Sun Run – More Than a One Day Deal

 SUN RUN IS BIGGEST ONE-DAY EVENT OF ITS KIND BECAUSE IT’S MORE THAN A ONE-DAY DEAL …Record-setting event appeals to the widest possible continuum of active living people, from recreational and fitness-inspired to performance driven.

The 24th annual Vancouver Sun Run presented by HSBC goes into this weekend assured of a new record attendance of more than 59,000 registered runners and walkers.

That makes it the second largest timed 10K in the world and the third biggest timed run and walk event on the planet (of any distance).

It’s by far the largest single-day run and walk celebration in Canada (more than five times the size of its nearest rival, the Victoria Times-Colonist 10K) and about seven times Toronto’s largest 10K. It is what it is because it is run as so much more than a one-day event.

The Sun Run gains its iconic status because of the way it has positioned itself as a meaningful event to the broadest range of possible participants.

The wide net cast by organizers of the Sun Run started in 1985 with hard core runners who thrive on the competition of a 10K road race. That has evolved into a start line on West Georgia Street downtown featuring Olympians and other high performance runners who will clock in with better than three-minute kilometres.

The magic of the Sun Run, however, is that everyday Canadians can join with these extraordinary Olympic class athletes in a community event that transcends performance runners and attracts the much larger cross-section of participants who are driven by their recreational or social interests and those inspired by improving their fitness.

The branding of the Sun Run as an event which embraces the widely-inclusive active living continuum of those oriented towards recreation, fitness and performance is fuelled in large part by the Sun Run InTraining Clinics, the 13-week SportMedBC clinic series convened at more than 85 community centres and other venues throughout the Lower Mainland.

The power of the Sun Run InTraining program – which spans about seven per cent of the entries in Sunday’s event – is that it will see clinic participants running or walking the Sun Run after training for it weekly since mid-January. Most of this core has already logged 38 runs this year, inspired by the Sun Run.

That’s approaching 5,000 runners, walkers and their clinic leaders who have been following the best practices of sport medicine, sport science and sport training for the past 13 weeks to help increase the odds that the actual Sun Run is not the end but the beginning of a new or at least renewed commitment to active living and fitness.

Those formally signed up in the Sun Run InTraining clinic series are no doubt joined by thousands more who train on their own in January, February, March and April and by those who register with private clinics at their favourite sport shoe store.

The clinics, however, are only one of the three major engines which drive both the Sun Run’s record-setting registration numbers and its role as a truly transformative event.

The second is its use of corporate teams. Almost half of the participants (about 25,000) will come from 1,325 teams. Engaging people this way through company, professional and community (even family) teams gives it lasting social benefits long before and after race day.

The third engine is the Sun Run’s promotion to children and young people, through both the event’s school program (more than 8,000 entries on 173 school teams) and the Shaw Mini Sun Run (the 2.5 K event that’s approaching the 2,000 mark in participants). This element will only become more important through time, further consolidating the Sun Run as a mechanism of behavioural change in building active living as part of west coast culture…for the next generation of young British Columbians.

It’s those components of the Sun Run — the corporate teams, school teams and clinic groups — which help make it relevant weeks before the event and allow it to live on well past the finish line come race day.

And it is those elements which will keep the Sun Run growing in the years to come, up to and beyond the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games, when the Government of British Columbia and its Act Now campaign aims to make the province the healthiest jurisdiction to ever host the Olympics.

The title sponsor may have been originally attracted to the event 24 years ago as a way to sell incremental newstand copies the day after the race. And there’s no question that part of the cache of the event is the Monday newspaper which carries the names, times and finishing positions of runners and walkers in all categories.

But The Vancouver Sun, presenting sponsor HSBC and the Sun Run committee go so far beyond the requisites of a one-day event and that approach is what makes it more than a single-day success story. It not only continues to sustain the Sun Run but keeps it growing year-to-year.

The Sun Run has become an icon for west coast culture – specifically our nationally-leading aptitude for active living and physical activity – and a model for community-based event management because it changes people’s lives.

That’s hard to do in one day.

But it becomes possible when that one day is backed up by almost three months of health and wellness promotion in these pages, 13 weeks of sanctioned SportMedBC training clinics and social incentives that bring people together at their workplaces, schools and community centres; especially when it’s a regular annual fixture which will celebrate about the 25th anniversary Sun Run in 2009.




Tom Mayenknecht is a Vancouver-based marketing communications executive and host of The Sport Market on TEAM 1040, Saturdays 8-10 am.

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