A love of running meets a lifetime of green action

Maureen Peniuk is one amazing lady. She is not only an avid marathoner who has completed 70 marathons to date, but she is also a volunteer Master Composter with Manitoba’s Green Action Centre (an organization that helps residents find ways to live a greener lifestyle).  These two passions come together on Father’s Day each year as Maureen runs the Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries Full Marathon and then volunteers with the Marathon’s Green Team when she finishes! Her dedication to a fit and environmentally friendly lifestyle is demonstrated in her commitment to run-commuting to work in the winter and cycling the rest of the year.  Thank you, Maureen not only for your dedication to making the Manitoba Marathon a greener event but also for your daily actions that make our province a more beautiful place to live.

When did you first start volunteering with Manitoba Marathon and what initially got you involved?

I first volunteered with the Manitoba Marathon about 30 years ago – it was an extension of my volunteer work as an athletics official. I was on the Technical Committee in the areas of course timing and manual back-up finish timing (This was before chip timing). I did this until I moved away for graduate school. I started volunteering again in 2011 when a call for Green Team volunteers was made through the Green Action Centre’s Master Composter program. By this time I was participating in the full marathon – so I needed a volunteer position that would still allow me to run on race day.

What do you particularly enjoy about the work you do on race day?

As a member of the Green Team I help to divert waste from the garbage stream. We do this by being stationed at pods with bins for compost, recycling and garbage. It is most efficient to separate it this way at the source and we also play a role in educating runners about the waste streams and what the Manitoba Marathon does to reduce the garbage load. I enjoy interacting with the runners and feel good about doing my part to assist with waste management. We also pick up waste left behind in the stadium and correctly separate the contents of waste bins that were left unattended.

I am fortunate that the Green Team Coordinators – Joseph and Donna – allow me to evade volunteer duties for several hours while I run the full marathon. I try to make up for this leave by working extra hard when I get back! I quickly change into my volunteer clothes and then get a kick out of greeting runners and casually slipping in “yeah I ran too”.

What motivates you to stay involved?

I think one of the perks that initially got me involved was the free t-shirt, and that is still a big motivator for me. I keep coming back each year because our Green Team Coordinators Donna and Joseph make me feel appreciated and valued. We have fun too!

Do you have a great memory from a race day to share?

Yes, this would go back 30 years though and involves some race day fun with a fellow Technical Committee member Mike Flood. I was coordinating finish line manual back-up timing and he jokingly requested that I deliver the first results to him on a platter with champagne. So on race day I did just that, but with plastic champagne glasses filled with apple juice!

What do you think is the most important skill that you have gained volunteering with the Marathon?

Learning to adapt as the situation requires. Planning is crucial and having the right equipment and supplies are vital but then you just have to continually respond to meet changing needs and circumstances.

What is the most important advice you could give to new volunteers with the Marathon?

My advice to new volunteers would be to show up on time, ask questions to be sure you understand your task(s). And of course to have fun and make any suggestions for improvements – as we can all continually learn and benefit from new ideas.

What do you wish other people knew about the Manitoba Marathon and/or the Manitoba Marathon Foundation?

For the vehicle drivers whose routes are disrupted on Sunday morning, I wish they knew how much the organizers and runners appreciate the opportunity to use our city streets for such a beneficial cause and rewarding experience.

What kinds of changes have you seen in the Marathon over your years as a volunteer?

I have seen many changes since my involvement with the Manitoba Marathon in the 1980s as a relay runner and member of the Technical Committee. Both of the tasks I managed – course timing and manual back-up finish timing no longer exist! I remember standing at the one mile mark yelling out times. Now wearable technology lets everyone know their pace and distance. Chip timing has eliminated the need for any other finish timing.  I don’t think the Green Team where I now volunteer existed yet.

How has your volunteer work influenced other areas of your life?

 I volunteer as a way to give back to the running community and to feel good. I feel proud when I tell family, friends and staff from other marathons that the Manitoba Marathon diverts over 80% of its waste from the garbage stream. And I feel fortunate that Joseph and Donna allow me to contribute to that. I have also realized what a connected community we are; 30 years ago when I was a member of the Technical Committee I was an agriculture student at the University of Manitoba, and I remember Donna, a keen graduate student in Soil Science.


United Way Winnipeg