Organizer Bill Jol is beginning to reap the rewards of his efforts to make the Brantford Tournament of Races about a lot more than running.
The inaugural Summer Night Road Races in downtown Brantford last Thursday saw a lot more going on than the 5 km and 10 km running races that are part of the six-race tournament series.
“With this particular event we were trying to focus our attention on the colleges and universities that are here in Brantford,” Jol said. “Nipissing University was the title sponsor this year as they celebrate their 10th anniversary and we really wanted to highlight that.”
To get students out, Jol and the Tournament of Races team co-ordinated the event to coincide with the post-secondary school’s orientation week and gave the evening a flare of celebration.
With live bands, an outdoor barbecue in Harmony Square and a race between Brantford’s post-secondary school mascots, the event did bring out plenty of spectators and students.
“One of the challenges for race organizers is pulling out that student demographic,” Jol said. “They are very health conscious, but getting them out to participate can be a challenge. So the plan to attract them was to make this event a good time.”
Chris Bennett clocked the best time in the 10 km race (42:07), which took runners along Colborne Street, across the Lorne Bridge, along Ballantyne Drive and past Oakhill Cemetery before turning around and heading back to Harmony Square.
Brantford’s Riny Kooymans was the fastest in the 5 km race with a time of 21:28.
Several racers near the top of the Tournament of Races rankings finished with strong times at the Summer Night Road Races, including leader Alexandra Devries, former marathoner Rick Mannen, Catherine Lancaster, Jeff Van Wyk and Brandon Van Wyk.
“We are very fortunate to have developed a core base of runners locally and we are starting to notice more coming out from beyond Brantford’s borders,” Jol said.
The Summer Night Road Races served as a fundraiser to help start a local scholarship program for Nipissing University.
There was a strong showing of runners from Nipissing’s main campus in North Bay and North Bay Mayor Al McDonald took part in the 5 km race.
McDonald was in Brantford to research the issue of hosting a casino because his city council is having an important vote on the issue next week.
“(Casinos) can be a very divisive issue in any community,” McDonald said. “We heard how successful Brantford has been with its downtown revitalization so we wanted to come down and see for ourselves.”
The final race in the Brantford Tournament of Races, the Brant Waterways Trail Races, takes place on Sunday, Sept. 23.
Registration is available online at www.likerunning.ca.