Montreal

Montreal homeless shelter to haul away truckload of marathoners' abandoned sportswear

Once participants in the Montreal marathon are out on the course Sunday, a local charity will be right behind them with a truck, ready to load it with the extra clothing discarded by runners at the start line.

Runners discard enough clothing at the start line to supply La Maison du Père's clients for a year

Thousands of runners in the Montreal marathon discard a layer of clothing at the start line. This year, whatever is left behind will be donated to La Maison du Père. (Dyan Buell/Getty Images)

By the time the pistol goes off Sunday morning, thousands of Montreal marathoners will have already taken off ... their warm-up clothes.

As soon as participants are out on the course, workers with a local organization that helps homeless Montrealers will roll up behind them in a truck, ready to load it with the clothing the runners discard.

La Maison du Père collects enough clothing at the start line to serve its clients for a year.

"Last year, to my surprise, there were pallets of really good clothes," said Dominique Piché, the Oasis Rock 'N' Roll Montreal Marathon's race director.

"We weren't ready for that, so we collected it and gave it away the best we could."

Many runners show up at the starting corrals in jogging pants and jackets, to stave off the early morning chill.

But knowing once the starting gun goes off, they'll be heating up their bodies — each marathoner will burn about two days' worth of calories — they toss those extra layers off to the side.

It's a common practice in races across North America, and so rather than send all that clothing off to the landfill, marathon organizers in places like Chicago, Boston and New York City have launched similar charitable initiatives.

High-quality options

With as many as 18,000 people hoping to cross the finish line in Montreal, both the quantity and quality of abandoned clothing can be exceptional.

Piché said much of it is brand new, and when he saw that, he realized he needed to establish a relationship with an organization that would make good use of it.

"The Maison du Père was the perfect fit," he said.

Among its services, three times a week, La Maison du Père offers clients a change of clothes.

That means they can trade in whatever they are wearing for a new, similar article of clothing.

"The clothing that we get is very high quality — brands like Nike, Puma, Adidas," said Christine Vill-Valecourt, a spokesperson for La Maison du Père.

"It's more like summer clothing and little bit of fall clothing, but it's the equivalent of a year of clothing. There are no winter jackets or things like that, but it's a lot of clothing in one shot."

The men's clothing will supply the charity for about a year, she said, with some of the items sold in the organization's thrift shop to raise money for other services at La Maison du Père.

Bags of food donated

When the runners cross the finish line, tired and sweaty, they get more than a medal and the sense of accomplishment. 

They get a goodie bag, as well, stuffed with healthy snacks.

Organizers must prepare enough paper bags to accommodate all the finishers, but hundreds of bags filled with perfectly good bananas, cheese, chips and other snacks get left behind.

With the partnership now established with Maison du Père, it was decided that all the leftover food will go to the homeless, as well.

"If there are no-shows or people who don't finish, obviously these bags don't get collected and these are the bags that will go to the Maison du Père," Piché said.

About the Author

Isaac Olson has been a Montreal-area journalist for more than a decade.

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