The Story Behind the Rum Runners Relay 2001       Picasa Photo Album

In the Nova Scotia Temperance Act of 1910, provisions were made for the sale of liquor by prescription only for "medicinal, sacramental, art trade and manufacturing purposes". Liquor was not to be sold, or consumed otherwise.

Thus was the birth of the "rum running" trade. St. Pierre and Miquelon provided the rum. Young men, home from the trenches in Europe, looking for excitement and a quick dollar, provided the manpower. Rum was purchased for as little as 40 cents per gallon, and could be sold, on the black market, for $4.00 per gallon.

The area along the south shore of Nova Scotia, from Halifax to Lunenburg, is dotted with hundreds of islands and coves, offering concealment for boats and hiding places for liquor on the beaches, in the swamps and in the woods. No one can ever estimate the thousands of gallons of liquor, and the value in dollars of the contraband which was landed in Nova Scotia, and resold all along the eastern seaboard of Canada and the USA during the 1920's and 30's.

Rum running began to feel it's demise with the adoption of the 21st Amendment in the U.S.A. on December 5, 1933. The first liquor stores in Nova Scotia were opened for business at that time. Although rum running remained somewhat lucrative from then on, it died with the outbreak of World War II in 1939.

Back in 1985 the Gonzo Runners were thinking about establishing a relay race in Nova Scotia. Many heads were scratched to come up with a route, and a name for the event. The south shore route, tracing the rum running coast line, seemed like a good idea. The distance was right for a one day event (109km divided into 10 legs) and the #3 highway was attractive in terms of beauty and relative safety. The Rum Runners name was intriguing.

Plans got under way, in October of that year, for a November event. Members of the original organizing committee, and fellow Gonzo Runners, were Gordon Warnica, Greg MacDonald, Ann MacDonald, Bruce Duffy, Jim Walker, Robert Kaufman and Jerome Bruhm. Gordon made a phone call to Paul Pettipas (Heritage Cedar Homes, now Fall River Village) who provided us with working capital, and we were on our way.

That was a long time ago. We had 13 teams that first (cold and rainy) year as we, basically, flew by the seat of our pants. That first event was run from Lunenburg to Halifax. Any wide spot in the road became a candidate for a start/finish area. We chose the tour-de-France style over passing the baton as it kept the teams in close contact with each other, creating a more festive atmosphere. It also came with a need for only one (overworked) finish line crew.

Since then, we've reversed the direction of the relay and have grown, both in size (to our current maximum of 60 teams) and in experience. We've had changes in our finish line locations over the years, for safety as well as convenience reasons, with leg distances now ranging from 3.9-k to 16.9-k. And, the relay was rescheduled to the last (warmer and sunnier) week-end in September.

Fresh bodies have assisted the organizing forces along the way, including Doug Currie, Louise Ongo and Larry Sampson. Our exceedingly dedicated and abundantly appreciated race day volunteer troupe now includes Jim Abriel, Perry Abriel, James Balcom, Wayne Banks, Chris Hollebone, Ron and Nance Kaszor, Ross Mitchell, Bruce Murphy, Robert Proctor, Bill and Laura Roblee, Nick Slaunwhite, Mark Stein, Ed Verge, Grant Walker, Jeff Warnica, andGeorge and Elaine Whalen. Our current organizing committee members are Bruce Duffy, Ann and Greg MacDonald, Louise Ongo, Gordon Warnica and Jerome Bruhm.

The relay still has fun, fitness and camaraderie as it's primary focus rather than speed, endurance and win at all cost. While the fastest three teams are recognized for their effort with the presentation of medallions, and the inscription of their names on the coveted rum keg, the main awards are draw prizes with all teams, fast or slow, having an equal opportunity to be victorious. Our event is neither a fund raiser nor a profit maker. We keep the registration fee just high enough to cover the annual costs of staging the event, plus a bit to cover unforseen costs that always seem to pop up.

The Gonzo Adventure Club (a new, and more appropriate, name for the Gonzo Runners) is still the driving force behind the relay, which is just one of our many club activities. Although most of us are "getting up there" with regard to chronological age, we are far from the "roll over and die" stage. We are a hard core group of approximately 25; a soft core group of 40 and, counting past members, current wannabees, sometimes seem to bees, and others who spent time just passing through, our numbers soar to over 100.

Basically, we all started as runners, but have since added paddling, biking, hiking, event organization and a few pounds to our list of regular activities.

As runners, we've participated far and wide, including road races, marathons and ultra marathons, in Ottawa, Niagara Falls, Toronto, Richmond BC, Baffin Island, Portland, Lake Winnepesaukee, New York, Boston, Vermont, Rotterdam and Barcelona.

As paddlers, we've bobbed our canoes and kayaks in numerous bodies of water throughout Nova Scotia and regularly enter contestants in the Kanduskeag Canoe Race in Maine every April.

As bikers, we've peddled our trusty steeds over Nova Scotia's secondary routes and have been on numerous yearly out-of-province excursions to New Brunswick, Gaspesie, New Hampshire and Vermont plus an extended tour through France. A delegation of Gonzos biked from BC's Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic coast during the summer of 2000.

As hikers, we've trekked the northern routes along the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire and Maine; climbed Katahdin and the Knife Edge in Maine's Baxter State Park; and ambled through places such as Newfoundland's Gros Morne, Acadia National Park, the Dobson Trail, Gaspesie and the Cinque Terre on Italy's Mediterranean coast. Not all hikes are done in the comfort of the summer sun or have the advantage of daylight. There are winter overnight camping excursions and we are probably the only group in existence to go on full-moon night hikes at various undisclosed local locations throughout the year.

Our members are no strangers to road race finish lines crews in many parts of our province, including the annual Cabot Trail Relay, an event that was conceived by the Gonzo Runners and was patterned after our Fall River Village Rum Runners Relay. We've organized events such as the Halifax Modified Marathon, M&B Transmission Geezer Mile, the Frederick Bruhm Memorial Timex Road Race Circuit and a new offering this year, our Paddle, Peddle, Plod Relay held in Waverly Sports Park. The birth of Run Nova Scotia, and much of its administration over the years, has Gonzo roots as well. There are but a few Tim Horton's donut shop in HRM that haven't been graced by our presence for one of our infamous, informal and unconventional club meetings.

Our collective outlook on life can best be summed up by words taken from a hit by Trooper way back in the seventies, when we were all much younger, and too wrapped up in our own personal rat races, to understand what those words really meant: "We're here for a good time, not a long time. So have a good time, the sun can't shine every day."