Twilight Shuffle celebrates 30th anniversary

The Chemainus Legion is getting ready to host the 30th Twilight Shuffle 5K Run/Walk Tuesday, June 24 at 7 p.m.

Many might consider the Chemainus Legion Twilight Shuffle 5K Run/Walk unique because it takes place on a Tuesday evening. Or because it takes participants right through the heart of downtown. But it could also be its age and longevity – the event is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, after all.

The Chemainus Legion is preparing to host the Twilight Shuffle 5K Run/Walk in downtown Chemainus Tuesday, June 24 at 7 p.m.

Chemaninus-born marathoner Phil Nicholls and his mother Lorna started the Twilight Shuffle 30 years ago to celebrate athletics and youth in the community.

“Starting the Twilight Shuffle with my mother in 1984 was a great way to give back to the community where I had my start in running” said the three-time winner of the Victoria Marathon. “This year, we’re encouraging everyone to take part to celebrate the long history of this event and raise money for an important cause — supporting our Legion.”

Over the years, the Twilight Shuffle has raised money for various organizations, but for the last 10 years, it has focused on the Lorna Nicholls Memorial Bursary, which is awarded to a local high school student with athletic talent who is pursuing post-secondary education.

“It is great to give back to the community while honouring one of our former members,” Janet Mitchell, an executive member of the Chemainus Legion, said in a press release.

The Twilight Shuffle is one of the only evening running events on Vancouver Island, making the run not only unique, but also a great opportunity for walkers and runners of all ages and abilities to take part in the community spirit of Chemainus.

“When I think back on it, I was still living there too, so it was a big part of the community, which I still try to maintain, and some of the original people from the Legion are still involved,” Nicholls said from his Island Runners store in Victoria. “It was pretty innocent how it started. I think the first two or three years, the fire truck was the lead vehicle, and it was always out and back on Chemainus Road. That was the most interesting thing about it, to be on a main road. That continued until it grew to almost 1,000 people, which was in 2003 or 2004, when it was showing rapid growth and popularity.”

Nicholls says that over the years, he had ideas that the run would get bigger and bigger, but it hasn’t gotten back up to that near-1,000 level of participation.

“This really is going to be the year of a lot more reflection at the end of it,” he said. “It was rewarding to see a little event like that go to 1,000 people, especially on a Tuesday night and in Chemainus, but maybe now with the busy lifestyles, maybe a mid-week night isn’t the best. Most runs are on the weekend. It’s hard to believe it’s been 30 years.”

Nicholls says the Twilight Shuffle is still one of the most well-known running events.

“A lot of people know of the event or know people who have done the event,” he said. “This year, it’s still a pretty positive event with the number of entries. I’m still as passionate for the sport as I was 30 years ago.”

Over the years, Nicholls has done a lot to attract crowds, including offering unique prizes, and he started bringing in entertainers.

Country singer Michelle Wright was the first entertainer to sing the national anthem and then perform at the Legion. Nicholls says one of the most popular years was when they brought in two members of the Trailer Park Boys to perform, and the last performer was Gord Bamford, a multiple Canadian Country Music Award winner.

“The event was always a very unique distance,” said Nicholls. “It started as four miles. Once the roads changed, we evolved it to change to a more conventional distance. It’s also unique in its location. It would be unique in its age – only the Victoria Marathon is older.”

For more information about the Twilight Shuffle, including registration details, click here or contact Nicholls at 250-595-2378.