The Merrickville Heritage Classic is returning to the Village this year, in a virtual format. Run Merrickville, which has been organizing the 2km, 5km and 10km runs through the Village since 2016, had to cancel last year’s race due to COVID-19. Although the organizing committee was hoping to hold the run again this year, Race Director, Lori Reynolds, says: “After the disappointment of being forced to cancel the 2020 event, and the continuing issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the organizing committee decided the only safe way to proceed is with a virtual event,” she said.
Run Merrickville has organized a virtual extension of the run in previous years, with people participating in the event from as far away as Ireland. Organizing committee member, Chuck MacInnis, says they know the virtual model works, and they felt it was important to offer something to encourage people to get outside and moving. “Exercise and fresh air are really great enemies of illness.”
Registration for this year’s Merrickville Heritage Classic, which will take place from May 15-29, is now open on the Run Merrickville website (run-merrickville.ca). Participants can register for the 2km, 5km, or 10km race, as well as a new half marathon option. Chuck says the half marathon, called the Heritage Half, is something they were considering adding last year. The committee thought this was a great opportunity to gauge the interest in the half marathon to see whether they will offer it as a route in the village in future years. “We’re able to check who is interested in a half marathon, and that gives us time to decide if it’s something we could do here, find a route that is safe and easily measurable.”
While the goal of the virtual race is to have people participate individually, Lori says people are welcome to come to Merrickville and run the routes on their own time. All routes (except the half marathon) are available on the Run Merrickville website. Lori does caution people who want to run in the village that the routes will not be monitored by volunteers, or closed to traffic, so participants should be very aware of their own personal safety as they walk/run. Participants are encouraged to track their times and input the data online into Race Roster.
The committee has set the fees for this year’s event at $25 for the 2km run, and $35 for the 5km, 10km, and half-marathon. Registration fees will be used to pay for participation medals, which will be made by Merrickville’s own Alloy Foundry, as well as insurance costs and postage to mail medals to those who can’t pick them up. Medals will be available to be picked up in the village on May 8 from 1-4 pm. Location is to be announced.
As in previous years, Run Merrickville has chosen a local charity to support should they have any excess funds. In the past, they have supported the new play structure at Merrickville Public School, the Merrickville and District Trails Society for their Story Trail, the Seaway Surge Baseball Club, and the Merrickville Soccer Club. Because the pandemic has caused financial hardship locally through reduced incomes and job losses, Run Merrickville will be making a donation to the Merrickville Food Cupboard this year. Chuck says the organizing committee feels that it is important for them to give back, as events like the Heritage Classic wouldn’t be possible without the support of the community. “We’re not a profit organization, so any money that is brought in that’s over and above the needs of running the race next year, then we give that back to the community.”
The race usually draws between 200-300 people to the village each year. While it is unlikely that they will get their usual numbers with the virtual race, the organizing committee is hoping for a great event nonetheless. “The runners are going to run anyway,” Chuck says. “This gives them a focus for a particular day, and they get a participation medal out of it.”