Oak Bay race organizers hope for financial rebound

Half Marathon lost $15,000 this year

A soggy McGregor Abbott nears the finish line for the 2011 Oak Bay Half Marathon in May. Poor weather hampered the turnout for the race.

A soggy McGregor Abbott nears the finish line for the 2011 Oak Bay Half Marathon in May. Poor weather hampered the turnout for the race.

The Oak Bay Half Marathon will be back for an eighth year in 2012, but not before facing increased scrutiny from Oak Bay council over the race’s bottom line.

The event lost $15,000 this year, due to such factors as terrible race-day weather and a serious accident involving a key committee member, organizer Dave Milne explained to Oak Bay councillors last week. He was applying to host the 2012 race on May 13.

Compounding those factors was the fact Milne took a new approach to the race budget which didn’t pan out.

“If you look at the race as a business, we did too much advertising, we pushed too much, we hired too many staff, and in the end we didn’t sell enough,” he said.

Milne, who owns Victoria’s two Peninsula Runners stores, covered the losses with his own money.

Although the race is a non-profit event, it still needs to be sustainable to continue supporting charities such as the Help Fill a Dream Foundation, Kidsport and the B.C. Cancer Agency, Milne explained.

While the municipality has no financial stake in the event, the race’s financial statement raised a few eyebrows among councillors – a typo showed a $19 bill for duct tape as a $1,900 expense, for example.

“Because it’s called the Oak Bay Half Marathon, and it has Oak Bay’s name associated with it, I wanted to ensure that it represents the community well,” said Coun. Hazel Braithwaite.

Gaining approval for the race at last week’s meeting was important, Milne said, since he plans to apply to B.C. Athletics to have the race’s five-kilometre event designated as the provincial championship for that distance. Receiving it enabled him to confirm the race dates in time for B.C. Athletics’ application deadline.

While the rest of council were confident enough in Milne’s assurances of financial recovery, Braithwaite voted against approving the race’s return, saying she hadn’t had adequate time to get a full explanation for the losses prior to the meeting.

Milne is hopeful the race will continue to grow and that increased attendance will help dig it, and himself, out of the financial hole.

“I would like to see 1,250 people in the half marathon and 400 people finish the 5K,” he said.

“Hopefully there will be over 100 teams in the relay. If we do see those numbers next year, then (the losses) we’re talking about this year will be null and void.”

editor@oakbaynews.com