The Banff-Jasper Relay - A Tribute to a Runner's Journey

The Banff-Jasper Relay - A Tribute to a Runner's Journey

This story was originally published in 2013.

The 2017 event takes place on June 3, 2017

How does the famous Margaret Mead quote go? “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world…”

When you look at the friends who gather each year and volunteer to manage the Banff-Jasper Relay, they embody this sentiment completely. Together, this small but mighty team of 11 organize an annual 285km relay race in tribute to a dear friend and in hopes of changing the future for brain tumour patients and survivors.

Garth was 56 when he was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumour. Surgery and aggressive treatment were not able to halt the tumour’s spread, and sadly, Garth passed away two years later, in May 2004. A kind and vibrant person, Garth was also an avid runner who took part in the original Jasper-Banff Relay – a race that was held for over 20 years and eventually cancelled due to volunteer exhaustion and costs. It was only fitting then that his loved ones would want to revive the race in his honour. “He was such an awesome guy,” remembers close friend and current race director, Blair Shunk. “We’d always talked about bringing back the relay, and couldn’t think of a better reason to now.”

Runners at the annual Banff Jasper RelayJune 2005 marked the return of the race, now re-named the Banff-Jasper Relay. Since that first year, the inspiring annual event has raised more than $170,000 for brain tumour research and patient programs. Reflecting on the eight years since that inaugural relay, Blair is proud to see how far the event has come.

“Back then, I remember going to the original organizers and getting a thousand reasons to not hold the race. Sitting down with Parks Canada changed all that, and the barriers sort of fell away.”

Every year, participants come from across Canada to join in the unique relay that takes hundreds of runners through the majestic mountain terrains of western Alberta.

Brain tumour survivors have started up their own teams as well. Miriam, an Ottawa, ON resident, brings a team out to Alberta and has raised over $20,000 herself, on more than one occasion. And while she doesn’t run, her support is felt throughout the entire event. “She’s absolutely incredible,” adds Blair. “She’s a two-time brain tumour survivor and her strength is just astounding.”

In 2013, the Banff-Jasper Relay takes place on June 1 and will be particularly meaningful due to the loss of another friend and long-time runner who recently passed away from a brain tumour. Jim was passionate about running and had taken part in many of the relays. He was also a friend of Garth’s as they were members of the same running club.

As race day approaches, Garth and Jim aren’t far from Blair’s thoughts. After losing two dear friends to brain tumours, he says that now, “we’re more determined than ever to keep the race going.”

Visit to learn more about the race and visit the event's fundraising page to make a gift in support of brain tumour research.

In 2017 all funds will be directed to the Pediatric Brain Cancer Impact Grant and will be DOUBLED!


 Banff Jasper Relay 2013 Video


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Story posted: March 2013


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