Gurjinder Bhurji and Hardip Jhaj can’t wait to run the streets of Surrey during a new event they’ve planned in the city’s downtown area this spring.
The pair of avid runners are lead organizers of Run Surrey Run, a 5K/10K walk/run to be held on Sunday, June 7, on a road route that starts and finishes at Holland Park.
They expect the inaugural event to draw anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 participants.
In 2018 Bhurji launched a survey to gauge public interest in launching a Surrey version of Vancouver’s Sun Run, and she says the response was very positive, especially from those in the local running community.
Key to the new event, the women say, is a road circuit that showcases Surrey’s downtown area, and the involvement of both walkers and runners.
“It’s all about health promotion, too,” Bhurji said. “When you see someone out running or walking, it’s motivational – you know, ‘Hey, I can do that too, and want to do that.’ We see it when we’re out running. That’s what this event is about.”
Two years in the planning, Run Surrey Run will involve a five-kilometre street course to the west of Holland Park. The rectangular, north-south route runs along University Drive, from 108th Avenue as far south as 97th Avenue, and as far west as 132nd Street.
Those who sign up for the 10K event will twice complete the 5K loop.
“A run like this will be such a great way to showcase Surrey, the downtown area,” Bhurji said.
“When I did the survey two years ago, a lot of people said, ‘Yes, we should have this, and we don’t have one.’ We don’t have an annual health event in our community, and a run/walk is so easy – you put your running shoes on, anybody can go, including kids and seniors, especially walking the 5K. We want to see kids from schools out, all ages of people.”
The Run Surrey Run organizing committee involves Bhurji and Jhaj and others, including Bhurji’s younger brother, Sarj Sabharwal.
“There are lots of runs in parks and other places like that, but a run like this, on the roads of Surrey, downtown, is something unique, and it’s makes it much more of a community event,” Sabharwal said. “Our goal always, as a family, in everything we do, is to bind people together, and a road run, a walk, has that power.”
In planning for Run Surrey Run, Bhurji said she researched the high-profile Surrey International World Music Marathon, which was held in 2012 and 2013 before the event was cancelled in 2014. The 2013 edition of the marathon turned into a traffic nightmare for Whalley-area motorists and residents.
Bhurji and Jhaj both earned medals during the Surrey marathon, and vow to make Run Surrey Run a more successful, and sustainable, event.
“They had issues with the route,” Bhurji said, “and a marathon is just different, a different demographic than what we are doing. I think something that’s more walk and run will fit into the city better, what we’re doing.”
Added Sabharwal: “The demographics downtown have changed since the marathon was held, too, with a lot more residential buildings and people living there, so those people should want to get involved.
“And then they (Bhurji and Jhaj) spent a lot of time with the route (of Run Surrey Run),” he added. “So that marathon, one of the downfalls of it was the route and how it went past the hospital and so many problems with that, it was very disruptive. But this, they went out and met the neighbours and got the support to have it happen.”
Bhurji said the pair ran 15 different routes to see what was the best, “and this is it, this route we have,” she said. “I went back and did a lot of research about the marathon Surrey had – what was wrong with it, what people complained about, and most of it was about the route. Those are the problems we wanted to avoid with this. So we have gone kind of to the other side of Holland Park, avoiding King George (Boulevard) totally, and we took that to the city, and they like it.”
Now, the challenge is to get the inaugural Run Surrey Run off the ground with the help of sponsors. So far, RBC has stepped up to become a “community partner” of the event, and walk/run organizers are looking for others.
Registration starts March 1 on the website runsurreyrun.com, for a fee not yet determined.
“We have sponsorships coming on board, but we are looking for more to get involved, local business, now that we are going to start registration soon,” Bhurji said. “We are working on those numbers, and we’re just waiting for one more road traffic report and as soon as we have the budget confirmed, we will announce the registration fee. We don’t want it to go high.”
The event is a not-for-profit run/walk “organized by business and community leaders and is being supported by the City of Surrey,” says a letter to potential event sponsors.
“We believe that a world-class city deserves a world-class run such as what we are proposing at Run Surrey Run,” the letter continues. “Our team has put in an ardent amount of time devoted to developing this event that fosters sports tourism, health, diversity, inclusivity and sustainability.”
Bhurji will celebrate her 55th birthday on June 6, the day before Run Surrey Run.
Planning such an event is a dream come true for the real estate agent, whose health complications 20 years ago were noted in a Now newspaper story. She needed 29 units of blood during the delivery of her fourth child, in order to save her life.
“Basically from that, it was a lot of recovery and in and out of hospital for several years, and I put on a lot of weight, around 50 pounds,” Bhurji recalled. “I started walking and then started running, did a 5K and then did a Sun Run, twice, started feeling better and lost weight and something clicked for me, and I loved it, running. It became an addiction, and it’s so positive, everything about it.”
Today, she and Jhaj volunteer their time to lead clinics to get other women running, at Bear Creek Park and elsewhere in Surrey.
“We encourage them to run or walk, to get active, to get healthy,” Bhurji said. “It all fits in with this (Run Surrey Run), to get people to get healthy. We need something like this, we really do.”