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Pride Run: Going the distance

Annual fundraising event hits its stride

PRIDE IN MOTION. The annual Pride And Rembemberance Run takes place Sat, Jun 23 and benefits the Toronto People With AIDS Foundation and the Triangle Program. Credit: (Glenn Bell)

Looking to get some action over Pride weekend? Consider joining up with the annual Pride And Remembrance Run.

Founded in 1996 by gay triathletes, the five-kilometre run began as a fundraiser for Toronto’s AIDS Memorial and as an athletic alternative to Pride’s marathon boozing and partying.

“All of Pride week is big on the partying side and this one event is special because it’s a chance to give back to the community,” says Pride Run president Michael Ovens.

Organized by the nonprofit Pride And Remembrance Association, this year’s run benefits the Toronto People With AIDS Foundation and the Toronto District School Board’s Triangle Program. The 2007 fundraising goal of $60,000 has already been exceeded.

Ovens, who is legally blind, became Pride Run president after working as the race director last year. Although he’s too busy organizing the event to run the route, he has participated in four marathons since September 2006, running with two guides on either side of him. In the most recent Boston Marathon he finished seventh in the visually impaired category.

By day Ovens works in the direct banking department at Bank Of Montreal (BMO), a platinum sponsor of the Pride And Remembrance Run. A core group of Team BMO’s runners are part of the bank’s queer affinity group. This year Team BMO held a kick-off reception where it announced a “high heel” challenge: If employees can raise $10,000, Marie Cosentino, BMO’s manager of direct banking, has agreed to don high-heels, a mini skirt and a feather boa and run the race. As of press time, Team BMO was nearly halfway to the goal, with $4,550 raised.

Other teams running this year include last year’s top fundraisers All The Queen’s Men, headed up by Douglas Queen, and Silver’s Bullets, headed up by silver-medal figure skater Brian Orser (see sidebar this page).

This year’s run will feature a greater emphasis on entertainment, says Ovens, with cheerleaders and three live bands punctuating the route.

“We’re also sexing up the water stations,” adds Ovens. “The water boys are going be wearing undies.”

Ovens says people’s reasons for joining the Pride Run have changed over the years. Initially intended as a way to honour loved ones lost to AIDS, the run is attracting more and more people who just want to run, have fun and enjoy free Dufflets pastries at the finish line.

“Because of the new medications and treatments, the number of people running because they’ve lost a loved one has gone down,” says Ovens. “Now people are doing it because they just want to run or it’s their favourite Pride Week event.”

Despite this trend, the Pride Run has maintained its relationship with the AIDS Memorial, donating $2,000 of the proceeds in exchange for logistical support from The 519 in the days leading up to the race.