in Race Reports

Race Report: 2015 Ottawa Marathon

The plan going into this one was to see if I could get my time down below 3:40. That was an ambitious goal, but I had run a sub-2:30 30km at Around the Bay, so it seemed pretty doable.

Race morning weather was a touch warm, but with a heavy overcast. That was a welcome sight as the forecast had called for sunny skies and warm temps starting around 14ºC and climbing to close to 20ºC by the time I expected to finish.

The usual opening ceremonies happened including a nice shout out from John Stanton for the Team Awesome runners on course in the marathon.

I was with the 3:35 pace bunny in the yellow corral and planned to stick just ahead of him for as long as I could in the race.

The start

The horn sounded and we were off. The course starts with a decent climb up Elgin to the War Memorial which kept things reasonable early on. It was a bit congested, but not too bad.

1kmGinny was waiting around 1km so I stuck to the right side and saw her there. A mere 41.2km to go.

The first few kilometres are along the east side of the canal and you get to run this stretch again near the end of the course. We passed the 39km banner here and I wondered how I’d be feeling more than three hours later when we ran this stretch again.

Next we ran across the Pretoria Bridge and then the left turn onto Queen Elizabeth Drive on the west side of the canal. I was running well here and had bridged up to the 3:30 pace bunny who was just a few metres ahead at the start.

His pace felt a bit more comfortable to me but I wondered if it might be a bit too fast. Perhaps I’d pay the price later? I knew I could run 30km at that pace based on my Around the Bay run, and I’d put in a ton of training since then.

  • 1km – 4:56
  • 2km – 5:05
  • 3km – 4:56
  • 4km – 4:55
  • 5km – 4:53 (25:24 at 5km)
  • 6km – 4:53

The kilometres were clicking by quickly and the skies were staying overcast. We had a bit of sun around Dow’s Lake that illustrated what it would be like without the cloud cover and it wasn’t something I was looking forward to experiencing for a few hours.

Hintonburg and Lebreton Flats

Through Hintonburg the crowds swelled and provided some energy to the runners. There’s lots to look at on this stretch with shops and some new construction as well.

We made the turn around Westboro to head back east for a bit and I struck up a conversation with a guy in an Around the Bay hat. We chatted about the 3:30 bunny (who was pacing perfectly) and about our past races.

Crowd support was decent along this stretch with some good signs and lots of encouragement. The water stations were well run and the volunteers did a great job.

  • 7km – 4:49
  • 8km – 4:49
  • 9km – 4:48
  • 10km – 4:48 (49:41 at 10km)
  • 11km – 4:49
  • 12km – 4:45
  • 13km – 4:54
  • 14km – 4:52

Next up was the section I was looking forward to the least – the out-and-back along Sir John A Macdonald Parkway. This stretch lacks any real cheering and the camber of the road takes a bit of a toll. At least the Ottawa River provided a nice view to the north.

Gatineau’s hills

Finally the turn north into Gatineau came into view just around the Canadian War Museum. The crowds were big here again as it wasn’t far from downtown and the start area. We crossed over the bridge into Quebec, ran the short steep climb onto Boul. Alexandre Taché and Rue Montcalm.

  • 15km – 4:53 (1:14:19 at 15km)
  • 16km – 4:49
  • 17km – 4:53
  • 18km – 4:51
  • 19km – 4:58
  • 20km – 4:46
  • 21km – 4:55 (1:44:21 at 21.1km)

My half marathon split was 1:44:21.

I looked for @RebeccaRuns at the 22km water station she was running with the students from CW but missed her. No time to stop for a chat anyways.

I was still with the 3:30 group here which meant for some consistent splits. I was feeling really, really good.

The hills of Gatineau are a constant companion, so making the left turn to head past the Museum of History was nice as it meant we were shortly heading over the Alexandra Bridge back to Ottawa.

Back to Ottawa

That bridge is flat, but you have to climb to get on it, and then there’s a steady climb up to Sussex to contend with. The crowds are great here, providing energy and encouragement all the way up the hill.

sportstatsIt was left onto Sussex Drive now and north to the far end of the course. I was still with the 3:30 group and at 24km I realized I had about 18 minutes in the bank on my personal best. The kilometres were still clicking off around the 4:55/km range. Good stuff.

  • 22km – 4:58
  • 23km – 4:55
  • 24km – 4:56
  • 25km – 4:59 (2:03:19 at 25km)
  • 26km – 4:48
  • 27km – 5:10
  • 28km – 4:47

I ran out past the Prime Minister’s place (couldn’t be bothered to come out to cheer again this year) and then into Rockcliffe Park.

This section is tough. The sun came out and brought the heat for a bit here and the crowds were gone. I crossed the 30km mat a couple of seconds off my Around the Bay PB. By that point in Hamilton my pace was dropping, but today I was still running 5:00/km.


Around 32km the heat really showed up and I eased back a bit. The bunny and his group of 3:30 runners started slowly pulling away from me now, but I was okay with that. I didn’t expect to run with them through the finish, but I was hoping to keep up the pace for a few more kilometres.

The next few splits were around 5:15/km which made me pretty happy. I felt a lot slower than that now, but I was still running pretty quickly on tired legs.

  • 29km – 4:57
  • 30km – 4:57 (2:29:01 at 30km)
  • 31km – 5:02
  • 32km – 4:49
  • 33km – 5:09
  • 34km – 5:18

I grabbed a blue freezie around 35km (thanks to the family handing those out) and that cooled me off a bit. The overcast had also returned which literally took off some of the heat.

Around 37km I saw Mike Lin heading out on the other side of the course. I still had the 3:30 group in sight but they were slowly but surely pulling away from me. I didn’t care. A huge PB was happening and I was going to finish well under my 3:39:59 ‘A” goal.

Soon the crowds would swell again and they would take me through to the finish along the canal.

Rideau Canal and the finish

At 39km the half marathoners merged onto the route and suddenly I had people passing me on both sides. I stuck to the right side and looked across the canal to the finish on the other side. I could hear the crowd over there cheering runners to the line. Both sides of the course were lined with people cheering us through to the finish.

I saw a girl struggling here who was close to going down. I stopped to make sure it was just her legs. She was talking fine and making complete sense and we were about 50m from the aid station so I pushed on. That cost me a few seconds, but I know others would do the same for me if I ended up in that position.

  • 35km – 5:16 (2:54:50 at 35km)
  • 36km – 5:16
  • 37km – 5:25
  • 38km – 5:40
  • 39km – 5:43
  • 40km – 5:42 (3:23:06 at 40km)

I grabbed another freezie and pushed on towards the Pretoria Bridge and the final turns. I knew it was about 1.3km from the bridge to the finish thanks to the Friendship Run on Saturday so I started doing the math around here to figure out what I could do for a finish time.

The blingThe 3:35 bunny and his group came by and I tried to stick with them but didn’t have enough left in my legs to do it. I figured a 3:35:XX was possible if I kept pushing, but I was also thinking back to the night before when I witnessed a guy drop at the finish line. He needed CPR and a defibrilator to be revived. I had no intention of being that guy, although it was my legs that were slowing me down here, not my cardio.

I have a personal rule that I don’t push it hard at the end so I kept my pace going as much as I could, but not overstressing things. I came across the line and stopped my watch.

  • 41km – 5:54 (my worst kilometre of the race)
  • 42km – 5:42

3:36:01. A personal best by 12:29. Amazing. My best run ever.