For the second consecutive year, the Maple Hill Sap Run in Powassan is a virtual event. The run takes place this weekend and, unlike the physical event in a non-COVID year, participants are asked to pick their own route, place and time they want to run. Founder and principal organizer of the run Jared Dupuis says the distances remain the same at five kilometres and 10km for adults, and 500 metres for children. Dupuis says the only difference with this year's virtual run compared to the virtual run in 2020 is the extra day. Dupuis says where the event took place only on a Sunday last year, this year participants have the option of running in their chosen location on Saturday or Sunday. “This makes it more flexible for people depending what their plans are,” Dupuis said. Dupuis says he considered bringing back the physical run this year “but there's still too much up in the air so we decided to continue with the virtual run.” This is the fourth year for the Maple Hill Sap Run. Dupuis owns and operates Maple Hill Health and Fitness, a personal training gym in Powassan, and is a strong promoter of mental and physical health. When Dupuis started the sap run in 2018 he said he would have been very happy just to get 100 participants. But the final number was somewhere between 150 to 200 runners. Year 2 saw about 275 people take part and last year the number of participants was gearing up to surpass 300 before COVID arrived on the scene. Dupuis says all the planning for the run was in place in early March last year, including having police, fire and ambulance personnel on board, having Powassan streets blocked off for the runners, the volunteers and sponsors. “But when we found out what the new playing field was, we had to switch to the virtual style of race to make sure it went through,” Dupuis said. Dupuis admits he was a little worried that changing last year's physical run into a virtual event would affect participation, but people bought into it and about 100 runners took part in their own communities and locations. So far about 140 people are registered for this weekend's run, including some of Dupuis' friends in Ottawa and Sudbury, and this tells him there's a growing appetite for this type of event. Dupuis hopes people who take part in the run by remote this year can take in the physical event in 2022. The Maple Hill Sap Run has caught on quickly and has attracted participants from far and wide. Dupuis says in addition to area participants, the run has seen many people from southern Ontario come into Powassan. Some runners who take part in the Boston Marathon also attend and two years ago one individual from Yukon took part in the run. “The power of social media and the internet gives us a high level of connectivity with people,” Dupuis said. In addition, the run piggybacks on the Powassan Maple Syrup Festival in non-COVID years, which can attract 10,000 people over the course of the festival weekend. “So we have some people who take in the festival and then take part in the run,” he said. Dupuis says it was easier to organize this year's virtual event after putting together the first virtual run last year. This time around people also know what to expect. Normally, the physical run would have prizes awarded to the male and female adults in both categories in addition to the children based on their run times. However, under the virtual scenario, it's not possible to monitor run times, but Dupuis says prizes will still be awarded. He says once a person registers for the run, random draws will be held for the men and women who take part in the five-K and 10-K runs as well as prizes for boys and girls registered for the 500-metre run. Maple syrup-based prizes from Sugarstone Farm Maple Syrup in Trout Creek will be awarded to the men, women and boys and girls in each category if their names are drawn. Dupuis says although run times won't be posted this year, he would like participants to post a picture of themselves on the Maple Hill Sap Run Facebook page. Registration is open until midnight Friday. To register, go online to zone4.ca and scroll down the page to the Maple Hill Sap Run 2021 line and click it to start the registration process. Dupuis says all the money raised during the sap run goes to recreation projects in Powassan, which this year involves upgrades to the Powassan Hydro Pond. In addition, money is also directed to the North Bay Regional Health Centre's Children and Adolescent Health Unit, which this year is putting in a community garden at the site.
Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The North Bay Nugget