The streets of the capital today would have normally been filled with a Lycra-clad demographic of thousands of runners, walkers and rollers that any city would covet. They would have ranged from Olympians and Paralympians to duffers in what has become an annual celebration of the wide range represented in the sporting community. But the 41st GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon was among the many events cancelled this year due to the pandemic.
The race has been a Thanksgiving long-weekend tradition for four decades and is a qualifier for the Boston Marathon. An economic impact study last year by Destination Greater Victoria estimated the race accounts for $12 million of economic activity in the region annually. The Victoria marathon — much like the London Marathon on a bigger scale — has an emphasis on a charity component that has raised more than $2 million over the past 16 years.
But Gerry Parker is not letting the race, nor the charity component, pass by this year without at least a reply of some kind. He suffered a severe spinal cord injury two years ago when he tripped and fell down a concrete staircase. When the cancellation of the marathon was announced, Parker set a goal for himself to do the 42.2-kilometre distance via treadmill, walker, NuStep cycle and parallel bars. The 56-year-old, however, has gone above and beyond by going 77 kilometres to raise more than $12,000, with other participants, for the MOVE The Distance fundraising initiative. It is in support of the non-profit MOVE Adapted Fitness and Rehabilitation Society of B.C., which offers adults and children with physical disabilities a safe place to train on specialized equipment and move their bodies at its space at 755 Topaz Ave. It was founded by Joanne Rogers after her son Dennis Rogers, now a Victoria developer, became a paraplegic following an accident in a swimming-pool. About 20 percent of the project’s yearly operating budget is raised through the Victoria marathon charity program. “The board of directors realized the biggest fundraiser was the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon,” said Parker, who is a board member.
“I was a pretty good athlete before my accident. In high school, I excelled at all sports, the highlight of which was being selected to the Alberta rep team in rugby. I started my career in the restaurant business. But I kept my competitive and fitness juices going by joining local recreational leagues.”
Then came the accident and a sudden and immediate new focus forced upon him in life.
“Exercising at MOVE gave me the support and inspiration to walk again,” said Parker.
“As an athlete, you understand the dedication and determination needed in order to play and perform in sports. But people in my situation cannot go to a regular gym. I have been working for two years to get back on my feet. The way I look at it, I could give up, or I could do something about it. The people and the gym at MOVE have kept me going.”
Donations are being taken to Oct. 24 at raceroster.com/events/2020/33479/move-the-distance.
More than 8,000 participants took part in the 40th anniversary Victoria marathon last year. About 1,100 people had registered when the 2020 race was cancelled in May.