Meet some of the Manitoba Marathon Team
For almost two decades. Shannon D’Ignazio has been a leader on the Manitoba Marathon staff. She has seen it all in her 17 years: all of the changes in the event, the technology, the leadership and volunteers, and now social media as well as heading up our elite athlete program. Shannon is loved by her fellow staff, volunteers and participants alike: her smile and positive attitude is infectious. Thanks Shannon for all of your hard work these past 17 years and beyond; all that you do and every beautiful smile is so appreciated.
Tell us a little bit about you that our volunteers might not already know.
I am the proud mom of amazing kids; two boys ages 24 and 20 and a precious 10 year old girl. I am also the proud partner of an incredible gentleman who also volunteers immensely in our city and “Miss Shannon” to his two amazing boys ages 14 and 15. Raising children who are in sports and working full time equals a beautifully fulfilling and amazingly busy life. What most don’t know about me is my alter ego is “the cookie lady” and my all-time favorite time of year (besides race day) is Christmas: giving is much more fun than receiving.
When did you first start working at Manitoba Marathon? Can you talk a bit about your history with the marathon and how you got started?
I joined the team in the fall of 2003, following the Manitoba Marathon’s 25th Anniversary race. There were only two full time staff members at that time along with a couple of contract staff including our infamous and unforgettable Operations Manager Laurie Penton. We rented a small office space downtown and were fortunate to have over 2,000 volunteers.
What are some of the biggest changes you have seen in the Marathon that have worked to make race week easier or better?
The biggest changes that have impacted the event over the years have been our Green Mandate and the evolution of technology. We are so proud to not only be good for our community, but we are good for the environment as well thanks to our incredible Waste Management Volunteer team. The event has always been fortunate to have incredible corporate partners, participants, supporters and volunteers but the advancements of technology have had so many fantastic impacts on the event.
Years ago we had a team of data entry volunteers that spent countless hours entering participants in weeks leading up to the race. Today participants can enter the race within minutes via their handheld devices! Race timing has also evolved… does anyone remember the shoe lace timing chip? We used those when we had almost 14, 000 participants: we had a crew of volunteers that would gather in the evenings to collate the nine digit code on the chip to the sticker on the bib and package them together in envelopes… wow what a task! When the timers began offering chips attached to race bibs I thought I had died and gone to heaven, seriously! Today our participants, families and spectators can even enjoy live tracking on their mobile devices: wow have we come a long way, baby!
What has your work at Manitoba Marathon changed in your personal life?
I feel so fortunate to be a part of something so special in our province. It’s been an absolute honor and privilege to be a part of a world class charitable event that has given so much back to our community over 41 years – inclusion is for everyone. It’s also one that inspires people to live their best life, to set goals they never thought possible and work hard for them. The cherry on top, I get to be a part of witnessing their journey and celebrating their achievements with them, how amazing is that!? As I approach a magical age in 2021 it has also helped me to set my sights on my own bucket list finish line: the New York City Marathon.
So you have survived race week and the big day has arrived. Where can we find you on race day?
On race day I am at the finish line working with the timing crew to ensure production goes as planned, results are flawless, winners in all events are verified and award presentations are on time. This year was truly exciting with Canada’s best running in the Half Marathon Championships and blasting our course records!
How has your family been involved on race day throughout the years?
When my older children were younger they used to help with data entry, hand out popsicles in the recovery area and even ran in the Mini Mites and Super Run events. David and our kids helped out in the infield and meet me area this past year.
Do you have a race day memory that sticks out particularly in your mind?
Each and every year is special for its own reason and when I’m driving to the venue race morning adrenaline is high and I’m so excited for what’s about to unfold for thousands of people. Working the day on the infield I get to see so many personal victories. Those that set new course records, those that hit a personal best, those that have overcome so much to get there and those last runners who cross the finish line erupt with emotion as they accomplished something they never thought possible.
These moments for me engrain each and every race in my personal treasure box of memories. For the event team the weather is always on our minds. We work so hard all year to plan for this amazing race day party and to have it rain on our parade just hurts our hearts. Race weekend 2014 was an anomaly as it not only rained all of race weekend, it simply poured! Our resources were depleted as many volunteers likely thought there wouldn’t be a race or didn’t want to endure the rain, but the race went on. I know at many points during race morning I was waiting for Noah to come across the finish line with the Ark as the water on the Bison track finish area was mid-calf deep! Thankfully there hasn’t been another year like that one and we are so fortunate for Mother Nature’s cooperation and support of our event!
What advice would you give to a volunteer joining the Manitoba Marathon for the first time?
The Manitoba Marathon cannot be described in words: the emotions experienced at this amazing event are exhilarating and awe-inspiring. Whether you are a participant, volunteer, sponsor or supporter the stories shared, friendships made, the feeling of contributing to our community and being a part of Manitoba’s largest mass participation event are life changing. The Manitoba Marathon operates solely as a result of our corporate partnerships, participants and our Volunteers who remain the backbone of our historic event. The Manitoba Marathon was thrilled to host our first of four years of the National Half Championships in 2019, and more exciting times are definitely ahead! We’re always thrilled to see our returning Volunteers each year and welcome new ones to our valued team. So please pass it on, share the spirit that is the Manitoba Marathon – because it feels so good!