New Brunswick

Legs for Literacy hires consultant to redevelop annual Moncton marathon

Moncton's Legs for Literacy board is looking to a consultant and an upcoming public meeting to find ways to reorganize the annual marathon and come back stronger than ever next year.

Board announced last week the event will take a break this fall, citing 'significant depletion' of volunteers

Participants run down Main Street in Moncton during the Legs for Literacy marathon on Sunday. (Karen Reid-LeBlanc)

Moncton's Legs for Literacy has hired an external consultant to assess the annual marathon that's been cancelled for this fall to help come up with a long-term sustainable plan.

The volunteer board decided it wanted somebody to take a "bird's-eye view," looking at the board, volunteers and stakeholders required for an event "of this scale and scope," vice-chair Cory Herc said Monday.

It's also counting on input from the community at a meeting scheduled for May 25 at 10 a.m. at Moncton City Hall, on the sixth floor, he said.

"I think that is going to be the first step in figuring out exactly what our community's needs are and how we can step up to the plate to meet them."

Last Friday, the board announced the marathon is taking a "walk break" this year, after 19 years.

It comes on the heels of a "significant depletion" of some core volunteers and a large board turnover, said Herc.

"We realized that it was in the best interest of serving the runner community for us to take a break, strategically redevelop and find ways to continue to persist as an event in the long term sustainably and strategically."

It was a difficult decision, one the board knew would be disappointing to runners across the province as well as the literacy initiatives that benefit from the annual fundraiser, he said.

Disappointed but supportive

Legs for Literacy, one of the largest running events in Atlantic Canada, "occupies a big space in a lot of people's running calendars." More than 2,500 runners and walkers participated in last October's events — 197 in the marathon, 607 in the half marathon, 798 in the 5K race, 605 in the 10K race, 238 in the family run and there were 106 relay participants.

And more than $700,000 has been donated to local schools and literacy initiatives since the event began.

But for the most part, people have been understanding of the reasons behind the break and supportive, said Herc.

As the event has continued to grow over the years, it has put increased strain on the volunteers, requiring "several thousand" hours each year, he said.

We're making sure that we're pacing ourselves appropriately and fuelling ourselves appropriately because we're here to do the distance.- Cory Herc, board vice-chair

And while the board did hire a race director and some employees on contract to handle race day events, the board believes some executive staff may be required too.

For this fall, a family-focused fun run is being planned in lieu of the traditional events, said Herc. More details will be released following the public meeting, dubbed Open Space Session.

This is "absolutely not" the end of Legs for Literacy, stressed Herc. That's why the board has used the metaphor of a "walk break."

"We like to think of us as runners who have signed up for our own long-distance event and right now we are slowing down for a little bit, we're conserving our energy, we're making sure that we're pacing ourselves appropriately and fuelling ourselves appropriately because we're here to do the distance and we want to be able to run more and more events in the future."

Saint John marathon also faced challenges

Last summer, the founder and executive director of Saint John's Marathon by the Sea raised concerns about the event's future, given a lack of funding, a shortage of in-kind support and a dwindling volunteer base.

Mike Doyle was worried this year's 25th anniversary marathon could be the last.

But after an outpouring of community support and some cost-cutting, the organizing committee announced in April the scaled-back event Aug. 10-11 is expecting record crowds.

With files from Information Morning Moncton

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