It is pure coincidence, but oh-so fitting, that Shannon Banal is sitting inside the spacious La Forêt restaurant Monday morning talking about planting seeds, growing roots and clearing paths to discuss taboo and-or sensitive subjects.
The gracious event director of the resurrected Moustache Miler 5K and 1 Mile run, which goes Saturday, Movember 24 in Vancouver, lists this energetic endeavour as one of her “passion projects” which also include photography, her young family, running and sharing chocolate-filled pastries with hungry bloggers (smile).
“I know we can’t change the world, but we can do little things that sure help,” said Banal inside the 84-seat Burnaby bakery cafe that once served as an auto body shop.
“Suicide, depression, cancer — those are things you don’t usually associate with a fun run per se, but we’ve got to get people, and especially men, talking about these very, very important issues. We need to do these sensitive topics justice and the Mo Miler is just one way to get that conversation started.”
Banal, one of the first people to reach out to this devastated blogger last May when my youngest brother unexpectedly became a suicide statistic at age 45, didn’t expect her new volunteer gig would open the window to so many fresh or raw wounds from friends and race participants.
“Perhaps the most surprising thing since I’ve taken on this volunteer role is hearing all the stories. So many people and families have been impacted in so many ways. There are some really sad stories, but there are also some encouraging stories of survival and moving forward with positive outlooks.”
Banal said that impact became very obvious when she approached several run sponsors last January.
“Sometimes I wasn’t even finished my sales pitch when sponsors would interrupt and say ‘sign me up right now. Let’s do this!’ The support has been amazing right from the start, from men and women.”
Title sponsor Innovative Fitness is a prime example.
Curtis Christopherson, the president of the premium personal training firm in Vancouver, said Tuesday morning: “I’m proud to be a part of this event and it actually hits home as my father and brother-in-law both experienced a male-oriented cancer — prostate cancer for my dad and testicular cancer for my brother-in-law.
“So raising awareness for a charity such as Movember and The Moustache Miler makes it all worthwhile.”
So far the Mo Miler has 290-plus entries with hopes of reaching 400 by race day. Banal is excited that members of Sole Girls and Sole Boys will be taking part on race day — and she’s very thankful (smile) this blogger was running elsewhere on Sunday (Fall Classic at UBC) when the Movember Foundation held its inaugural 2K Saxx Undie Run, starting in the Olympic Village.
“It’s a balancing act,” Banal admitted when asked if keeping the Mo Miler fun while tackling serious, life-changing issues.
“It can’t be all about beer and parties and fake moustaches, and it won’t be, but we’ve got workshops and awareness campaigns and subtle ways of getting the conversation going, and hopefully keeping it going long after race day.”
Banal said she’s surrounded by a great group of people, all volunteers dedicated to not only putting on a good race-day show, but for changing the face of men’s health.
There will be a workshop this Thursday night, for example, with speaker Dr. Brendan Byrne, the medical director of The Wellness Garage. There are a couple others next week, too (See HERE for more info).
Race-day should be fun for the entire family, with costume and moustache contests, race prizes, post-run parties, kids’ dancing, medals, music and other cool surprises. And the event even has its own beer — The Moustache Miler Marzen, an Austrian pale ale.
Asked about her growing kids, nine-year-old Kaitlyn and five-year-old Noah, who I saw at this summer’s Big Superhero Run in Richmond, where Kaitlyn won the kids’ race, Banal smiled and cracked: “You know kids, always well behaved, always listen to Mom!”
Asked if Kaitlyn has recorded more running victories since, Banal laughed: “She has lots of fun, but to be perfectly honest she’s not very good at running most days, know what I mean?”
Oh boy, do I ever!
As we wrapped up the informative meeting Banal looked around the 84-seat restaurant that’s surrounded in trees and plants and ambience and asked: “So, what do you think of this place?”
Told her it was a perfect place to examine a bakery menu, discuss men’s health, running and her important journey for the next couple weeks.
And, it also allowed me a great pun to wish her well on the way out: “May the forest be with you!”
Sign up today for The Moustache Miler and let’s stop men from dying too young. This one’s personal, folks!
Gotta run …
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