Beaches Half Marathon

…by Laura Tutlies

Some people dream big but then go right back to sleep. Some people wake from a dream and then find a way to make their dream come true. Natasha Joy Smith and her partner Volker Scharf, fall into the latter category. Last year (2009) the couple opened the NJoy Fitness Gym on the second story of the Birchwood hotel at Traverse Bay. This venture established a service that was seriously lacking in the area while fulfilling Smith's dream to own her own business, one that looks out for the wellness of the East Beaches community.

The Beaches Half Marathon, an event sanctioned by Athletics Manitoba is another dream-come-true. You see, Volker Scharf is a marathoner & fitness junkie and Natasha Smith has two passions, fitness and animals. The Beaches Half Marathon serves these enthusiasms. Smith's sister, Janet Campbell says, "Every year she manages to impress me more. She does a great job of organizing the event and just when I think things couldn't be any better, something will be added and Natasha tops the great job she did the year before."

Smith on the other hand, credit’s the success of the Half Marathon "to a great crew of volunteers." She figures there were at least 50 folks helping to keep the race running smooth. "They are my family, my friends and my neighbours. They are people who like running and who take direction well." she says with a loving glance toward her very proud big sister. Volunteer coordinator, Sandy Irwin agrees with Smith's statement and adds that, "Natasha is super well-organized and keeps everything on track. She thinks of every little detail and leaves nothing to chance."

I asked Smith if she had any sleep the night before the race because clearly a great deal of time and effort had gone into preparing the park and the marathon route. “Maybe about two hours sleep.” she said "There is a lot that can't be done until just before the event. This year we are lucky because the weather is so good." Actually, it was perhaps a little too warm for some of the participants but Smith and Scharf were prepared for any emergency and everything looked pretty much perfect.

Volunteers were everywhere selling T-shirts, collecting or distributing bottled water, offering great coffee and preparing the fruit and other breakfast items for the returning runners. Many more were managing the wayside water stations along the marathon route or giving directions to participants and managing the parking arrangements for incoming guests. The Regional Health Authority had an emergency vehicle on standby plus there was a “therapy” station for those who may have pushed themselves a little too hard during the race. There was a huge tent where registered runners could enjoy a free breakfast and volunteers and spectators could escape from the hot July sunshine. Rap music and other up beat tunes played over the loud speaker and created an atmosphere of action everywhere near and about the Charlie Wall Park in Hillside Beach.

This year the race drew over 300 runners, walkers, wheel chair athletes and pet lovers to the Half Marathon that provides the beautiful cottage country roads of this lovely community as the backdrop for the contest and fundraiser. Registration fees and most especially the pledges that participants brought with them, will aid either Darcy's ARC (Animal Rescue Centre) or the Winnipeg Humane Society. The choice is that of the donor. The all-time biggest pledge earner was Norman Simm who raised over $1300 for the Winnipeg Humane Society.

Runners left the starting gate promptly at 8:00 a.m. after piper Stewart MacPherson of the Victoria Beach Police had called all to gather with some Scottish marching music. The first runner back was Steven Scoles of Winnipeg who finished the quarter marathon with a time of 47:47. Coming in less than seven minutes later was Shauna Allen of Winnipeg, the first place women's competitor in the same event. Overall winners of the day were Calvary Dejong of Winnipeg with a half marathon time of 1:19:16 followed by Carolyn Remple who posted an official time of 1:36:12 to win the women's event. All the event winners are posted to the Beaches Half Marathon web site.

2010 was the fourth year the race has been held in East Beaches as a fundraiser for the aforesaid named charities. Two years previous to this, the fund raising went to the East Beaches Wellness Coalition. Next year we can only expect bigger and better from Smith & Scharf who always dream big and have a gift for bringing dreams to life.

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