When the Servus Edmonton Marathon course was rerouted past Central Social Hall due to construction, principal partner Jesse Kupina had two choices: bemoan a potential inconvenience or find a way to get involved.
He chose the latter.
“I've really been, over the past few months, trying to see how can I get involved. How can I be more than just a commercial establishment that happens to be open while there's an event going on?” he said.
Examining the route, Kupina noticed a lack of venues where spectators could sit and enjoy the race with a coffee (or drink) in hand.
Recognizing a unique opportunity, he decided to open his doors early to accommodate spectators. Starting at 7 a.m. on Sunday Aug. 20, Central Social Hall, located on the corner of Jasper Avenue and 109 Street, will be serving a full brunch and drink menu during their family-friendly Cheer and Brunch event.
This isn't the first time, and likely won't be the last, Kupina has opened his downtown establishment at the crack of dawn. When the Canadian men’s hockey team made it to the championship match against Sweden in the 2014 Winter Olympics, Central Social Hall welcomed patrons for the 5 a.m. puck drop.
For Kupina it's about more than simply putting bums in seats or attracting new clientele. He believes businesses have a role to play in creating a sense of community around an event.
"If we can keep working on taking what's going on in our city and making it more of a fun event that everyone can partake in, I think it's a win-win for the event... and for the people in my business," he said.
With 4,500 runners and walkers and 10,000 spectators, last year's event was the largest marathon to date.
Servus Edmonton Marathon event director Tom Keogh says community engagement initiatives such as Kupina's are essential to continued growth of the race, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.
“For those who have ever run mid- to long-distance, any time you get people cheering it just picks you up and gives you that little extra adrenaline shot," he said. "Everybody remembers that cheer station that got them through a bit of a bump or a bit of a hard spell during their run.”
This weekend will not only see the introduction of marathon brunches — Madison's Grill and Needle Vinyl Tavern will also open their doors to spectators — but also many Edmonton businesses cheering on the side lines.
In an effort to grow the festival atmosphere, Edmonton Experience, a program run by Edmonton Economic Development Corporation, designed special cheer pageantry for participating businesses. Street level signage with the company logo will line the course and add colour along Jasper Avenue, while employees gather together to cheer on the runners.
Tatum Neufeld, communications and marketing specialist for Greater Edmonton Taxi Service Inc., which operates Yellow Cab, said these opportunities are a great way for the taxi company to gain brand recognition, while offering a fun way for employees to bond outside of work.
Corbin Bourree, managing director for the Alberta branch of Spud.ca, an online grocery store that sells local and organic food, also saw the potential in partnering with the marathon. When Spud expanded its operation to Edmonton in 2014, it immediately approached the marathon about becoming an in-kind sponsor.
"We believe that food is what you need to fuel yourself, so a community event that focuses on health and wellness was a perfect fit for us to get involved in and it's a way for us to give back to the community," said Bourree.
The event helped the company gain exposure in the community. This year marks the fourth year that Spud.ca provides organic fruit and snacks to racers as they cross the finish line.
Want to find out how the race has changed over the past 25 years? Check out Explore Edmonton's interview with Stefan Fekner. He crossed the finish line ahead of the pack during Edmonton's first official marathon.
Central Social Hall will serve a full brunch and drink menu starting at 7 a.m. during their family-friendly Cheer and Brunch event on their patios.
10909 Jasper Ave
Madison's Grill at the Union Bank Inn will open for breakfast from 8-11 a.m. and welcomes spectators to its patio.
10053 Jasper Ave
The Needle Vinyl Tavern will host a Marathon Brunch starting at 10 a.m. on its patio, with live music inside by Desiree Dorion from noon to 2 p.m.
10524 Jasper Ave
To get your business involved in events like these, contact Edmonton Experience program manager Debbie George.