Thousands brave the cold to run in first Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service marathon in 3 years

After a year of extreme weather and two years of the pandemic, runners and organizers of the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service marathon are excited to finally be able to tackle the route in-person again — despite chilly Sunday weather.

Assistant race director Jessica Cranmer said the race committee wasn’t sure how many people would want to race this year, but 2,500 people registered — a small downturn from 2018’s race, which saw 3,500 runners.

“We were overwhelmed actually, we weren’t even sure we were going to get the registration we got today … it’s really exciting to have people back out again,” Cranmer said.

Jessica Cranmer stands with other volunteers for the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service marathon. (Émile Lapointe/Radio-Canada)

Sunday’s run was the first for Clyde Branzuela, who ran the half marathon. He said for him, the hardest part of the race was coming to the end.

“It’s really that last few miles that really, really hurt, so I gotta dig deep,” Branzuela said.

Branzuela said he had support in the form of Natasha Broughton, who cheered him on and held up a handmade sign to encourage him to keep going. 

“I made this beautiful sign, and I’ve just been trying to encourage him and help him, like, go on those training runs when he needs to. Just be there for him when he needs me,” Broughton said. 

Clyde Branzuela says having Natasha Broughton at the marathon for support really helped him finish the race. (Joanne Roberts/CBC)

She said she wasn’t likely to run a marathon herself, but Broughton said she’s happy to be a form of support.

Branzuela said it it was a great help to him finishing the race — and he made it 15 minutes under his expected time. 

Jacklyn Desharnais and Derek Caners began the half marathon together, but finished separately. Desharnais, who has run marathons before, said she wasn’t deterred by the cold weather.

“It’s really cold, but then you get warm and then it’s fine,” she said. 

Desharnais said she finds it easier to run in this weather — especially compared to running the Manitoba Marathon during a heatwave.

Caners, who has not run a marathon before Sunday, said he was open to running more marathons in the future, depending on how he feels on Monday. 

“I was able to beat my goal, and now my body really, really hurts,” he said.

Jacklyn Desharnais and Derek Caners hold their medals after finishing the half marathon. (Joanne Roberts/CBC)

In 2019, the race was cancelled because a snowstorm caused trees and branches to fall along the course and caused a danger for runners. WFPS hels its first virtual race in 2020 with 1,300 runners, and 2021’s race was cancelled. 

“Although this is our eleventh year, this is actually our tenth run,” Cranmer said. 

Since the marathon’s inaugural run in 2012, it’s raised money for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Cranmer says each year, the marathon raises more money, and this year, she expects the marathon to donate more than $30,000 to the foundation.

“A lot of our volunteer committee members are firefighters or paramedics. The Heart and Stroke [Foundation] is close to the heart,” she said. 

Cranmer, who said she got involved with the marathon because of the foundation, said over the last 10 years, WFPS has donated close to half a million dollars.

“We’re really committed to continue to raise funds for them.”