SURREY - There's no need for runners to bring their iPods with them when they take part in the Surrey International Music Marathon. In this race the music will come to them - one kilometre at a time.The second annual event takes over the streets and greenways of North Surrey on the morning of Sunday, Sept. 29, bringing a distinct multicultural twist on the business of staging a marathon. Inspired in part by rock and roll marathons in the United States, the Surrey event takes it one step farther with music that reflects the cultural diversity of the city.
"When we designed this event, we really looked at the success of the Fusion Festival, which is now widely known as one of the best cultural festivals in Canada," said event co-ordinator John Donnelly.
"We looked at how much Surrey has embraced that event, so let's bring that success to the marathon. We have some unique stuff along the course - a couple of steel drummer groups, a few more DJs. The Elvis impersonator was a big hit last year so we have two of them back this year. One of the fellows is the world champion - he won the big contest in Memphis earlier this year."
Last year more than 2,000 runners took part in the various events associated with the marathon. Event organizers are hoping to boost those numbers this time around with such choices as a full marathon, a half-marathon, a relay, a five-kilometre run and a kid's fun run.
Starting at Central City plaza, the full marathon will take runners through the streets and greenways of North Surrey along a route that will feature 31 separate stages with musical acts. The shorter 5km event will feature 13 separate stages. Dubbed "Musical Miles," each zone will feature a different culture or musical theme. Cultural associations from throughout the city have been invited to take part in the various stages entertaining the spectators and runners alike.
"Runners told us last year that they would be running along and they would see people performing," Donnelly said. "They would think, 'Ooo, I like that. I wonder what's next?' They don't know what's coming next and they find it really interesting. They look forward to what's going to be happening in the next mile, in the next block. Hopefully they are inspired and it pushes them to reach their goals."
Traffic was a big issue last year with many residents complaining that the race route effectively trapped them in their homes for the duration of the event. Lots of work has been done to design the course this year to allow greater access for residents and less impact on everyday activities in the city.
"This is a whole new course than last year so it's kind of like doing it for the first time," said course designer Marc Campbell. "Last year a lot of residents were boxed in and couldn't get out of their neighbourhoods so this year we designed it to be much more open. We tried to come up with a plan where nobody is really blocked in during the race. People can at least get their cars out even though they might not be able to get back in.
"In some areas we tried to come up with alternative parking as well so people may have to walk a couple of blocks from their home to get to their cars without any impact on the race. We have a great traffic plan and hopefully everything works out."
Education for residents is a priority for event planners. Informative brochures were sent out to 24,000 people who could be impacted by the event outlining the traffic plans for race day.
In addition, digital communication boards will also be erected in advance to warn residents of road closures on race day. Emergency access for fire and police crews has also been taken into account with the traffic plan.
On the day before the race, the marathon organizers will stage a flag and sign-making workshop at Central City mall between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. This free event is open to anyone who wants to drop by and create a sign or banner to encourage runners along the route on race day.
On race day, the full marathon will begin at 7:30 a.m. followed by the half-marathon 30 minutes later. The 5km walk/run starts at 9:30 a.m. and the race will wrap up with an awards ceremony slated to get underway around 11:30 a.m.
For more information, visit surreymarathon.com.
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