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Snowflake Series kicks off this Sunday

By Dave Dawson, Orillia Packet & Times

SUBMITTED PHOTO
No matter the weather, hardy runners love to participate in the annual Orillia Snowflake Series. This year’s four-race series begins Dec. 4.

SUBMITTED PHOTO No matter the weather, hardy runners love to participate in the annual Orillia Snowflake Series. This year’s four-race series begins Dec. 4.

The 23rd annual Orillia Snowflake Series, being presented by the Rotaract Club of Orillia for the second straight year, will kick off its annual four-race winter running series Sunday at Couchiching Beach Park.

"We're excited that for the first time, we will be offering electronic chip timing this year," said Jeff Taylor, one of the driving forces behind the annual event. "We have found that a lot of people wanted the race to become a bit more serious than it was, and we're hoping this opens up the event to an even larger audience."

Last year, Taylor, employing a cell phone app, tapped his phone as participants crossed the finish line but discovered there was sometimes a few-second discrepancy between the actual finishing time and the one ultimately recorded by hand on the on-site laptop. "A lot of people kind of expect chip timing these days, so we decided to invest in the technology and, obviously, we're hoping it pays off."

Last year was the first time the local Rotaract Club organized the event. Previously, it had been run by Lisa Avery and a group of volunteers. When Taylor learned the long-time volunteers were growing tired of the time-intensive event, he suggested to his fellow Rotaract Club members that they offer to take it over.

"Our first year went really well," said Taylor, noting about 150 participants, on average, raced in each of the four events. He expects the numbers to grow this year. "We are expecting 200 and we think we might get even more now that we have introduced chip timing."

The Snowflake Series is the only one of its kind in Canada. "Most of the big running events are in the spring and fall, so having a running series in the winter is unique," said Taylor, who has competed in the annual series for nine winters. "I think it's the five-kilometre distance that is really attractive as well. You only have to run once or twice a week to be in shape for a run like this "¦ it's ideal."

The race attracts runners of all ages and abilities. "We have some very quick runners who complete the race in under 20 minutes and we also have families that run together, we have some elderly runners and a lot of people love it because it's fun."

Cost to race is $15 per person or $60 for the whole series. There is also a $120 family rate that covers the costs of two adults and two children to participate in all four events. In addition, racers are encouraged to bring a donation for The Sharing Place Food Bank.

"Nobody is getting paid to do this. It's entirely volunteer-run," said Taylor, who added 20-25 volunteers give of their time on race days. "The majority of the proceeds go to The Sharing Place and some goes to other Rotaract causes. All of the money goes back into the community."

This year's Snowflake Series kicks off Sunday morning. The second race will be held Dec. 18 and a special New Year's Day event offers both a five and 10-kilometre option. The series wraps up with a Jan. 8 race.

Runners beware! In years past, most runners simply showed up before the start of the race, ready and rarin' to compete. This year, due to the chip timing system, all participants need to pre-register. "Chip timing requires lot of front-end work," said Taylor. "You can't just show up like you could in the past. People need to be registered beforehand."

Taylor said first-timers are always welcome. "It's a great way to stay motivated through the winter season and especially the holidays when maybe our diet isn't the best - it's a lot of fun," he said.

To register or for more information about the race, the course and other details, check out the Snowflake Series page on Facebook. If you have further questions, email orilliasnowflake@gmail.com.

david.dawson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/davedawson67



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