Runners hit the road for a cause at BMO Vancouver Marathon

Family and friends inspire athletes pounding through the 26-mile course downtown.

BMO runner Lee Turner, photos by Jenny Uechi

They came with runners on their feet, water bottles in hand and a sense of purpose in their heart.

At 6 a.m. on Sunday, thousands of athletes gathered at Concord Place for the 41st annual BMO Vancouver Marathon. While many were avid runners looking to best their personal time, some were simply here to run for loved ones or to raise awareness for a global cause.

Lee Turner, a trim-looking runner, proudly shows off three badges on her jacket and T-shirt.  

"This one is my sister -- she'd been missing to me for the last 45 years, and found me two years ago," she says, pointing to the left badge. "The other is my best friend, who's 77. She's supposed to be here, but she's going blind." The badge in the centre is her grandmother.

"I'm running for these people today," she beams.

The BMO Marathon will be her last race before Turner goes for knee surgery. She wears sturdy braces -- custom made, $1520 each, she says -- which will hopefully allow her to run the race "pain free".

Turner says that after 27 years of avid running, her knees have been worn down to the point that there is almost no cartilege left. Still, thanks to her running coach, Rainy Kent, she says she's been able to work around her limitations and take on the half-marathon today.

Ryan Stewart, a young runner who is running the marathon for the first time, says he decided to run to raise money for Marathon of Giving, an initiative by international activist group Free the Children.

"I'm running to raise money to build schools in Africa," he smiles, adding that his friend had encouraged him to take part in the event.

For two runners from out of town, Lara and Victoria, the race was a chance to revive memories as friends and running partners. "We used to run together in Vancouver, but we're now living in different cities, so this was a good chance to get together," said Lara, who is now living in Victoria.

 

"We used to run along False Creek, so this is old stomping grounds for us," she laughed.

On the way to the starting line, one young woman in a decorated shirt weaved through the crowd. She said she was running for the memory of her late husband, who passed away from leukemia last year.

As the race kicked off at 7 a.m., the runners streamed through the streets amid loud pump-up songs, including "Born This Way" by Lady Gaga.

 

 Some walked, while others ran at a quick pace, but many runners here this morning seemed to run for a cause greater than themselves.

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