WINNIPEG -- 1JustCity has teamed up with Trifactor Triathlon Club to run its third annual “Beat the Cold” triathlon this February, only this time the event will be held virtually with even more options for winter activity fun.

The annual event serves as a fundraiser for the organization’s Just a Warm Sleep emergency overnight warming centre in Osborne Village, which plans on serving more people experiencing homelessness, up to 30 people, starting earlier this year on Christmas Eve and for longer hours throughout the night.

“It’s a super fun way to get outside and, you know, put your body through a little bit of exercise but know that it’s making somebody’s night,” said Tessa Whitecloud, executive director at 1JustCity. “That translates into somebody being safe for a whole night or being safe for a whole season because we have some guests that stay with us every night of the season.”

In 2021, to ensure social distancing, athletes and participants are invited to register and fundraise for the triathlon that will take place from February 5 to 15.

People can run, bike and skate the same 15 km course on the river trails at The Forks—just like in the original 2018 race—or cross-country ski, toboggan and snowshoe any leg of the race. 

The virtual event is intended to be creative and flexible. Participants are free to choose when and where to complete each leg of the race over the 10-day period, but they do need to track their courses on Strava or another GPS mobile phone app for a chance to win daily prizes.

“We’re looking for participation this year,” said Marc Baldwin, president of Trifactor Triathlon Club. “We’re not looking for people to race per se. We’re not looking for people’s personal best times. We’re just really encouraging people to go out, enjoy our winter, see the city from a totally different viewpoint and help fundraise for a terrific cause.”

1JustCity hopes to raise around $10,000 to meet the ever-growing needs of its shelter.

“We saw our busiest year ever last year, in part because of COVID," said Whitecloud. "But even before COVID, we’re seeing, unfortunately, an increase in people needing shelter.”

Whitecloud said the Just a Warm Sleep shelter would not only be opening earlier this year but also extending its hours by an extra two hours each night. 

The “no barrier” centre inside Augustine United Church plans on being open from December 24 until March 31 from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.