This Tuesday [June 12] marks the 28th annual Legion Twilight Shuffle in Chemainus.
The five-kilometre run and walk starts at 7 p.m. Runners and walkers can register right up until the race start at the Chemainus Legion hall and Monday from noon to 6 p.m. at the Legion hall. Call 250-595-2378.
Here, Phil Nicholls shares a history of the run.
The Legion Twilight Shuffle had its first run on a Sunday morning in late June back in 1984.
My mother, Lorna Nicholls, helped to arrange all of the volunteers from the Legion as we put on the very first run. The running club that helped me out was a group of Alberni Roadrunners.
The first winners were Phil Nicholls and Suzanne Gagnon of Ladysmith. Phil won the first three and Suzanne the first two before Sheron Chrysler took over for a three-year stint.
The Shuffle moved to an evening venue in 1987, and the name became Twilight Shuffle. It also became a weeknight race and has been run on a couple of different nights from Tuesday, Wednesday and even a Friday, with the plan of becoming an event to kick off the Chemainus Days celebrations.
The run was always a four-mile race, which was a very unique distance from what is standard now — 5K, 8K or 10K.
The run settled back to earlier in June mid-week and became established as the second Tuesday of June. The plan was to avoid conflict with school celebrations and commitments that abound that time of year.
The run pretty much ran the same for many years, with my mum Lorna and the same group, a lot which are still around and some who are gone like Barry and Charlene. Mike Beggs and Janet Mitchell were always there, as well as the Ladies Auxiliary.
The route was out and back on Chemainus Road, and the participation was always around 300.
Some high-level athletes have won the race, with Enoch Keter, a well-known Kenyan, and Liz Jones, one of the UVic women, holding the course records. Keter’s time was a crazy 18:31. Jones’s time of 21:42 has stood since 1993 and was only challenged once in 2006 by Canadian national road race champ Lucy Smith with the second-fastest time of 21:43. Smith has won the Shuffle four times, as Steve Osaduik has on the men’s side.
This all changed in 2003, as did many things.
Lorna was diagnosed with a very invasive breast cancer early in the year, and the run exploded to nearly 800 participants. The start was delayed until nearly 7:30 p.m. from the 7 p.m. start time, and it was a hot night. The impatient crowd chilled somewhat with Michelle Wright’s guest appearance to the Legion and her singing of our national anthem.
Many records were set that night. Lorna hung on to see what would have been both of our dreams of the run being a major event. She hung on to live to see it and passed away June 30, a day short of her 79th birthday. A Lorna Nicholls memorial bursary in conjunction with the Legion was started at the high school for athletic achievement.
The 2004 event outdid 2003, as the run grew to almost 1,000 people. That year, Patricia Conroy was the guest of the Legion.
It became my dream to always have a celebrity at the run, and there was a five-year run of celebrity appearances.
In 2005, Canadian country superstar made the celebrity appearance and was hugely popular. This was the first year the course was changed to the format similar to now — a double figure eight starting at the water wheel on Chemainus Road. The run’s popularity caused numerous complaints with traffic on that night, and the issue became a battle with the municipality. Conforming was the only way to keep the run. This to this day remains a personal bone of contention, as Chemainus Road was the natural route and best route to run on and I still believe the issue was a personal sleight to the Legion. Anyway, we kept the run to a four-mile race going all the away out to the end of Bare Point Road.
In 2006, two stars from the Trailer Park Boys entertained before the start and after the run at the Legion. They were without a doubt the most popular celebrities and a huge attraction.
2007 would be the last ever four-mile race. It was won by Cheryl Murphy of Victoria on the women’s side and national marathon champ Steve Osaduik on the men’s side. Country singer Gord Bamford performed. Oddly enough, he probably is now the biggest star currently but was the least attended. He is also the last celebrity to appear at the Shuffle
In, 2008 Cheryl would defend her title and be the first women to win the Legion Twilight Shuffle as a 5K road race. Dave Jackson would be the first men’s winner. Cheryl would also become race director Phil’s wife.
The Prairie Inn Harriers also became a sponsor and huge help to manage the run, this being the running club Phil and Cheryl are aligned with. The liaison between Bob Reid of the Harriers and Mike Beggs here in Chemainus, along with the co-ordination of registration from Janet Mitchell, has contributed to the Shuffle now being an event that runs like a well-oiled machine. It makes me now look good. I have shaken any label of showing disorganization.
In 2009, the Shuffle was the BC Road Race Championship host, while the 2010 Shuffle was the Pacific Northwest Road Race Championships.
2011 was a year of a good run. Numbers were down. There was a lot of distraction. Summer hadn’t happened yet. Everybody only had hockey on the mind, and it came and left. Comments were all positive by those who participated.
It will always be my dream of a major road race. Crowded streets, people crowding to watch the run and a celebrity appearance. The Shuffle is currently bidding on an extended contract to host the BC Road Race Championships in the upcoming years.
I am sure Lorna would be happy with all the good the run has brought to Chemainus and all of the support the Legion has given.
— Submitted by Phil Nicholls