Race weekend in Gatineau–Ottawa!
Cover picture: Ottawa Marathon via Facebook
An article of Sophie Plante
Are you up for a sport challenge as a family, as a couple or with friends? With no fewer than 45,000 participants, the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend (May 28–29) is Canada’s biggest multi-race event.
Events take place over two days, and there are races of all distances and levels. As an avid runner for the past decade, I participate in this active weekend every year!
On Saturday, runners take over the streets
Saturday is dedicated to short-distance races, and it’s fun to see eager families set off on the 2K or 5K course. Whether it’s to keep fit, raise funds for local charities or encourage the runners, there’s always lots of excitement in the air!
A 10K evening run
At 6:30 p.m., runners of all levels gather at the starting line of the Ottawa 10K, the only IAAF Gold Label 10K event in North America and one of only four in the world.
To help you stay on your pace and complete the race in your desired time, pace bunnies are on hand for the 10K, the half marathon and the marathon. Just determine your target race time and follow the bunny! They’re easy to spot, with their big ears and signs indicating their planned pace.
Then, at the end of the course, the stands are crowded with spectators cheering the runners on for the last 200 metres of the race.
I’ve raced a lot in Quebec and Ontario over the years, but I have to say I have a soft spot for the Ottawa 10K. It’s really beautiful to run alongside the Rideau Canal in the evening light!
On Sunday, the runners’ nervousness is palpable
The runners’ nervousness is palpable. For some, it’s their very first marathon; others are keen to achieve their best time after training for weeks or months.
The organizers like to say that the course is easy and you could qualify for Boston, because it’s one of the flatter courses for this distance.
The marathon and half marathon take you through some beautiful spots in Canada’s Capital Region. With a little luck, the trees will be in bloom and the late-season tulips will be at their peak.
International runners will defend their titles
The course record holders, Ethiopians Yemane Tsegay and Tigist Tufa, will be back this year to defend their titles, Tufa on the women’s side (with a record time of 2:24:31 in 2014) and Tsegay on the men’s (with a record time of 2:06:54, also in 2014).
An upbeat and supportive atmosphere
There’s a party atmosphere along the route of the marathon and half marathon, with music stations, a collective joie de vivre, spectators who encourage participants by giving them high-fives or offering popsicles, and residents taking out their garden hoses to cool off the runners. There are also lots of encouraging signs and posters made by the runners’ friends and family members.
If your energy starts to flag, you can always count on the Extra Mile Crew. Volunteers are stationed at intervals along the marathon and half marathon route, just waiting for a signal from you to accompany you partway and offer encouragement.
I’ll never forget my first marathon. It was very hot; I was at the 37K mark, completely exhausted and seriously wondering what I’d gotten myself into, when suddenly I spotted a woman who was handing out homemade ice packs. With this simple gesture, she literally changed the course of things that day, and gave me the strength I needed to complete the challenge. I held onto that ice pack until the bitter end, holding it sometimes against my neck, sometimes on my head, and I finished the race in 4:00.
An impeccably organized event
The convenience(s) aspect is well organized: there are plenty of toilets at the start, as well as the washrooms at City Hall and portables along the route.
There are water stations every 3 kilometres, and there are drinks and snacks at the finish line to help you recover.
The event is run by a professional team assisted by crews of experienced volunteers.
Finally, throughout the weekend, a roster of Canadian bands and musicians perform on the Celebration Stage at Ottawa City Hall’s Festival Plaza.
I highly recommend that you take part in the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend to share a great family experience, take on a personal challenge, support a charity, or simply enjoy the atmosphere!