This Sunday, Yellowknife is going on a coffee run – a physically distanced, five-kilometre run – to support four local coffee shops.
The event is the first in a series of planned fun walks or runs. Race fees will go to Javaroma Gourmet Coffee, Birchwood Coffee Kǫ̀, Barren Ground Coffee, and Gourmet Cup Beverage Station.
Participants pay a $30 race fee to enter but will get $20 of that back in the form of a gift card to one of the four participating shops. The remaining $10 will be donated as tips to staff. (Participants can choose not to receive a gift card and donate their entire race fee.)
Local runner Cameron Twa is organizing the event with Paul Falvo and Clarinda Spijkerman on behalf of the Rotary True North and the Yellowknife Multisport Club.
“We’re not giving out a million dollars here, but we’re showing local companies that we care. Runners like coffee, right?” said Twa.
The starting corral for the race will be a Zoom meeting at 9:45am on Sunday. Twa and the other organizers will tell runners “ready, set, go,” and then they will be off at 10am.
Organizers will stay on the call for three hours to welcome runners and walkers back after they are finished and get feedback about the physically distanced event. People are allowed to run at whatever time is most convenient for them and let organizers know when they have finished.
Participants can choose to run or walk a distance of three, five, 10, or 19 kilometres. They are responsible for planning their own route and following all territorial physical distancing rules.
There is no prize for finishing first, although some of the coffee shops are providing door prizes.
Organizers were hoping for 80 participants, which would equal $2,400 for the four businesses participating. As of Tuesday, 70 people had already signed up – now the hope is for at least 100 runners or walkers on Sunday.
Gift cards will be randomized and dropped off or mailed out the week after the race.
‘Being a small business is tough’
Patrick Scott, co-owner of Birchwood Coffee Kǫ̀, said he appreciates the support.
“Being a small business at the best of times is tough in this town,” he said. “Being a small business when everything is essentially shut down is really tough.
“The support of the community and engagement of people in this way is quite phenomenal and quite remarkable.”
In mid-March, Birchwood temporarily closed, saying business had “quickly collapsed.”
The company took a few weeks to rebuild its website so people can order online and pick up at a drive-through by the back door. Scott and others restructured the shop interior so there is now a line in and out for social distancing – and no tables or chairs.
Business has still been slow, but Scott said the modifications allowed Birchwood to rehire three of its nine staff.
“We’re hoping this will help us get through the closure period and put us in a good position for summer when things get back to full speed,” he said.
As for the future of the fun runs? Twa said virtual runs are a good way “to maintain physical distance and have a sense of community and be active,” but he’s hoping to come up with different and creative ideas throughout the season if pandemic measures remain in place.
“I don’t want to just do a virtual run for the sake of doing a virtual run. I’d like to come up with an idea to make it a bit exciting, because there are a lot of virtual runs out there,” Twa said.