Talented fun and the most amazing flow
Rodger Lourenzo has been involved with the Manitoba Marathon for the past thirty years. He has held a lot of different roles with our team, but his most recent has been wearing fun wigs working with Manitoba Marathon’s youngest participants at the Mini Mites race. A recently retired teacher, he now is able to pursue full time what he used to only fit it part time: being a working artist. He is incredibly talented and fun and brings such a bright energy to the start line every year. You can spot Rodger after the start on the return back to campus as you come off Pembina on to University Crescent. He will be cheering on our 10,000 runners with great enthusiasm and spirit. Thanks Rodger for the unique personality and skill you bring to the race: we love having you as a part of our team.
You recently retired after 29 years as an educator and now get to focus on your amazing art work. What has that transition been like for you?
I have taught in the classroom, but much of my service has been as a physical educator, largely at Ecole Victoria Albert School, in the Winnipeg School Division. It was a privilege to have a front row seat and witness young students in my care gradually evolve, transform, and become who they were meant to be. Children are endlessly interesting and can provide perspective that can often be found nowhere else. As much as I enjoyed my work in the teaching profession, I have longed for the opportunity to focus on being a working artist. I substitute teach in the Louis Riel School Division a couple of days per week, mostly, as my wife Carrie puts it, to keep me from spending all of my time just talking to myself with a brush or pencil in hand.
When did you first start volunteering with Manitoba Marathon and what initially got you involved?
As a young school-aged runner, I, like so many young athletes, was the beneficiary of the commitment of educators and coaches who sacrificed their time so that I could develop as a runner, learn about goal-setting and perseverance, and have the opportunities to compete locally and farther afield. I first started my involvement with the Manitoba Marathon in 1989 as a coach, bringing my elementary grade students to participate in the Super Run. Not long after that I was invited to join the Marathon’s Schools Program Committee, and later served on the board of trustees. I am currently a member of the Manitoba Marathon’s Technical Committee, helping out with the Mini Mites and then at Mile 25. My involvement in the Marathon has as much as anything, to do with providing opportunities for children, much as I received when I was young.
You were once a former competitive track athlete in university – how does that affect your thinking on race day?
I feel a certain connection to participants in any of the various Manitoba Marathon distance events. I understand and appreciate the preparation, time, and commitment it takes to make the marathon day experience a positive one. When I stand at mile 25 and watch participants head into their final two kilometre home stretch, I witness their morning’s labour etched into their faces. I am always inspired by the cross-section of Manitoba (and beyond) residents demonstrating remarkable resolve in order to meet their race day goals.
What job do you do on race day? What do you particularly enjoy about that position?
On race day, my primary duties are to oversee the setup and completion of the Mini Mites event for two to five year-olds, and to ensure that runners are on the correct side of University Crescent at Mile 25 heading into the final 2 km home stretch. The Mini Mites event is the earliest exposure any runners have to the Manitoba Marathon, and it a wondrous thing to behold. Imagine 25-50 very young children running approx. 100 meters; all wearing a #1 race bib. Some are mere toddlers, literally venturing out on the road for their first solo participation event.
You were also very involved as a teacher with getting kids to the start line with the Champions in Training program. Can you talk a bit about why you think that is important for kids? What results of participation did you see with students?
I have in one way or another been involved with the Champions in Training program for the past 25-30 years. As a physical educator, I always considered two over-arching responsibilities within my mandate. My role was to help provide students with important sets of skills that would enable them to become participants, rather than spectators. Secondly, to gradually encourage and enable students to take ownership of their own health and wellbeing. This is a process, and involves a gradual release of responsibility from children’s parents and teachers, to eventually fully owning their own healthcare. Ultimately, no one should care more about their own wellbeing than themselves. The Champions in Training program is an inspired vehicle to just this sort of end. Running is as much a lifetime fitness endeavor as any health pursuit and for many young children this is their first exposure to the fun and benefits of running as a way to develop and maintain good health, hopefully for a lifetime.
You are an amazing professional artist: do you see any overlap in what you do as a volunteer to what you do in your work? Has volunteering inspired you in any particular way?
As a working artist, I recognize the parallels in creating wonderful artwork and successfully meeting running goals in something like a marathon. Both come down to diligence in preparation/training. It’s as difficult to just “knock off” a great piece of art as it is to find satisfaction in any road race where there was insufficient training beforehand. As a volunteer at the Manitoba Marathon, I see countless runners who have put in the necessary training and I know that I, along with every other volunteer on race day, are part of the equation to a memorable event for these runners. For someone considering becoming a volunteer, I can’t adequately describe the wonderful atmosphere that exists on race day; you simply have to come out and experience it.
Do you have a race day memory that sticks out in your mind?
One of the coolest sights on Marathon Day is to witness a group of 10-16 soldiers marching in double formation while in full army dress, including boots and a heavy pack. On typically warm to hot race day conditions, these soldiers march the whole half marathon distance and look none the worse for wear at the end of it all. Very impressive.