POLITICS

Sun Run organizers encourage racers to get colourful with tributes to Boston

04/18/2013 10:47 EDT | Updated 06/18/2013 05:12 EDT
VANCOUVER - There will be no black armbands or other dark keepsakes handed out at this year's Vancouver Sun Run as participants in Canada's largest road race pay homage to victims of the Boston Marathon bombings.

Organizers of a the Loskop Marathon in South Africa, also to be held Sunday, plan to hand out black ribbons to all 6,000 participants in honour of the Boston victims.

But participants in the 10-kilometre Sun Run are being encouraged to wear blue and yellow — the official colours of the Boston Marathon — instead as a tribute to three people, including an eight-year-old boy, who died and more than 140 others who were injured in two separate bomb explosions.

"We're trying to encourage colourful activity in the event as opposed to black armbands or things that may be anything like that," Sun Run chief organizer Jamie Pitblado said Wednesday. "We're looking to look on the bright side of things — put it that way."

The Sun Run, which routinely has participants numbering un the tens of thousands, serves as an opener to many other major running events scheduled across the country in coming weeks.

Pitblado hopes to have "a sea of yellow and blue" as runners wear the colours on ball caps, hair ribbons, shirts, shorts or other clothing. Sun Run organizers are also planning an official tribute to the Boston bombing victims, but are not disclosing plans.

"The detail on that, we are keeping under wraps, and we will draw that out on the morning of (the race)," said Pitblado. "But we do plan to do something to recognize what happened in Boston."

Meanwhile, runners continue to show strong interest in registering for the Sun Run in wake of the terrorism that occurred near the Boston Marathon finish line. The participant total reached 46,048 — up 430 from last year — as online registration closed.

Late registration will be held from Thursday to Saturday at B.C. Place Stadium. An average walk-up registration is in the 2,500 range.

"But we really don't know what to expect this year in light of what we're getting in terms of calls and the social media activity," Pitblado said.

Registration is usually capped at 50,000, but organizers will open the race up to more participants if necessary. The record is 59,000 set in 2008.

"We'll evaluate (numbers) Thursday and Friday, and if there is an overwhelming demand, and we think that that demand exceeds the 50,000, we will move that up so that we can accommodate the overwhelming support that people want to show for Boston," Pitblado said.

"We don't want to turn people away if they're coming out in support of that."

Logistically, it's not difficult to accommodate more runners, he said, because organizers always order extra runner's bibs, food, refreshments and other supplies.

But registration will not be held on race day.

"There's too much going on," said Pitblado. "We can't handle that."

Pitblado has been involved with the Sun Run for the past 19 years. He ranked this year's race as a "one-of-a-kind experience" as a result of the Boston bombings.

"As an event organizer, it brings us great pride and joy to see that people will feel valuable enough — and in this case, secure and safe enough — to come out in overwhelming support," he said.