Runners participate in Step Up for Mental Health.

Step Up registration opens May 10

Step Up For Mental Health — which has quickly become one of the largest road-racing events in Saskatchewan — will return to the streets of Saskatoon on Sunday, Sept. 22. Registration opens Friday (May 10), with early-bird pricing running through to June 7.

This year’s event offers 5km and 10km distances and doubles as the provincial championships in both.

As always, Step Up is a major fundraising initiative for mental health. All net proceeds from the run will be directed to mental health support programs in Saskatchewan.

Here’s what you need to know about the event.

Runners at the start line of the 2023 Step Up for Mental Health.
Runners at the start line of the 2023 Step Up for Mental Health.

Large participation expected

Last year, nearly 7,000 people participated in Step Up’s in-person and virtual events with more than $700,000 awarded to 24 mental health projects in the province ranging in scope from no-cost counselling in northern Saskatchewan to mental health support for frontline workers.

With conversations around mental health increasingly front of mind and given the general trend of high race registrations fuelled by a pandemic-driven running boom, race director Jonathan Huntington is optimistic Step Up will attract several thousand participants this year. There is no cap on the number of in-person registrants.

Participants can opt for a virtual event

Step Up is continuing to offer a virtual event alongside the in-person races. If spots sell out quickly (as they did when registration opened last year), more spots will be added.

“We know mental health impacts so many people and some are not able to come to the event,” Huntington says. “Some people might be more comfortable participating on their home streets or in their home community. We want to be inclusive to everyone impacted by mental health.”

Event offers affordable pricing

“We’ve really prided ourselves on keeping that registration cost as low as possible, because we want it to be available to all sorts of people in the community,” Huntington says.

Early-bird pricing of $55 (plus tax/fees) will be available for both distances from May 10, when registration opens, to June 7. Participants who struggle with addictions and/or mental health issues will be able to register for free through a selection on Race Roster.

The cost of the virtual event is the same as the in-person event, with a sponsor covering the cost of mailing swag to virtual participants.

The sold-out field in the 2019 Step Up for Mental Health Run.
Runners take on the 2019 Step Up for Mental Health Run.

There are new courses

This year’s event features 5km and 10km distances (unlike last year, there is no half marathon). While courses still needs to be finalized with specific measurements, they will start and end in the same location. Route maps will be released in advance of the event.

Provincial championships are back

For the second year in a row, Step Up will double as the provincial championships for the 5km and 10km events. “It was really exciting last year to see a mixture of athletes at the start line,” Huntington says. “There were oohs and ahhs from people seeing the elite athletes and there was a full celebration for those who were out there to help or run in memory of someone or run in support of someone. I was really happy to see that inclusive atmosphere and we’re excited to see that again.”

Prepare for powerful conversations around mental health

“It is humbling and, quite frankly, amazing to see the stories that pour out organically through social media primarily on the weekend of the event and the days leading up to and after the event. It’s hard to put into words the variety of stories,” Huntington says.

“You see people running in memory of a loved one. People running because they have a loved one in an addiction center. People running because their coworkers are impacted by mental health. You see medical response units come together, police units come together. I get the most choked up when I see the signs that young kids are carrying on the sidelines of the course for their mom or dad and who they’re running for. It is quite something to see.”

Participants in the inaugural 2019 Step Up for Mental Health.
Participants in the inaugural 2019 Step Up for Mental Health.

There are new social media channels

While Cameco continues to be the presenting sponsor of Step Up, the race is now being managed by Huntington’s new company — 321 Go Running — in partnership with Brainsport, Prairie Run Crew and New Balance.

You can follow 321 Go Running online and on social media for updates on Step Up and other races expected to appear on the calendar later this year:

The Step Up for Mental Health Virtual Run Club on Facebook, which has been a forum for people to share their mental health journeys and training tips, will remain active.