History of the MRA
The Manitoba Runners’ Association was created in 1970 by Charlie Paille, Victor Wilkes, and Laurie Logan because there was no organized road running program in Manitoba in place at the time. The original name was the Manitoba Road Racers’ Association. The name was later changed to the Manitoba Runners’ Association.
The Early Years
In 1971, Charlie and associates started the “Come as You Are” series at Assiniboine Park comprising several distances leaving the park and turning around at various points and returning to the park for an estimated distance.
The series used the Ken Cooper Points System which were accumulated for an awards banquet that was held in the fall of that year. The first official race was the 1971 Manisphere 10 Mile Run, which was started at the Winnipeg Arena Exhibition Grounds at Polo Park and the course went west out Portage Avenue to Golf Blvd. and turned around. Runners at the time ran on the sidewalk since there was no traffic control in effect at the time. Richard Chalk was the winner of the race in 57 minutes.
Later that year, the MRRA held a marathon at Bird’s Hill Park which was won by a 15-year-old running prodigy, Ed Romanowski. He set a world record for a 15-year-old running the course in 2:39:49:6.
In 1972 numerous events took place in a number of locations close to Winnipeg, including Morris and Portage la Prairie. Road relays became popular including events starting in Winnipeg and going to Brandon, Portage la Prairie, and St. Laurent.
Charlie was hired as a sports administrator at the Manitoba Sports Federation and coordinated MRA along with several other sports. MRA got most of his attention. He later went on to be the first race director for the Manitoba Marathon.
The association purchased a used trailer for use at road races and was painted with the association’s colours: orange and green. Members who contributed $50 towards the purchase received a lifetime membership to the MRA. The trailer is presently on John Houlden’s property in St.Laurent.
In the early years of the MRA, events were limited to small fields and grew as running got more popular. The Icelandic Festival 10 mile run was the major event for years until the 1979 running boom began in Winnipeg with the Trib Run For Fun and the Manitoba Marathon.
1n 1978, Marilyn Fraser was first elected to the MRA board and served in numerous board positions over the years before moving to Regina in 2002. The first newsletter dubbed the Manitoba Runner was introduced in the late 70’s. In 1987 it was rename On the Run.
In 1981 the MRA became an incorporated body. In 1984 the first agreement between Athletics Manitoba and the MRA went into place. In January, 1987 the MRA disassociated itself from Athletics Manitoba and operated independently. During the late 80’s MRA membership reached an all time high with over 800 members.
In the fall of 1990 an agreement with AM was reached and the MRA moved into the AM office in the Sport Manitoba building. At that point, the Road Race Committee, a committee of 6 individuals, 3 from Athletics Manitoba and 3 from the MRA was formed. This agreement continued until October of 2002 when it was dissolved by Athletics Manitoba.
During the 90’s the amount of races increased rapidly, with a race or 2 almost every weekend. In 1998 Dale Kirk created the first MRA website and maintained the website until 2001.
MRA in the early 2000’s
In January, 2003 the membership, at a special general meeting called, voted to disassociate itself from Athletics Manitoba and have it’s own road racing program. Canadian Footwear came on as the major sponsor for the Canadian Footwear Series.
In 2004 the MRA created on-line registration for memberships and race registrations. Through a government grant they were able to purchase new up-to-date race equipment. In 2006 they were again given a grant to purchase new road signs and race equipment. They received their third government grant in early 2008 to purchase new office and race equipment, road signs, etc.
In 2006, ASICS and Stride Ahead Sports came on as the new sponsors of the ASICS Grand Prix Road Race Series. That series continues today consisting of seven races.
In the fall of 2011 the MRA and Athletics Manitoba (AM) began negotiations for the MRA to become partners with AM and take over the sanctioning of Manitoba road races. In late 2012 an agreement was agreed upon and the partnership began in January 2013. There have been a few things to work out since but the partnership is working well and the MRA looks forward to a long-term relationship with AM for the betterment of road running in Manitoba.