Running for community

Literacy, Education & Employment

Ted’s Run for Literacy honours educator, supports education

For almost a decade, Ted’s Run for Literacy – known affectionately as “the little race that could” – has been bringing the running community together to honour the memory of Ted Swain and raise money for charity. The funds raised are endowed through The Winnipeg Foundation.

Photos from 2019 courtesy of Ted’s Run for Literacy.

Celebrating its 10th anniversary in September, the run has raised thousands for initiatives that break the cycle of poverty and support literacy – things that were important to Swain, who was an educator and a vibrant member of the running community.

“He loved the running community, he always felt very supported, didn’t feel judged, or that pressure of competition from the people he ran with,” says his wife Joan Swain. The couple married in 1973 and have two daughters, Natalie and Kristina.

Ted, who taught English at Vincent Massey Collegiate, got into running in his early 50s, after deciding he needed to get into better shape.

“Competitive sports weren’t something that really appealed to him. Running did appeal to him because he thought it was very much an individual kind of sport where you did the best you could do,” says Joan Swain. “What he embraced, and tried to get his students to embrace, was that you’re competing with yourself. You set your own goals, and you compete and do the best you can for yourself.”

Although Ted had tried running in years previous, he had trouble maintaining it.

“He’d sort of fall off the proverbial wagon. And I think he felt he needed something more organized, to keep him continuing to run,” Joan Swain says.

He found that at the Running Room. He started by taking a few running clinics, and gradually evolved into teaching. Ted even encouraged Joan – a self-described non-runner – to run a half-marathon.

“He just made [running] feel very comfortable. He was very good at making me pace myself. He made it very, very enjoyable. As a couple, it really brought us together.”

“We want the young people to get caught up in running and in the joy of it.”

Joan Swain, Ted Swain’s wife, Ted’s Run for Literacy Chairperson

Though Joan Swain does not love running, she does love travelling. So, the two struck a deal: to run a half-marathon in every province and territory and spend time touring the area afterwards. The couple ran in the Toronto Marathon and then visited Stratford and Niagara.

“We had a wonderful holiday. Sadly, that was the only year we took it because he passed away.”

After Ted’s unexpected passing in 2009, the Running Room organized a run in his memory. Joan Swain agreed to match any contributions raised, which supported a fund at The Winnipeg Foundation.

After that first year, Joan Swain wanted to keep the event going. That’s when Michael Bennett got involved as Race Director, and a committee was formed. Bennett first met Ted Swain through a clinic Swain was organizing at the Running Room.

Bennett initially signed on to help out for one year, but he’s enjoyed it so much he hasn’t left. He says that’s because of the dedicated committee that works tirelessly to ensure a great event.

“We have the best committee ever. I am so proud of our committee members. We have a very low turnover, many of them have been with us since day one,” Bennett says.

Photos from 2019 courtesy of Ted’s Run for Literacy.

“Everybody has great ideas and it’s a team that creates a much better run because everybody is open to ideas and suggestions,” Joan Swain adds.

When deciding what to raise money for, the committee considered different options before settling on literacy. After working with The Winnipeg Foundation to determine recipients, they decided to focus on two programs: CanU and Learn & Play.

CanU is mentorship program that pairs youth in Grades 5 to 12 with university-aged mentors to develop learning opportunities and leadership skills. Funding from Ted’s Run for Literacy supports new running shoes, clothing and other athletic equipment along with race kits for CanU participants. Learn & Play is a program that promotes positive interactions between parents and their children which help nurture literacy and numeracy skills.

The committee has helped grow the race into an engaging event, no matter your skill level.

“We’re seen as a very positive event in the community, both in the business community and also the running community,” Bennett says. “We do cater on a certain level to Winnipeg’s elite runners and Winnipeg recreational runners, but equally important to us are families and children.”

“We want the young people to get caught up in running and in the joy of it,” Joan Swain says.

Learn more:

Fund: Ted Swain Memorial Fund
Cause: Literacy, Education and Employment
Supports: Charitable programs and initiatives the committee decides on, including Winnipeg Inner City Mission’s Learn & Play program and CanU

To learn more about Causes, visit Find your BeCause

This story is featured in the Spring 2020 issue of our Working Together magazine. Download or view the full issue on our Publications page.

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