The Mayo Marathon is our British Empire

This year is the 20th anniversary of the Mayo Midnight Marathon, hosted by the town’s Fly-by-Night Running Club. And potentially, it’s the end of the road for the event. There’s a joke in there somewhere, about how the marathon is on its “last legs”, or how it might be left “gasping for air”.

One could even try to write a joke about the sun setting on the marathon, but that wouldn’t work — what’s wonderful about the Mayo Midnight Marathon is that it’s all sun, all the time. It has been the go-to solstice experience for many runners throughout the years.

But whatever the joke, and regardless of how much the joke is workshopped, the end of the race, if this is actually the case, is disappointing. Perpetual rumours abound each year, cursing its end and lamenting its history — but this could be it.

Then again, perhaps the organizers arrange such rumours behind closed doors to ensure larger participation — a well-run long con that no outsider has cracked until now. Fearing the end, runners skip the chaotic Keno solstice party or the daunting bike relay and opt instead for the more relaxed Mayo experience.

During its history, the marathon has attracted thousands of participants from across Canada and beyond. The marathon’s website has a variety of user comments, ranging from “Great experience”, to “Tough to run when you should be sleeping”. Others describe it as, “well worth the trip” and, a “nice stroll”.

If nothing else, participation guarantees access to the massive breakfast that takes place the next morning. The community comes together to showcase a myriad of cooking and baking skills, sending participants well fed back to wherever they arrived from.

Granted, I’ve never actually participated in the marathon. The extent of my role has been support. But I know that past participants are often repeat runners, so the marathon has become, for some, a solstice tradition. It’s a far cry from the crowded streets of the Vancouver Marathon or the lung-choking Great Wall Marathon in Tianjin.

As the Mayo Marathon fades into memory like Slap Bracelets and Saved By The Bell reunions, l wish good luck to all runners and those offering support throughout the race. Word of advice to those offering support: don’t get sidetracked by Animal Planet while waiting for your girlfriend to cross the finish line because the time you spend watching how the koala battle ends is the time she runs her fastest.

And remember, no matter what actually happens, the sun never sets on the Mayo Midnight Marathon.

This year, the race takes place on June 20. For more info, visit

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