Sunday, 1 May 2011

The Reality Tour - North on Balmoral & North on Main

Winnipeg Main street, 1879.

Contrary to this blog's ever longing love of the great city of Winnipeg, there is a dark side. It's called Winnipeg's north end.

People I've met here have defended Winnipeg's north end as getting a bad rap as one of the Queen City's scuzziest areas, and I haven't found reason to agree with them yet. I truly want to find the best little corners of Winnipeg, and maybe I just need to run a little further. These two runs were not that endearing to it's reputation. As my co-worker Jen said after these runs: "Wow. I don't even drive my car down there." Enough Said.

April 20 - The Slaw Rebchuk Bridge

I started this run with every intention to just get lost. Winnipeg has a way of turning you inside out, and a run into the exchange district (which I'll cover another day) doesn't help for gathering your bearings. I figured that I was maybe running north when I hit Notre Dame Ave, a main tributary through the Peg. I was wrong. I'm wrong alot.

The end of the exchange district, just off Notre Dame

After getting my legs underneath me (this is a common runners' thing, when my legs feel just perfect after about 15 minutes into the run), I decided to turn north up Balmoral. What could possibly go wrong right? I should mention for those of you that don't know me, I'm 6'5", 240 pounds, so running through some potentially dodgy neighbourhoods has never really bothered me.

The Balmoral

Remembering my run to the Arlington Bridge, I could see another bridge over the CN rail yards, and figured I should go exploring. I ended up finding it - The Slaw Rebchuk Bridge. Supposedly, Slaw Rebchuk (which incidentally would have made a great minor league baseball name) was nicknamed "Mayor of the North End". How fitting to run accross his bridge on my exploring of the north side of this city. You can read more about this bridge, and Slaw here.

The view from the Slaw Rebchuk Bridge, facing West

The Winnipeg Cold Storage building

Another fantastic site from the bridge, besides the rail yards, is the Winnipeg Cold Storage facility. A huge structure, with chiseled lettering on the side of the building. The kind of small details on building that this city seems to love, and preserve. Frankly, it looks a bit like Yankee Stadium.

Heading back to the downtown core at about 7pm (I did this run after work) was bit of an eye opener. At one point, I got a big cheer by a hooker holding a John's hand, clapping and sarcastically screaming "You run there, honey! You're so fast!!" Hilarious, if not an apt depiction of this kind of neighbourhood. At the time of this run, I was staying with a friend in the West Broadway area (another area with a tarnished reputation), and it felt a lot safer than a few people I saw on this run. Like I said, I'm not judging or casting any aspersions - I'd love to find some of the north end's hidden gems. They just weren't on this run.

April 29 - North on Main

Kid waiting at a stop sign with me at the top end of Main: "Are you exercising?"
Me: "Yup. And I like to explore some neighbourhoods."
Kid: "Why?"
Me: "I dunno. It's fun?"
Kid: "Really? Whatever. See ya!"

Main Street is the "other" famous street in Winnipeg. Running north to south (sort-of... no street is ever straight here), it's home to a couple great live theatres, the Via Rail station, the entrance to the Forks, the Manitoba Museum and countless other amazing buildings.
Besides that, it's where alot of Winnipeg's transient people hang out in "no knife" bars, shelters and on the streets.

The run started along the Assiniboine, up and across Portage & Main. Advice for runners out there, try and find an alternate route. P&M is a mess to cross on foot.

Portage & Main

Heading north on the east side of Portage, I skimmed along the edge of the Exchange district and didn't realize that the Manitoba museum is right here.

Statue south of the Manitoba Museum

Heading through the Disraeli Freeway underpass, feels like the portal to the other side of the Peg. The underpass hasn't really been maintained, and you come out the other side to be greated by a gaggle of Winnipeg's less fortunate. On the run, I had to dodge a couple violently fighting outside a bar, a couple drunks passed out on the pavement and a few other people that seemed surprised to see a runner in this area. I looked around - I was the only one.

Disraeli underpass. Note the murals on the west side.
Mural on the East side wall of the underpass

That aside, north Main street does have a few nuggets for sights along the way.

Bird Shop!

The seemingly abandoned, and aptly named - Yellow Warehouse

Also, I highly recommend checking out the mural on the side of the Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral on Main. You can read about this beautiful building here.

The run back was a lot like the run there, uneventful, except for the phone call from my wife that I took mid run, hoping she was calling to say our house had sold in Edmonton (it hasn't...).

I would really like to hear from Winnipegers out there about which areas in the north end I should explore. I had the plan to go today and yesterday, but Manitoba rain and snow decided for me otherwise.

I have plans on the books for a trip to the Zoo (thanks Jared), and a pilgrimage to my mom's first house (she was born here) in St. James. Pretty excited the weather's turned a bit warmer. Makes my running and blogging a bit easier.

April 20
Ipod: ESPN Fantasy Focus daily podcast
Temperature: +5C (and windy) 
Distance 7.0Km 
Time: 42 mins

April 29 
Ipod: WTF with Marc Maron with guest Andy Dick 
Temperature: +19C 
Distance 9.3Km 
Time: 55 mins


  1. Loving this, Brent! Keep up the great work. Oh, and I recommend a run through Crescentwood sometime. Maybe past Kelvin High School and Neil Young's two Winnipeg residences (one being the Grey Apartments on Corydon and Cockburn (SW corner) and the other being ah ouse on Grosvenor... 1138 rings a bell. Maybe you can listen to the Squires on your iPod while you run it?

  2. Thanks Chuck! It's now on the list.

  3. Selkirk Ave was the North End's main street in it's hey day, definitely take a trip down there!

  4. You're correct, there aren't a heck of a lot of pleasure runners in the North End, but there are a lot of interesting things to see (and not just the more colorful residents).

    Dufferin Ave. has the Black Pearl Coffee Co., go for a run on a day they are roasting beans and you'll be salivating the whole way! Gimli Fish is a great place to pick up well, fish, and oddly perogies and berries.

    Head up McGregor and pass a few big beautiful churches, the Ukrainian Labour Temple and the Armouries at Machray. If you need to refuel, the North Star Drive in and Alycia's are basically right there.

    Head back down Salter and pass the beautiful St. John's Library, see if you can find "the Castle" on College Ave...

    I could go on and on, and I don't even know half of the interesting things to see in the North End (nor am I good with the history side of things, but there's resources out there).

  5. Thanks guys! Next weekend, I have a plan.