Woman smiles from her seat in a barber's chair
Mo Sister Shannon BanalImage by: James Baker
Woman smiles from her seat in a barber's chair
4 August 2022

Shannon’s Story: How a Movember Run Club Celebrates Community Through Movement

Mo Sister
Shannon Banal
4 minutes read time

I began running at the age of 36. My youngest had just turned 2 and I was coming off 3 months of having walking pneumonia. My first run, which also happened to be my first 5km race, left me hacking up my lungs, but also, with such a high! I remember sitting around breakfast after, thinking I couldn’t remember the last time I’d felt that happy. And I vowed not to let that feeling pass again.

At first, running with a local run group largely became a means of much-needed social connection and a mental health break. It was an excuse to get out of the house and not be “Mom” for a few hours a week. But it turned out I was kinda good at this running thing, and having something I was good at, something I felt accomplished at, felt amazing. That fall, I ran the Moustache Miler – a 1-mile and 5km charity race benefiting Movember -- with my running group and it was such an experience. It was unlike any run I’d ever seen or done – silly and fun with all of the costumes and moustaches. After we finished the race, there was a full-on party with a BBQ, cupcakes, and a DJ and dance floor. My entire family had come out to cheer and party.

" It struck me then that this was how all races should be. A celebration of community and a space where even non-runners can move with us. "

It was this thought that I had foremost in my mind when I took over the Moustache Miler in 2018. When I pitched the race to people, it was about creating a place for everyone to come together, to move, and to have a good time. There was never any question of not having an after-party. To me, that was an integral piece to the event, and we have been so fortunate to have found partners like Stanley Park Brewing who have brought their unwavering support these past 5 years to help us level-up the event.

But it was more than just having fun and bringing people together. I also wanted to do the cause justice. So, we decided to use the entire month to host other events that brought to light the issues Movember is committed to solving. We’ve hosted Movember Kick-Off Events, Mental Health Panels, and a month-long movement challenge during the pandemic. This is in addition to the fundraising participants do. The race and after-party at the end of November was a means of celebrating all we were able to accomplish that month.

It didn’t take long to realize what our events meant to people. People would write or take me aside and confide what they or loved ones were going through. Heart-wrenching. Not everyone is comfortable being public with their personal lives, but there were a few who were, and we produced some videos to tell their stories which we feature on our website. Local guys who have faced suicide, testicular cancer, prostate cancer, and mental health challenges. We also started asking during registration what Movember means to people -- you can see the responses of those on our site. Every year, I read every single response. It keeps me grounded and focused on the cause and not solely on making it fun.

When I look back on what we’ve been able to accomplish in a few short years, I’m really proud. I had volunteered on other races, but had never been a race director. I took it on with grand ideas but no idea how to carry them out. I got so fortunate to get the team we have on board. We’re this all-volunteer team doing this in our spare time, but everyone’s skillsets make putting the Moustache Miler on pretty painless and fun! Plus, they’re all my friends and nothing beats creating fun events and memories with people you genuinely care about. Last year, that really hit home for me. I had been very cautious and careful during the pandemic and the result of that was quite a bit of social isolation. Standing in a crowded room that night with smiling faces of people I hadn’t seen in over a year brought tears to my eyes. I realized I didn’t only do this for others. I need this event as much as anyone else in that room.

Support Shannon’s efforts to raise funds and awareness for men’s health and learn more about the Moustache Milers here.