quadrant of the city and all hug the Assiniboine or Red Rivers.

"Road races in Winnipeg" explained Jonathan "hug river neighbourhoods. They are quieter streets requiring fewer closure and less police presence".

My Dream Marathon is not going to happen anytime soon. You may recall a recent film shoot on Arlington Bridge created about 7000 street detours. Closing Portage and Main and other downtown streets for a marathon would be a logistical nightmare.  I maintain it's possible, but won't happen until our population exceeds one million.

Jonathan receives no financial compensation for the weeks of planning. In fact he happily donates much of his vacation time to the WFPS RUN. He loves our running community and is passionate about road racing and cycling.  He's on call 24-7 for weeks leading up to and following the RUN. Heck, he's a triathlete with his eyes on IronMans and BQs and he holds down a full-time paramedic job.... wait... there's more.... he's recently married with family on his mind!

When I asked if he would add a full marathon event to the WFPS he replies "No one in their right noodle would take this on in a volunteer capacity."

There wouldnt be enough time in the day to hold down a full time job, tend to his family life, and manage a full marathon on top of the annual sell-out WFPS Run. The demands on time would be staggering. Think for a moment dear reader... would you raise your hand?

"What if you were offered a stipend equivalent to half a year's pay?" I asked.

Silent pause...

"I would have to go down to part time" he muses.

"We'd have to cap it at 200 runners. Our first priority is safety and the impact on our citizens. Can we make this happen?" he asks.

And then answers his own question.


Mike and Jonathan
Sparking the dream or pint logic?

We're just two guys dreaming with a pint in hand. I wax poetic while Jonathan considers logistics. I dream while Jonathan calculates. A  right brain/ left brain match made in marathon heaven don't you think?

An Autumn Full Marathon is imminent.  Mark my words, it will happen.  The only question remaining is who will own it?  Will it be 10-10-42 event, an MEC event, or the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic RUN event?

My money is on the latter.

It's a good day to be alive,