Adrian says “It’s just the best gig there is”

Adrian Wortley is a man with a very full life. Between working for the Government of Canada with the Department of Canadian Heritage, raising his twin daughters with his wife Kathleen and fitting running into the equation, he is also a longtime board of trustees member for the Manitoba Marathon. On top of being a passionately engaged supporter working diligently in the background all year with the Marathon, he is also up front and centre on race day, working in the infield with his family. Thank you Adrian for all you do: the passion and excitement you bring to the planning and managing of the Marathon and the foundation are in equal measure to the work you do on race day. The organization would not be the same without you.

When did you first start get involved with the volunteer side of the Manitoba Marathon?

I began volunteering as a member of the Board of Trustees. I had been a participant in the half marathon for a bunch of years and finally did the full marathon in 2013. After that, I felt I wanted to see the race from the organizer side of things. I started slowly as some health issues arose around that time but I’ve been a pretty engaged Board member and volunteer ever since.

What jobs have you done with the Marathon in the past? What do you do now?

My family and I helped out in dry clothes dropoff for one year. Unfortunately, it was a very rainy and cold year and we had a rough time of it. Dry clothes has now moved indoors at IG Field and the volunteers responsible run it like a well-oiled machine. Since then, we’ve been doing full marathon infield recovery where we ensure full marathon finisher have food, drink, massage and a place to chill out and regroup at the finish line.

Beyond my race week role, my role as a member of the Board of Trustees keeps me involved year round and gives me the privilege of supporting the Manitoba Marathon’s range of activities and pursuits. For the last few years, I’ve chaired the Board’s Allocations Committee. Our role is to direct Manitoba Marathon’s fundraising and granting activities. That has been very interesting and rewarding as well.

On top of all of this activity, you are a dedicated runner: how do you think that volunteering with the Marathon has changed your relationship with run events?

Well, it means I don’t run it anymore! While I do love race morning and the opportunity to be part of staging such an awesome event, I do sometimes miss toeing the line myself. That said, I think being a volunteer has made me a more conscious and conscientious runner, and being a runner has made me a more conscious and conscientious volunteer. When I do other races, I make sure to thank all the volunteers I meet along the way and I take note of how things are being done. And as a volunteer, I think being a runner helps me to be sensitive to the wants and needs of our participants as they reach that epic 42.2 km finish line.

You have a pretty important role on race day now, managing the action in the Full Marathon recovery area. Do you feel the pressure when race week comes or do you go with the flow?

I definitely feel the pressure! June is just generally a busy time in our family and every year when I turn the calendar from May, I kind of freak out! I absolutely ride a wave of nervous energy right up until the last runner is in and we begin teardown. The staff and huge volunteer crew are amazing so I never lack confidence that everything will go well but I definitely feel the buzz of stress adrenaline until the very end.

You volunteer with your family which is amazing. Can you talk a bit about their feelings about getting up in the wee hours on Father’s Day and helping with the race?

It’s the greatest gift to me on Father’s Day. It means so much to me to be able to enjoy the experience with my two daughters, Thea and Kiera and my wife, Kathleen. We’ve been doing it together since our daughters were quite young; they’re adults now and choose to continue their involvement. I love that so much. Being at the finish line we get to see just how much our event is a family affair, whether it’s parents Super Running with their kids or people in the stands cheering on their sibling, kid, spouse or parent. For me personally, getting out of bed in the dark, running around until early afternoon to ensure our runners’ needs are met and then collapsing at home, preferably with a baseball game on the TV, is about as perfect a Father’s Day as I could imagine!

What keeps you and your family coming back year after year?

What keeps us coming back is the extraordinary privilege of being right at the centre of the action in Manitoba’s largest and longest standing mass participation athletic event! How many people get to spend a weekend behind the scenes and on the field of a CFL stadium and then stationed in a spot to be able to see every single runner cross the finish line on race morning? It’s the best!

Do you have a race day memory that sticks out particularly in your mind?  

I have two. In 2018, I had a conversation in the infield recovery area with a man from Northern Manitoba. He had overcome extraordinary personal challenges and losses and had become a leader and role model in his community. He had put so much into building himself up and helping others and running the race was a huge symbol of achievement for him. It was a quite emotional and totally inspiring encounter.

This last year, I was pretty excited to be in the infield when the elite racers came in for the National Half Marathon Championships. I’m an Olympics junkie so was thrilled to realize one of them was Dylan Wykes a member of Canada’s team in the 2012 London Olympic marathon. He was kind enough to put up with my fanboy behavior and he even indulged me for a selfie!


What advice would you give to a volunteer joining the Manitoba Marathon for the first time?

I would encourage them to completely immerse themselves in the experience. Marathon weekend is such a celebration and there’s so much energy going around. It is an opportunity to both tap into and contribute to that energy and to feel part of a huge movement. The event could not happen without the incredible enthusiasm and generosity of volunteers. In return, we volunteers get to feel a sense of accomplishment and SO MUCH gratitude from the runners! It’s the best gig there is.

United Way Winnipeg