Community Run to the Beat of the Drum: Carnival Run Race Director...

    Run to the Beat of the Drum: Carnival Run Race Director Dione Mason combines love of fitness and Caribbean heritage

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    Two passions drive Dione Mason, fitness and her island background. For 15 years, Dione has been a participant and leader in Toronto’s fitness community as an instructor and, for the last three years, Race Director at Toronto’s Carnival Run.

    In her many years of racing and training, “I noticed that the

    Carnival Run Director Dione Mason has been a leader in Toronto’s fitness community for over a decade. The race combines her love of fitness with her pride in her Caribbean heritage.

    people I was training and racing with didn’t reflect the city’s diversity, so I started to question how I could encourage communities of colour to move, whether it was in a gym or outdoor environment.”

    While mulling over her predicament, Dione played mas in the Toronto Caribbean Carnival (formerly Caribana), one of her bucket list items. “After the event, it bothered me that there wasn’t a community building aspect,” Dione says, adding that she reached out to the coordinators in hopes of adding such a component, but got no immediate response.

    The experience allowed the idea of the Carnival Run to solidify. Dione’s vision was an accessible event that promoted fitness and celebrated Caribbean culture.

    While Dione had experience in event management, race directing was entirely different. Dione admits to coming in to her first race as a director with an “of course I can do that!” type of attitude, but says collaboration quickly became her philosophy.

    “None of us have all the skills we need, so we need to tell each other what we’re lacking and fill in those gaps by forming relationships,” Dione notes. Along the way, Lynn Borque, owner of Toronto’s Runner’s Shop and Director of the Longboat 10K, and Canada Running Series Director Alan Brookes have become valued mentors.

    The second obstacle was actually convincing those who shared her background (Dione is Toronto born and of Jamaican descent) to get involved and understand how movement can support social, physical, and economic well being.

    Dione and I, sharing our West Indian background, joked about our common frustration of getting our family and friends to move, but the challenge is a serious one.  “I do believe that the resistance has ties to systemic issues,” Dione explains. The legacy of slavery in particular brought people to North America as “part of a system that devalued our bodies and was designed to make us hate ourselves. Over hundreds of years, that affects the choices we make today.”

    She doesn’t make it her business to preach to anyone, believing that it’s simply not effective, and admits that she doesn’t expect to fix such a complex and longstanding problem overnight, but Dione certainly believes in leading by example. “The greatest joy is in watching someone crossing the finish line,” Dione says, adding, “When you move something magical happens and you owe it to yourself to love yourself in that way.” With each crossing, Dione hopes that a new ambassador for running is born.

    With all the challenges presented, the Carnival Run continues to

     grow and will have its third running in July. Dione’s long-term 

    vision is to grow the event to 2,000+ participants.

    Her other long-term goal is that the race will raise funds for the building a cultural center in Toronto where visitors will have the opportunity to learn about Caribbean culture (the history, the people, the music, the innovations, the food, etc.) all year round.

    All images courtesy of Dione Mason/Carnival Run.