Pride Week

Course Marshal at the Pride and Remembrance Run

by Joey deVilla on July 7, 2010

pride and remembrance runOne of the big events of Pride Week in Accordion City is the Pride and Remembrance Run, a 5K run that raises money for a number of good causes. One of the causes for this year’s run is two undergrad scholarships in Sexual Diversity Studies at the University of Toronto, a study program administered by the Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies, where Wendy works.

Rock star that she is, she gave up some of her time to help out with the logistics of the run. Rock star spouse that I am, I volunteered as well – I was a course marshal. My job was to stand at a specified spot on the course, point the runners in the right direction and encourage them on.

I was assigned a nice location: the corner of Yonge and Wellesley, which the runners would pass through twice: just after the start of the run, as they ran westward towards Queen’s Park, and again just before the end of the run, as they ran the final couple of blocks back to where they began at Church and Wellesley.

If the race began with a starting pistol, I was too far away to hear it, but from my station, I could see a cloud of balloons released from the starting line, followed about a minute later by the fastest of the runners:

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Then came the larger group in the middle:

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Followed by the more casual bunch. What they lacked in speed, they often made up for in costumes and atypical running outfits:

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A run on a downtown street isn’t possible without the assistance of the police. Three cops stopped the traffic on Yonge Street so that the runners could pass, and they were the exact opposite of the cops that we all saw in the G20 footage: good-natured, non-antagonistic, and even downright helpful and cheerful. It’s more evidence for the increasingly popular theory that the thuggish cops from the G20 weren’t locals, but out-of-towners raised on the small-town-stupid notion that Toronto is the Big Bad City full of Big Bad People.

These guys appeared just after the last of the runners passed through the intersection:

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Oh shit, was my first thought. This had better not be the Fred Phelps crowd.

They numbered about two dozen, most carrying white placards with messages that were very clearly not like those that Phelps’ jerks carry. Instead, they were more like:

  • Love is humble
  • Love is sacrifice
  • Love is forgiveness
  • Jesus is love

…with not a single mention of the story of Lot, Sodom and Gomorrah or how God nuked those twin cities (or, for that matter, Lot’s wife getting turned into a pillar of salt and the distasteful sequelae). They were a quiet, well-behaved bunch whose only out-of-the-ordinary characteristic was a white clown-like smile painted over their mouths. The term “Jesus Juggalos” popped into my head.

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I had precious little course marshalling to do until the runners made their return trip, so I picked up a large lemonade from the Starbucks at the corner and waited. About twenty minutes later, the first of the runners came back:

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And after him, a trickle of runners:

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And the Jesus Juggalos took their position. Like me, they encouraged the runners on – but in silence and with a different message:

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I didn’t have the heart to let the guy in the photo above hold his sign upside the entire time. I just wanted this photo, and then I told him.

The rest of the runners followed:

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And the Jesus Juggalos just held up their signs and offered bottles of water:

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Some of the runners accepted the bottles, others politely declined, a couple pointed out that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality and a couple said “I forgive you!” to the Jesus Juggalos. I told a number of runners “Forgive the guys with the signs; they know not what they do!” which got some laughs from the runners.

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The intersection of Pride Run participants and Jesus Juggalos went without incident, despite the chasm that divided the two groups, both philosophically and class-wise (the runners were by and large white-collar; the Jesus Juggalos blue collar) and each groups went on its way afterwards without any apparent effect on the other.

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With the last of the runners gone, I thanked the cops who helped cordon off traffic at the intersection, shook their hands and made my way back to the run’s volunteer station.

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This is what ten dollars got you at Thursday’s Pride Week barbecue at University of Toronto’s Hart House:

Paper picnic plate piled with food, "Hart House: University of Toronto" napkin, beer.

It was quite a meal: one beef kebab, one piece of chicken, 4 pork ribs, a slice of bread, roast potatoes, steamed vegetables and salad, all prepared quite well. The Ginger Ninja and I enjoyed it.

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