Southlake challenge offers flexibility in showing support for local hospital

·4 min read

Since the start of the global pandemic, every day has been a marathon all its own for the doctors, nurses and staff at Southlake Regional Health Centre.

With a third wave and a third lockdown, support for the local hospital is needed now more than ever through the Nature’s Emporium Run for Southlake Virtual Challenge.

The virtual Run for Southlake kicks off this Monday, April 12, running for four weeks.

This year’s challenge is divided into sections for each of the four weeks.

The first week, Eat Well with Southlake, focuses on nutrition with professionals from Nature’s Emporium providing programming on “foods that fuel you” while participants will be encouraged to set their own nutritional goal for the week.

The second, Make it a Habit with Southlake, builds on the lessons from the first week with a focus on “how often you want to move this week” working on “your long-term health by making fitness a consistent part of your routine.”

“What the [sessions] are doing is reflecting on how this experience is a journey, a process, and that is where nutrition flows into consistency,” says Melanie Osmond of the Southlake Regional Health Centre Foundation. “We start with getting our energy and our nutrition…on track before we look into being consistent. On our first day [of this segment] we have a session with the Sports Medicine Centre of Excellence (in Newmarket) where they are talking about activity-related injuries and prevention, running a session on how to make sure you’re safe when you’re getting back into exercise.”

In addition to underscoring the staples of stretches and cooldowns, it is also about making sure “you’re not going too hard too fast.”

“Our second week will make sure the education is there, that people aren’t looking to move mountains until they are ready to do so,” says Ms. Osmond, noting the third week will have a focus on building endurance, setting fitness goals on what fits your schedule best. “We’re looking at that end goal of fitness. Sometimes if you’re running a marathon, they start by moving often and going for an hour at a time before looking at how far can I go? It is that sort of journey, but we’re also looking at a comparison.

“Southlake is here every day; we are here for you as a hospital, as your community health care system, and we are there to support you when you need us. We’re hoping that by spending time with us, that is a mindful time you’re giving back and are able to reflect back on that experience; that is time that Southlake is open and available and building up that endurance is something our hospital had to do that entire past year… while ramping up with a growing community as well. We’re bringing that tie-in and that year of the hospital and the actual exercise and event itself.”

The event itself, due to COVID-19, is very different this year – as it was last year when the event was retooled to a virtual format.

Despite the challenges of translating such a popular in-person event for something that fits our new normal, Aimee Houston of the Foundation says there is no shortage of opportunity.

“We have great activity in our 5K and people love that aspect of a live event, but we’re in a pandemic and gathering in groups is something we don’t see in the near future, at least not the size of groups we have historically cultivated for the run in-person,” she says. “Like so many other events and fundraising initiatives, I think virtual is just so much more palatable for people…and it is a great opportunity to engage all people, not just people in our area, supporting Southlake because they have a family member [who has been treated at Southlake] and maybe they couldn’t be on site physically to do the run or walk. The pandemic has changed a lot of perspectives that way in providing more opportunities for people, whether it is geographically in a different location or just having different interests other than walking or running.”

But, at the end, they want to stay true to the tried: maintaining a distance-based challenge.

“I wanted to bring that in to have that sense of normalcy and to give people that comfort, but wanting to understand that in this day and age and the times we’re facing, people can literally do anything,” adds Ms. Osmond. “You can go for a swim, a bike ride, walk in the trails, there are so many opportunities here. This gives us the flexibility to engage everyone that we [haven’t before] and it is definitely something we’re looking at moving forward on how we can keep the inclusivity of the event to make it open to more opportunities.”

Participants can register for the 2021 Nature’s Emporium Run for Southlake Virtual Challenge through the second week of the initiative. To date, more than $45,000 has been raised towards the Southlake Foundation’s goal of $175,000.

For more information, including registration and sponsorship, visit

Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran