at the races The first time I ran the Ottawa Marathon: #45for45

The first time I ran the Ottawa Marathon: #45for45

Ottawa Marathon May 24 2015 © Photo by Francois Laplante / Rémi Theriault

On September 1, registration begins for the Ottawa Marathon, the largest race in Canada and an event celebrating its 45th birthday. As tribute, we’re collecting stories—forty-five of them—of your recollections from race weekend. Qualify for Boston? Hit a PB? Meet your partner? Make your triumphant return to running, catch a glorious rainbow, meet Krista DuChene? Let us know, we’re going to be publishing our favourites between now and the end of September. It’s an exciting time as race weekend beckons. . .

I remember my first race in Ottawa, it was my first time visiting the nation’s capital and first time meeting Mark Sutcliffe and my Sportstats employers. I started at iRun in November, 2013, and worked remotely from Toronto until race weekend, 2014. Mark picked me up from the airport and I saw Carleton University for the first time and began meeting our community at the race expo. I was taken aback by the heights of passion for our shared culture—not just racing, just running, but the inclusiveness of the group. Runners wanted to talk to one another. People had ideas. Everyone had a story. Few of us get into running to lose weight or get some fresh air. We have our reasons, and many of the stories were moving. Inspiring. I felt swept up into something bigger than me, and took seriously my responsibility to channel these emotions into a singular product—something that could convey what running means to this disparate group.

The marathon was Sunday morning and I’d been a relatively experienced racer. I ran Boston in 2012 and had written a running book, so I knew my way around a water station. However, Ottawa, through the new lens of iRun, where Sportstats and Mark are both based, felt important. I went to high school in Washington D.C., and obviously there are parallels. The grandeur (for most people) seems to inspire our better angels. The weather was warm. The course was beautiful. The crowd was thunderous. And, racing around the capital in an oversized iRun t-shirt, I was a stranger in town and already accepted—because of Mark’s legacy—like a native son. Racers felt connected to the brand. And I felt connected to the city. To the race. I would stay in Toronto, but I haven’t missed an Ottawa Marathon Race Weekend since my first one, and I’ll be there again this spring. It’s not really my times that are important (although I will say, #humblebrag, that it was last year’s Ottawa that I qualified for Boston).

The Ottawa Marathon is singular in Canada. Singular in the world. And not just for me, but for the 40,000 racers who participate every year and bring their differing backgrounds to the starting line. But one thing is for certain: in Ottawa, on race weekend, none of us, ever, are alone.

So share your story and make your voice heard. Why do you run Ottawa? What have you done there, what have you felt? Use the hashtag #45for45 and be part of the celebration. This is your race. Be heard.


  1. The first time I ran the Ottawa Marathon was 2006. I hadn’t run a race of any kind since 1984. I decided to give it a go to see what I could do. I trained alone and so this was the first time I would run 42.2km with plenty of company. I remember it as if it were yesterday. By the time I reached Hog’s Back the temperature had risen to being uncomfortable and I saw people bonking. I was concerned about how I would handle the balance of the race. But I relied on the tattoo on my arm of Terry Fox to inspire me to go the distance. In the end I surprised myself with a top 20 finish as 4th place Masters and a BQ (and a pb, of course). Not a bad result for a newbie. We would later discover that 14 elite males were disqualified that day. So I have to say that for me, my first experience at the Ottawa Marathon was life changing. I have had some excellant results and a couple a little less swift. I have run alongside Rick Ball (2010) and lined up beside Lanni Marchant (2011). Though I wasn’t on my game this year, I ran this past year to cheer on our top Canadian male of the day, Tristan Woodfine. I couldn’t just watch from the sidelines. OTTAWA has been my personal tradition every year since 2006. Planning to “go the distance” again in 2014.

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