Duncan Marsden, centre, of Calgary leads the Melissa's Road Race half marathon start in Banff on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016. Marsden won the race with a time of 1:13:12. In 2017, the organizers of the event announced it would no longer be held in Banff. At the beginning of 2018, however, it was announced the Banff Marathon would take over the event.
ARYN TOOMBS RMO PHOTO
Everyone loves a comeback, and Banff's biggest running race just had the biggest of its career.
Just as it appeared the 38-year-old race was about to disappear forever, the Banff Marathon purchased the signature race from Melissa's organizers, and plan to revive the run on Sept. 22, 2018.
“Melissa's is such a classic event. It's an important event for the running community. The sentimental side of me said we have to look at keeping this race alive. It would be a shame to let it end, so we decided to talk,” said Banff Marathon event director Paul Regensburg.
Regensburg said the race will retain the Melissa's name and feel of the event, which began in 1979 as an event designed to draw more visitors to Banff National Park in September. It soon became a running community favourite, and registration often tops out at 5,000 runners.
The race has often been voted the best in Alberta.
Regensburg said the Banff Marathon, which is run in June, will continue, and both events should complement one another.
“Hopefully we can bring in the things we do well. We will have some economies of scale and some aspects of the Banff marathon we can bring to Melissa's, like our sustainability program, detailed traffic planning and community impact background. We can take the best of both worlds and have a better event,” Regensburg said.
Deb Boutillier will remain race director, as the original organizers will continue their involvement with the event.
“We will be the operators, along with Deb as the race director. The Melissa's group will be involved and onsite. We've also contracted Grizzly Events, who will provide their resources. We are putting together the strongest team possible,” Regensburg said.
Regensburg also has his own personal history with the race. His parents are previous winners of the run, and he's heard countless messages of support since the news broke.
“Some may not realize how well known and liked this event is,” Regensburg said. “The whole idea was to keep what is special about the race. It's loved for its traditions. We don't want to tinker with those traditions, so it is important to us the Melissa's group stay involved.”
Last season, Melissa's organizers stated 2017 would be the last, and complained about a surplus of red tape surrounding the run.