Manitoba running events lack money and awareness with online format

By: Brett MacLaren

Runners compete in the River’s Edge Run for NF in 2019./Photo supplied by River’s Edge Run for NF Facebook page.

Once a common and effective way to raise money, running events across Manitoba have dried up since switching to a virtual format.

Going from in-person to virtual runs have led to fewer people participating in these events and less money being raised for people like Brady Bobrowich, a 12-year-old with a genetic condition called neurofibromatosis (NF).

Bobrowich’s mom, Corrine Thompson-Bobrowich, said her son’s condition causes him to grow tumours anywhere in his body – he currently has over 100 tumours. He’s had four surgeries on his spine, countless scans, and has spent many hours at the Children’s Hospital. 

Each year, Thompson-Bobrowich organizes the Lockport River’s Edge Run for NF to raise money and awareness for her son’s condition.

This year, Thompson-Bobrowich tried to organize a virtual run the week of September 18-25 but was left with little to show for it.

“It was this rinky-dink kinda run in Lockport,” she said. “We kinda just threw it together.”

When the run was in person, Thompson-Bobrowich said it would attract about 200 participants. Runners start at Skinner’s on River Road, weaving the river’s edge and finishing back at Skinner’s for a pancake breakfast. 

Brady Bobrowich runs in the River’s Edge Run for NF in 2019./Photo supplied by River’s Edge Run for NF Facebook page.

“People would come out to support. It was a great community event,” she said.

The less structured, virtual edition of the run saw just 18 participants this year.

Thompson-Bobrowich said people could pay a fee and run wherever and whenever they wanted, taking the event away from its community roots.

The River’s Edge Run, which usually raises about $10,000 for Manitoba Neurofibromatosis Support Group, raised about $2,700 from the virtual version. 

This year, the funds went to Brady’s Champion Child page for the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba, which is about $25,000 short of its $50,000 goal.

The River’s Edge run is just one run in a string of Manitoba running events that have been forced onto virtual platforms or cancelled since the beginning of the pandemic.

The Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Services (WFPS) Run, scheduled for an in-person race October 16-17, was cancelled in September. 

The organizers pointed to a potential fourth wave and uncertainty around low registration, venue, and revenue for its cancellation.

But the in-person Manitoba Marathon, down from 10,000 participants to about 3,000 in 2021, returned runners to the true thrill of running in-person on Labour Day weekend. 

Geralyn Wichers, a Creative Communications graduate, ran the 10-kilometre race and said it felt like previous years.

“There doesn’t seem to be any way to replicate the shot of adrenaline and motivation of an in-person race,” Wichers said.

Thompson-Bobrowich hopes to hold her race to in-person in 2022.