A special international virtual run we can all get behind
VR Pro announces the Remembrance Day Runs in collaboration with the Juno Beach Centre in France
With the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting our lives and our cherished weekend running events, virtual runs are quickly becoming the norm. It is also creating an opportunity for some unique and compelling experiences for participants, despite having to go it alone. And one race with an important story to tell is the newly announced Remembrance Day Races from the crew at VR Pro Races of Chilly Half Marathon fame.
VR Pro founder Kelly Arnott says the idea for the new virtual run — open for registration with the runs set to begin Sept. 1 until Nov. 28 — came months ago and prior to the COVID-19 pandemic after conversations with a person who expressed interest in starting a physical event for Remembrance Day. Although that will have to wait, the virtual event is already taking shape and people are responding. And not just in Canada.
The first thing that sets this race apart is the three unique distances — the StrongPoint1500m, the Juno Beach 8K and the Remembrance 21.1K (a half marathon) — each signifying an aspect of the historic Juno Beach landing in France.
According to Arnott, the StrongPoint is named for the strongpoint and 1500 metre stretch of beach overcome by the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, the 1st Hussars (6th Canadian Armoured Regiment), and the 6th Field Company, Royal Canadian Engineers on D-Day. While the Juno 8K is named for the 8K of beach at Juno upon which the Canadian Army stormed as part of D-Day, June 6th 1944, one among the greatest moments of the 20th century. The landings started the battle to liberate France from Nazi Germany. And, of course, the 21.1K commemorates the approximately 21,000 troops who landed on the beach that day.
“We offer a half-marathon (which is 21.1 kilometres long), in honour of those troops,” she says.
For the event, VR Pro is teaming up with the Juno Beach Centre, a Second World War museum and cultural centre located in Normandy, France.
The Juno Beach Centre in Normandy, France
“We’re excited to be partnering with VR PRO for our first Remembrance Day Races. The revenues we rely on to operate the Juno Beach Centre have been slashed by COVID-19, and the funds raised will help us recover from the impacts of the pandemic and continue to carry the torch for our veterans,” says Don Cooper, president of the Juno Beach Centre Association. “We are also excited to connect with people across Canada who share our mission. The more people who take up the torch alongside us, the better we will all be at ensuring the legacy and lessons passed on to us will continue to reach future generations.”
Although the collaborations are still being rolled out with more exciting news on the way, according to Arnott, each race entry will include a direct $10 donation to the centre.
Participants will receive a race kit, a gorgeous commemorative medal as well as a Juno Beach collector coin, race bib, imprinted neck gaiter, a Remembrance Day poppy, and a beautifully printed Juno Beach D-Day souvenir map.
VR Pro's Remembrance Day Runs medal
Arnott wants to ensure people have the opportunity to do something for Remembrance Day even though schools will likely not have Remembrance Day assemblies, and community gatherings will be curtailed.
“We don’t have it as a proper holiday yet,” she says. “So, especially with a year like this year without the Remembrance Day ceremonies, you can feel things dying off, you know, especially during a pandemic. So that's my goal. Firstly, to keep all of our 25,000 people excited and running and enthusiastic about our events and our VR Pro Facebook group. But also, by trying to spread the word and this race packet. And then next year, our goal with the Juno Beach Centre is to actually do a proper event.”
The event concept has already struck a chord for many runners and non-runners alike. Arnot relays the story of a lady in Nova Scotia who contacted her regarding the Remembrance Day Races.
“She had heard about it and her father was one of the soldiers at Juno Beach,” Arnott says. “She went to Juno Beach last year. So she and her three friends are going to do the 1500 meter walk. She's not a runner. We want to get to everybody including veterans, their families, students, right across the country and beyond.”
As the event starts to get underway, there is also word that runners will participate in France as well as the United States. It’s something with meaning, something to run for, and that’s what seems to matter most to people right now.
For more information about the Remembrance Day Races head to VR Pro.