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Valentine Run keeping love for running alive in Amherst

Popular winter event scheduled for Feb. 18

By Andrew Wagstaff
Maritime Runner
Jan. 24, 2017

AMHERST, N.S. – Valentine’s Day may be all about love, but Feb. 18 will be all about the love for running in Amherst.
The annual Amherst Valentine Run will be back for another year on the Saturday morning after Valentine’s Day, and organizers are expecting another successful event in the border town.
“We have lots of youth coming, and families, a good crew from Halifax, a crew from Fredericton and beyond, and a lot from P.E.I. this year,” said Ken MacKenzie, race director and one of many volunteers who make the event possible. “It’s a good location, Amherst, and in the middle of winter nothing happens.”

Lynn Williams (left) and Bonnie Clarke take part in last year’s Amherst Valentine Run.

Photo courtesy of Jen Field

This year’s run will fall right in the middle of Amherst’s winter carnival celebrations, which happens to be where the seed for local running club the Amherst Striders was first planted a few years ago. At that time, winter carnival held a fun run as part of a 24-hour activity day.
“Only two or three people showed up, and I said, ‘Does anyone run around here?’” recalled Alan Theal. “That’s where I started to get to know everybody and when we started the Striders.”
Among those who joined the Striders were local dentists Rick McKenney and Rachna Minocha, who started running with their children. It was the idea of getting young people involved, and keeping people active during the winter, that was behind the Valentine Run, explained McKenney.
“It was Rachna’s idea to start off with because people run in the summertime and then in the fall they get slower and have no goals,” he said. “People all the time are telling us they wouldn’t have kept going if we didn’t have the Valentine Run, and that’s what it’s about.”
Minocha-McKenney Dental is the major sponsor for the event, along with Maltby Sports. The Town of Amherst also provides on-site support such as porta-potties, as well as roadblocks manned by town police.
The event offers a Half Marathon, a 10K, a 5K and a 3K option, attracting runners of all ages, abilities and experience levels.
One of Minocha’s hopes is that it might help encourage someone to try running for the first time.
“If we can spark a little interest… as soon as you start running, it becomes addictive,” she said. “If we can do that for youth, spark that interest, hopefully it will make for a society that’s in better shape, and wants to take an active role in being healthy and active within society.”
All races for the event start and finish at the new West Highlands Elementary School, and the route takes runners through the Amherst Industrial Park, making for a fairly flat course. But MacKenzie emphasized that it’s built more for fun than for personal bests, with safety as the first priority on the open course.
“The reason we do it there is because the road in the industrial park is wide, and there’s not a lot of traffic there on Saturday mornings, so it’s safe,” he said. “We can put hundreds of people on there, and the town is really happy too because there are no road closures.”
Proceeds from the event go towards supporting local organizations that provide volunteers on race day, such as local school groups, preschools, and organizations like the Amherst Y’s Men and the Cumberland Sporting Club.