Perth’s World Record Kilt Run

Nowhere is the past more present than in Perth, Ontario. The little town just outside of Ottawa is now in its 200th year, and celebrations recognizing its long history in Canada are in full swing.

And nothing stands out more than Perth’s World Record Kilt Run. Originally envisioned by Terry Stewart as a means to celebrate the 800th anniversary of Perth, Scotland; Perth, Ontario’s first Kilt Run broke world records in 2010, with over 1,000 participants running in tandem with their tartans.

Because of Perth’s milestone anniversary, this year’s Kilt Run was a much bigger affair, and a huge labour of love for those involved in orchestrating the event. Over 4,500 runners participated in a variety of different runs, from a Royal mile (measured in an official 1816 Scottish mile distance), a 5 mile, a half marathon and a full marathon. For the past seven years, the kilt run has been donating its funds to the Ottawa MS Society, in memory of Stewart’s mother who had the disease, and because Canada and Scotland have the highest incidences of MS in the world. This year Wheels of Hope, an offshoot of the Canadian Cancer Society that helps provide people with transportation to their cancer treatments, also received a portion of the funds raised by the event.

The festivities ran a three-day period, starting on Friday with scotch tastings, to Saturday’s Haggis Hurling Championships (the largest of its kind in the world) and ending on Sunday with a full marathon that finished at Ecotay, one of the Tay Valley’s most historic sites. The little quiet town was filled with new faces, some were obviously experienced marathon runners geared up in their running outfits, and some just wanted to participate in the out-of-the-box run. When it came down to it, the weekend only had one rule: all runners must wear a tartan.

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Even Gilbert Kiptoo, a world famous marathon runner who was personally invited by Stewart to participate in the marathon, had to don a kilt. Kiptoo won the marathon with a time of 2:57, although his personal best was in Dublin at 2:08. He also ran the 5 km the day before just for the fun of it.

Kiptoo is originally from Kenya, and was born into a family with 17 brothers and sisters. He’s used marathon running as a means to travel the world.

In fact, Kiptoo has run marathons in over 20 countries.

“I’ve lost count of how many runs. For a time, I was running a marathon every week,” said the runner, seemingly unfazed after the 42 kilometre trek.

Kiptoo told Ottawa Life that he thought Perth was a good place to be, and that he’ll like to come back next year if there was another run.

But kilted running wasn’t the only thing to see this weekend in Perth. Music played a big part in the festivities. Graham Beck was the music director of the three-day event. He and the Kilt Run team organized quite the mix of Celtic and modern acts.

Everything Fitz, a Celtic family band stepped onto the stage at Stewart Park on Saturday, The Harp Twins, two young sisters from Chicago armed with sleek silver harps were also quite a sight to see and hear. Also, Ben Caplan, whose hit song “40 Days and 40 Nights” is big in Canada right now, rocked the stage at Stewart Park on Saturday night.

Beck, a lover of music, also donated two Tragically Hip tickets to the silent auction at Ecotay; a true gesture of charity, knowing all too well that those tickets are worth their weight in gold.

The event wrapped up on the hot humid Sunday afternoon with marathon runners finishing in the original and restored cow barn at Ecotay, clad with handmade medals, and offered free massages, dips in either a hot or cold tub, beer, pancakes and more, while the Harp Twins serenaded the crowd up above.

The Perth Kilt Run raised over $40,000 this past weekend, reaching over $125,000 since its inception, and raised the hopes for perhaps another, and an even bigger, kilt run next year.