Virtual Brainfreeze promises prizes, an online cheer squad and possible good weather

Weather in Saskatoon in March can be fickle — as any past participant of the Brainsport Brainfreeze knows too well.

But this year the annual fundraiser for the University of Saskatchewan cross country team is going virtual, which means participants can attempt a race distance any time over a two-week period from March 8 to 22. Surely there may be a few good-weather days within that window.

Besides being able to choose the best-weather day to run, Hillary Mehlhorn, the captain of the women’s cross-country team and a race organizer, talked to the Brainsport Times about some other reasons you might want to consider signing up.

Proceeds help local athletes in a tough year

The Huskie cross country team doesn’t have the same opportunities to fundraise as some of the more spectator-friendly university sports that charge people to watch games. Money raised from the Brainfreeze goes toward scholarships and program development and will eventually be put toward travel and training camps when such events can go ahead.

The Huskie track and field and cross country teams typically host a fundraising gala in March, but that was cancelled last year because of the pandemic and will not go ahead this year.

The cost to register for all distances is $60.

Scenes from the 2020 Brainsport Brainfreeze. Photo by Louis Christ.

The race is about building a virtual community

Huskie cross country athletes are pros at cheering for hours in bad weather and now they’re bringing that enthusiasm to online platforms from the comfort of their homes. “We’re cheering everyone on, even though we can’t be there in the moment,” Mehlhorn says.

The Huskies are encouraging Brainfreeze participants to share photos of their training and races on Facebook and Instagram with the hashtag #brainfreezeyxe.

Those platforms are also being used to share stories of Huskie cross country athletes who are largely training solo this year with no competitions on the calendar.

Free training plans are available

Running outside in the winter for the first time? Attempting a new distance or trying to hit a personal best? Just looking for some structure to your training? Check out Brainsport’s free virtual run clinic on Facebook.

Coach Mike McDonald is getting hundreds of athletes ready to achieve their goals at the Saskatchewan Marathon and the Brainfreeze can be a great tune-up run. McDonald posts training schedules online every week and members share their training progress and provide help and advice to others.

The swag is pretty great

All participants will receive a custom embroidered Brainfreeze sweatshirt. Participants in Saskatoon, Martensville and Warman will have their race package delivered to their door between March 18 and 21. Participants outside these communities can have their sweatshirt and bib delivered for $10.

Participants will also have opportunities to win prizes throughout the race period.

New this year: Sign up for a marathon distance

Previous iterations of the Brainfreeze have offered five-kilometre, 10-kilometre and half marathon distances. The virtual format has allowed organizers to go even bigger this year with a 42.2-kilometre race option.

Registration for the Brainfreeze closes March 4. To register, go online.