in General Running

Why the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend Rocks

What is it that makes the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend so special?

That’s what Running Room founder John Stanton asked me as we chatted over the PA at the finish line after I ran the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon on Sunday.

Rideau Canal LocksI told him that what made it special for me was the level of participation. You have over 49,000 people running in the various events that make up the two day Race Weekend.

Add another couple hundred thousand or more who come out to cheer and watch the runners and it seems like the entire city is involved in the event.

Other cities in Canada have big marathons that draw as many runners as Ottawa does for its race. But no other city gets involved in its races like Ottawa.

The spectators

You see it at 7:00 A.M. as you run up Elgin towards the War Memorial. Both sides of the course are lined with people cheering you on. At 7:45 A.M. as I ran through Hintonburg, the streets were filled with residents of the neighbourhood who came out to see the race and cheer the runners on.

There were people at the end of their driveways with hoses misting runners at 36km. I got frozen freezies from two different families who were handing them out by the dozens from cooler bags along the route.

Then there’s the finish. What can I say? There is no better last 2km than Ottawa in any race I’ve ever run. As I told John Stanton, I knew I just needed to get to 40km and make that turn over Pretoria and then the energy of the crowd would carry me home.

The volunteers

Don’t forget the volunteers! Every single water station was filled with excited, helpful volunteers who provided water, gatorade, gels, bananas, oranges and encouragement. Every person I encountered at the Health and Fitness Expo greeted me with a smile and wished me a good race. I felt like a rockstar after the race heading down the chute to collect my medal.

SpectatorsSome of them worked long hours so we could race. Many were up earlier than I was on Sunday morning to setup water stations. Many of those same volunteers were still out on the course working well after I had finished.

Local businesses

Restaurants were in on the act with marathon special pasta plates on Saturday evening, and our hotel (Hotel Indigo) provided towels, water bottles and a special breakfast box for runners. Starbucks added staff and opened at 5:30 A.M. to serve up breakfast to runners and fans.

After the race the staff at the restaurant where we ate asked us about our race and congratulated us on our accomplishments. You could tell they genuinely meant it.

Even VIA Rail, which got us from Toronto to Ottawa and back for the weekend, got involved sending out tweets to participants.

The City of Ottawa

Apart from the races and running, Ottawa is also a beautiful city to visit. After the races, we walked along the Rideau Canal, checked out the locks and strolled past the Parliament Buildings.

There’s no shortage of things to do around the city between areas like Byward Market, and the various museums and attractions like the Museum of History, and the National Gallery.

To sum it up, Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend is the biggest and best running weekend in Canada (and maybe anywhere), in one of the nicest cities you’ll ever visit, with the best spectators and volunteers you’ll ever encounter.

Mark your calendars — the 2016 Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend takes place May 28-29, 2016.

Thanks to Pierre Lachaîne for the race photo above.