Funky 5k a far-out festival hit

A lot of races require plenty of training, preparation and competition.

The Funky 5k might take pieces of the first two as well, but getting ready for this run might instead involve finding a retro wig or tye-dye shirt.

Once again, the Funky 5k has become a Sunday morning cornerstone of the Unionville Festival.

“It’s a 5k and a 2k family walk or run, which you can do either,” race director Sara Sterling said. “It’s a fundraiser for Markham-Stouffville Hospital, more specifically for the Stollery Family Centre. It’s been going on for five years now.

“There used to be a race in conjunction with the Unionville Festival a number of years ago, but then it disappeared, so this is my way of bringing it back.”

There were over 500 participants in this year’s event on June 2, which began with overcast skies but cleared up as the run went on.

“We have a lot of schools that come, and will bring 20-30 kids, so it’s a great activity for schools,” Sterling said. “We also have the Markham Fire Department with 10-20 firefighters that come out to walk with the kids, so it’s been great.”

The firefighters are prominent when it comes to the Funky 5k, and they’re a hit with many of the participants.

“The little kids love the firefighters and the moms love the firefighters,” Sterling said with a laugh. “They help hand out medals and give out the prizes, and that’s a big part of the community thing where the firefighters come out and lend a hand.

“They’re really involved with the hospital too, so that makes sense.”

This year, the Funky 5k raised over $5,000 for the Markham-Stouffville Hospital, and over its existence, the run has brought in over $25,000 that has been donated to the Stollery Family Centre.

Sterling finds that an impressive number, given how new the Funky 5k is and how embedded it is within the weekend festivities.

“Because it’s rooted in the Unionville Festival, it is a big event within it and meant to be a community event,” Sterling said. “It’s not meant to be a big profit or money maker, it’s an event where the locals can get together and come out and support the hospital.”

Sterling recognizes many of the same runners and walkers that come back every single year to participate.

“It’s got a good, local feeling to it,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of the same people we’ve had in previous years, people that make it a tradition to go together every year. It’s really local and community based, which makes it great.”

With both the five-kilometre and two-kilometre options available, Sterling has seen participants of all ages take part in the fun run.

“We originally thought of just doing the 5k, and then if you add a 2k family walk, people can bring their strollers,” Sterling said. “It’s a great thing to do with your younger kids.

“It’s just a fun way for everyone to get together on Main Street before the festival kicked off on the second day.”

And then, of course, there’s the style factor.

“I think it’s just that it is fun to begin with,” Sterling said. “We encourage people to dress up, and we get a lot of people in their ’60s and ’70s gear. They’re wearing wigs, outfits, all of that kind of stuff. We call it a run as opposed to a race because, although they get timed, we try to emphasize the fun part more so than the speed part.”

With another successful Funky 5k in the books, Sterling can look ahead to 2020 and another great community event.

“It’s the kind of event that you can come with your family or friends,” Sterling said. “People have a really good time. There’s no pressure, there’s no competitiveness, it’s just people coming out and having fun, and it’s meant as a really good time.”

Photo courtesy of Sara Sterling – Participants run Main Street in Unionville as part of the Funky 5k event.

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