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A man in a YMCA shirt and race bib among the crowd at the BMO Vancouver Marathon.

Running a marathon may be a solitary challenge, but YMCA BC’s Maxime Barbier won’t feel alone when the starting gun for the BMO Vancouver Marathon goes off on May 5.

The 35-year-old works as a Settlement Case Manager in YMCA BC’s Newcomer Services department, helping those who have recently arrived in Canada take their first steps towards building a life in their new home country. He’s also part of the Y Charity Runners Team that is raising funds to support crucial YMCA programs and services assisting members of our communities.

Each member of the Y team has been encouraged to run for their “why” this year. While Maxime has many reasons to be excited for the challenge of his first marathon, having a great cause to run for is high on the list.

“Finishing a full marathon is something I’ve wanted to do within my lifetime,” he said. “But it’s really motivating when you’re doing the fundraising, too.”

Maxime completed the Half Marathon as a member of the Y Charity Runners in 2023. To help bring in donations, he and his Newcomer Services colleagues sold chocolates around YMCA facilities. Maxime wanted to make sure he showed his appreciation to those who made a contribution.

“I put all of their names on my shirt and said, ‘OK, I’m not alone in this race—they’re all with me,’” he said. “This year, I will probably do the same because it makes you feel that extra support.

“I have many different things I’m running for—my mental health, my discipline—but when you’re running for other people as well, that’s extra motivation when you’re tired. You think, ‘I can’t give up because of them.’ You don’t want to let other people down.”

A man displays a BMO Vancouver Marathon medal and the back of his t-shirt; a zoomed-in view of the shirt shows several names.

Maxime also views his participation in the run alongside fellow Y Charity Runners as chance to encourage the new Canadians he works with to focus on their fitness. He’s already recruited one new resident utilizing YMCA BC’s Newcomer Services programs to be part of the Y Team running this spring, and hopes to convince others to join.

Either way, he knows his own efforts will ultimately help the individuals he assists in his daily role whether they choose to run or not.

“This experience can be good for newcomers because it’s an opportunity to be well, physically and mentally,” he said. “But for me, there’s the extra reason of running (to support) this program that helps newcomers. So those are important to me, to run for them and to encourage them to run.”

Maxime’s goal is to raise $10 per kilometre as a starting point but figures that’s a more than achievable goal. He may just need to find some extra room on his shirt.

If you’d like to help support Maxime and the Y Charity Runners Team, please consider making a donation. Your generosity will help YMCA BC continue its important work building healthy communities for all.