The organizer: Sébastien Arsenault
The pitch: Relaunching the Marathon Beneva de Montréal as a fundraiser for charities
As a child growing up in Montreal, Sébastien Arsenault used to marvel at how his father, Serge, organized the Montreal Marathon.
The elder Mr. Arsenault, a sports broadcaster, launched the event in 1979 and ran it until 1990 before handing it to his brother, Bernard. The race was eventually taken over by an American group in 2012, but in 2019 the race organizer resigned after a competitor died.
The City of Montreal began looking for a new race director and Sébastien Arsenault jumped at the chance. The former television executive already ran the annual Grands Prix Cyclistes de Québec et de Montréal, a major international cycling race, and he’d dreamed of managing the marathon. “I always thought about the marathon because my dad launched the idea,” he said in an interview this week. “And for me, I’m a big sports addict. Sports, for me, is where I find my balance.”
Mr. Arsenault was selected to organize the race but the pandemic hit and it was cancelled in 2020 and 2021. It’s returned this year with a series of races from Sept. 23 to 25 including the marathon. Keen runners have the option of running in more than one race and there’s a special program for children to introduce them to athletics.
Another main feature of this year’s marathon is the “Run with Heart” component, which encourages participants to raise money for 27 charities. So far more than $48,000 has been donated and the marathon organizers plan to kick in an additional $25,000. “For us, it’s important to start, right from the first year, to open this event for charities to get close to us,” Mr. Arsenault said.
Mr. Arsenault, 51, isn’t planning on donning a bib and running a few kilometres over the weekend. But he’ll spend plenty of time on his feet. “I’ll try to be everywhere,” he said. “I won’t spend the day at the VIP lounge with a drink. I can assure you of that.”