Runners flock to Rimouski after Montreal marathon cancelled over heat concerns
Race organizers in Rimouski scramble to accommodate boost in marathon participants
It was inconceivable for Marie-Josée Poulin not to run her first full marathon this year.
So when Montreal's event was cancelled amid concerns about hot and humid weather, Poulin set her sights on a marathon to be held a week later in Rimouski, about a five-hour drive northeast.
While she could have run the half-marathon in Montreal, which is still expected to take place, Poulin said she preferred to stick to her goal.
"I've been training since January," she told The Canadian Press in a phone interview. "I joined a racing club. My focus was the Montreal marathon."
Poulin is far from the only one to have found this Plan B.
Since the Montreal marathon's cancellation, the town of 49,000 people has seen its entries for the full marathon jump from 303 to 469 in three days, far eclipsing its previous record of 320.
Rimouski's organizers moved quickly to promote their event on social media, seeing a chance to snag a bit of spotlight from Quebec's largest city.
"The message was seen by almost 55,000 people," event co-ordinator Sébastien Bolduc said. "Since then, we've had three to four times more emails and Facebook questions than usual."
While they welcome the added attention, the bigger numbers have led to some logistical headaches.
The organizers of the race, which will have nearly 5,000 participants in total, have had to contact their suppliers in Asia to place a last-minute order for more medals and shirts.
A far bigger problem is accommodation. The hotels in the city are 99 per cent full, Rimouski's tourism department said, which puts many runners at risk of having to make a marathon effort just to get to the start line.
Poulin and her family managed to rent a cottage in Metis-sur-Mer, some 40 kilometres from where the race will be held.
But another Montreal runner, who learned about the Rimouski event on Facebook, is worried his preparation will go to waste if he can't find somewhere to stay.
"It will be hard to participate without carpooling and no accomodation," Christophe Chession said.
Pascal Gagnon, who lives half an hour east of Montreal, managed to find a hotel room 25 kilometres away from Rimouski.
He had never heard of the city's marathon until Montreal's was cancelled, but now says he's eager to participate.
While he had his hopes set for running his first full marathon on Montreal's towering Jacques-Cartier Bridge, he said he'll just have to put that off for another year.