Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon Sightseeing Tour

Running the Scotiabank Ottawa Half Marathon? Your tour is here!

The Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon course is 42.2km of scenic running. There’s so much history in the City of Ottawa and runners get to see a lot of it as they take on the challenge of the marathon. Here’s a few spots to look out for along the way. There’s everything from nice neighbourhoods to museums and government buildings to see.

War Memorial (0.3km)

Right off the start you’ll pass the National War Memorial on your left. Originally dedicated in 1939, it commemorates the Canadians who died in World War I. Later it was re-dedicated to include World War II and the Korean War. In 2000, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was added in front.


Pretoria Bridge (2.8km)

This bridge brings you back over the Rideau Canal for the trip south to Dow’s Lake. You’ll cross this twice on the marathon route. Once at 2.8km and then again with just 1.3km to go.


Dow’s Lake (6.8km)

Look to your left as you sweep around the edge of Dow’s Lake, a man-made lake that’s part of the Rideau Canal system. The big building next to the lake is Dow’s Lake Pavilion.


Wellington St. W. (9km)

This quaint village setting is lovely to run through with shops and restaurants lining the street here. Expect good spectator support!


Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway (16km)

This out and back section along the Ottawa River can be tough, but there’s lots to look at with the river off to your right on the way out, and your left on the way back. Look for your running friends here going out as you come back (or vice versa).


Canadian War Museum (19.5km)

Look to your left as you pass this spectacular museum dedicated to Canada’s military history. Built in 2005, it’s drawn praise for it’s sustainable design including a green roof and architectural features that are meant to evoke a bunker.


Chaudière Bridge (20.5km)

Across the bridge into Quebec we go. The Ottawa Marathon is unique in that it takes place in two provinces! Make sure to look left over the bridge for a view of the Chaudière (Cauldron) Falls. It’s quite the sight!


Montcalm Bridge (23.9km)

This beautiful bridge takes you over Brewery Creek before you make your way south to the Ottawa River again, and then towards the bridge that will take you back to Ontario.


Alexandra Bridge (26.5km)

Some of the most spectacular views of the entire race are here. To your right before you get on the bridge is the Canadian Museum of History. Then once you cross the bridge, look to your right and up the river bank for a stunning view of the Library of Parliament and the Peace Tower.


24 Sussex Drive (29km)

Who knows? Maybe Prime Minister Harper will come out to cheer you on. He’d only have to walk to the end of his driveway to cheer.


Sir George Étienne Cartier Parkway (32.3km)

This part of the course is a bit desolate in terms of spectators, but still beautiful to run. The right turn to Birch means you’re heading back south and also just 10km from the finish.


Rideau Falls (36.8km)

Over the Rideau River and the falls are to your right here. You can’t see them, but you might be able to hear the water flowing over the edge down to the Ottawa River below. Almost home! The crowds along the Canal await just a couple of kilometres ahead.


National Gallery (38km)

Look for the giant spider out front of the National Gallery, called Maman. If you are afraid of spiders, use this as motivation for the last 4km.


The Finish (42km)

The crowds here will be nuts, pushing you to the finish. It’s the greatest finish line anywhere in Canada. Draw energy from the crowd as you push through the last 200m to collect your marathon medal!


Analysis of the (maybe) Short Around the Bay Course

It’s becoming more and more evident to me that the revised course for the 2015 edition of The Around the Bay Road Race was short of the promised 30km distance.

Looking at hundreds of GPS tracks on Strava from this year’s race participants shows that the vast majority of them are slightly under 30km. On the other hand, looking at the GPS tracks from the 2014 edition of the race, most are in the 30.2km-30.4km range, as you would expect given tangents and GPS inaccuracies.

Analyzing the route differences

section-1To start, I tracked down and compared the official PDF course maps from 2015 and 2014 and noted some interesting differences and similarities. Granted these PDF maps are meant to be a rough guide, but despite the fact that there was a short section removed from the 2015 route just after the 2km mark in the race, the km markers on the map between 2014 and 2015 were unchanged.

Additionally, out on the course itself, the 10km split timing mat and relay exchange point were both located in approximately the same spot as they were in 2014. Logically, given the removal of the short section between 2km and 3km, the course had to be shorter up to this point as the race start was at roughly the same spot as it was in 2014.

Next I turned to MapMyRun and did some further comparison to see if the answers were there.

Neither a GPS track, nor measuring a full route using something like Google Maps or MapMyRun can be relied on to be 100% accurate over 30km. Only measuring the course with a proper Jones Counter wheel, in accordance with certification standards, would give a true indication of the actual course length.

However, measuring some short sections using online tools and comparing those to the previously certified course¹ probably does provide the accuracy required to make a solid judgement.

There were two changes to the route that I looked at:

  • Change one: The 2014 route has a little extra section just after 2km including James St. N, Guise St. E, Catharine St. N and Ferguson Ave. N. That section measures ~1.1km. In 2015, we ran straight from James St. N. to Burlington St. E over to where the old course joined, skipping that little section. The direct route measures 650m. Cutting that section out shaved about 450m from that portion of the course. View.
  • Change two: The 2014 route section that includes Spring Garden Rd and the big hill measures 2.05km. The 2015 section, staying on Plains Rd W, is 2.15km, or about 100m longer. View.

Is it a coincidence that doing the math results in a difference of ~350m between the two courses when looking at the changes in those two sections? I don’t think so.

I said after the race that I thought the course was about 300m short, and the analysis of the differences in these two sections leads me to believe that is the case.

One other thing that may or may not be relevant. You’ll note that the PDF route map for 2014 indicates that the course was both revised, and certified in 2013 by Bernie Conway. The 2015 map shows no such indication that the course was certified. It could be that omitting this from the 2015 PDF was an oversight, but it’s also possible that it was intentionally left off as the route was not certified by Mr. Conway.

Who cares?

This all leads to the question of whether it matters if the course was a few hundred metres shorter than 30km. I say yes, it does. Here’s why:

Firstly, the 2015 edition of the race was part of the Ontario Masters Athletics Road Race Championship Series. An officially sanctioned event in a provincial racing series needs to be properly measured and certified. Any records set in this race could be declared invalid because the course wasn’t properly certified. That’s not fair to participants.

Secondly, the website for the event notes the following: “Course measured and certified by Bernie Conway, Run Canada/Athletics Canada”. If that isn’t the case, then the organizers should have indicated this on the site and let runners know that because of a late route change, they weren’t able to certify the new, revised course.

Waiting for a response

The organizers have yet to respond to questions and inquiries on Twitter about the course length. Dan Way at Canadian Running Magazine wrote up a similar article to this one, based on some of the tweets from runners, and from the Strava data that suggested the course was likely short.

If and when the race organizers provide confirmation either way, I’ll update this article.

¹I examined the two different course certifications done in 2013 for the 2014 race. I noted that the race in 2014 used neither of these routes, instead runners ran a slightly altered route that was something of a hybrid of the two different certified courses. In other words, the 2014 route was also not properly certified, despite a note on the Around the Bay website saying it was.

Update (April 2, 2015):

Athletics Canada has issued a statement about the Around the Bay course distance, noting the course was not properly certified after being changed to account for construction. View that statement.

Around the Bay Road Race Director Mike Zajczenko has yet to address any questions about the race distance.

Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend’s Team Awesome

The news is finally out — I’m a part of Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend’s Team Awesome.

Team AwesomeIt’s a group of about 20 runner-bloggers who are running one of the races at the 2015 Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend and who want to share their training journey to support other runners along the way. Team Awesome is a great name for the group and a play on the overall theme for the event, “True North Strong, and Awesome”.

Canada’s Best Race Weekend

I’m pretty excited to be a part of the team, and also to be returning to the nation’s capital for my fourth Ottawa Race Weekend in 2015. I ran my fourth half marathon in Ottawa at my first Race Weekend back in 2009. In the spring of 2010, I ran my very first full marathon at the Race Weekend. I’ve been back just once since (in 2011, for the half marathon), but I’ve enjoyed the entire experience every time we’ve made the trip up from Toronto.

Ottawa Marathon finish

At the finish of my first marathon (Ottawa, 2010)

Since that first marathon in 2010, I’ve run six more full marathons in various cities in Canada. I’m looking forward to coming back to the race where it all started for me. I’ll be running the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon as my eighth full marathon in May.

A Two-Day Long Celebration of Running

Ottawa Race Weekend is a pretty special event. The entire city seems to get involved in the races and it becomes a two day long celebration of all things running. I love going out on the Saturday night to watch the 5km and 10km races while thinking about my own race the next morning. There’s always people I know to cheer on and to cheer with. It’s really a ton of fun if running is your thing.

Sunday is always my race day in Ottawa. I’m already looking at the course map and thinking about what my goals will be. I’m also super excited that in 2015 both myself and my wife Ginny will both be running a marathon at the same time for the first time ever. She ran her first marathon in Chicago this year while I cheered with our two girls so it’ll be nice to toe the line with her in her second full marathon.

Pre-season Training

I’ve already started what I call pre-season training for the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon. While the real work won’t start until mid-January, that doesn’t mean that I’ll be sitting around until then. I hope to share all the ups and downs of training and also to share some of my experience with you as you train for your race.

As any runner will tell you, there’s always more to learn. I’ve learned so much from the runners in my life who were happy to share their advice and experiences with me, and I trust that being part of Team Awesome will be as much about learning from others for me as it is for you.

Where to follow along

This blog will be the primary channel where I’ll share information and advice leading up to the Race Weekend. I’d love to talk more in the comments on each post, so don’t be afraid to drop me a line there if you have something to say or share.

You can also follow me on Twitter (@jameskoole). I’ve already warned all my friends that I’ll be talking about running even more often that usual over the next five months. Feel free to give me a follow and say hi. Make sure you tag all your Ottawa Race Weekend and training tweets with #TORW2015.

For those of you that use either DailyMile (jameskoole) or Garmin Connect (jameskoole), give me a follow there as well and I’ll do likewise.

I’m a big proponent of keeping a training log or blog, so if you don’t yet keep track of all your runs, I strongly recommend as a great way to do it. It’s a fantastic “Facebook for runners” that lets you track your runs and is also a welcoming and supportive community.

Last but not least, I’ll also be posting on Instagram (jameskoole) from time to time. It’s the least running-centric of the channels I post on, but if you also like seeing pictures of Toronto, and some kids-related stuff, check it out. During the race weekend, I’ll be sure to share some of the excitement of the expo, and the various races.

Run Ottawa

Well that didn’t take long. It looks like my spring marathon in 2015 will be the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon on May 24.

orwOttawa is where I ran my very first marathon back in 2010. It’s also a great weekend-long celebration of running. There are various distance events on both Saturday and Sunday and it feels like all of Ottawa gets involved.

Ottawa is a great destination race choice for runners in Southern Ontario. For me, it means I can run somewhere other than Toronto but not break the bank since it’s not too far away and easy to get to by car.

With the race happening on May 24th, it also means the training schedule gets pushed back a few weeks compared to Toronto, Mississauga and Vancouver and that means (I hope) fewer long Sunday miles logged in the dead of winter!


IAAF Gold Road Race

The other big news that got me off the fence was that the Ottawa 10k that happens on Saturday evening during the Race Weekend was awarded Gold label standard by the International Amateur Athletic Federation. This is huge news both for the Ottawa Race Weekend, and also for road racing in Canada.

The Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon is already an IAAF Silver label race, joining the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon that also earned that distinction for the last few years.

For Canada to have a Gold label race is amazing. It means that Ottawa will be able to attract top talent to run the 10km and puts Ottawa on the map as a world-class race destination.

Ottawa joins Prague, Manchester and San Juan as Gold label 10km race hosts.

Let the training begin!

On the Fake Boston Marathon Bibs

These people who ran the Boston Marathon with fake bibs are really pissing me off.

First was the four people who all ran with a fake bib number. Then today it was discovered that the wife of Foursquare-founder Dennis Crowley also ran with a fake bib.

These people are pompous, self-entitled assholes. They didn’t earn their way in with a qualifying time like many did. They didn’t fundraise for the official charities like many did. No. They decided that they should be entitled to run the 2014 Boston Marathon when they weren’t entitled to. They decided that the rules didn’t apply to them.

Here’s Dennis Crowley’s explanation:

“Yes, using a duplicate number to get Chelsa into the starting corral with me was wrong. I don’t expect everyone to understand our strong need to run and and finish together — but after trying unsuccessfully to get a charity number and trying unsuccessfully to officially transfer a number from an injured-runner friend, we did what we could to make sure we could run together in hopes of finishing together.”

You think it’s “ok” because the Boston Marathon really meant a lot to you, Dennis Crowley? Well it means a lot to a lot of people and those people were out there because they earned their way in. You couldn’t get your wife into the race, but rather than accepting that and dealing with it, you decided that printing up a fake bib was your way of showing to the world how much Boston meant to you. Fuck you.

I hope they never let you run the race ever again. And good luck with Foursquare. I’m out – account deleted.

Boston Marathon Day

I’ve been watching the little runner people on the tracker all morning. It’s not the most exciting way to watch a marathon, but it sure beats not knowing how my running friends are doing.

baatracker-300x290So far it’s been a good day. One is finished already (another stellar run for Doug), another two are through 40km (go Chantal and Sam!), and the last started in the later wave but is doing well through 30km (not bad for not training, Kathryn).

I’ll likely never run Boston myself. I’m not fast enough and I can’t imagine ever getting fast enough to qualify. I think I’d need to take the better part of 35 minutes off my personal best for the marathon. Not happening.

Aside from all my running friends finishing and doing well, I have one other wish: that we can put 2013 behind us now and get back to thinking about the race, and running and fun rather than all the crap that we were forced to deal with.

Missing the BMO Vancouver Marathon

For the first time in two years, I won’t be in Vancouver on the first Sunday in May to run the BMO Vancouver Marathon.

I ran it first in 2011 on my 40th birthday and had a blast. I went out to Vancouver alone and spent a long weekend in one of my favourite places, running the marathon in the middle and just doing my own thing for a few days.


It was such a great experience that Ginny and I decided to go out last year together and run it again. She ran the half, and I did the full in 2012.

I met a bunch of runner friends out there in 2011 and I’ve kept in touch with a half dozen of them over Twitter and Facebook ever since. Seeing them again in 2012 was great and Kirsty and I ran the first 38 km of the marathon together before I crashed and burned and she ran away to a sub-4:00 PB.

I’m bummed that I won’t be running around the Seawall this year but more bummed that I won’t be seeing Jon, Kathryn, Skye, Kirsty, Jess and Damian.

I was feeling jealous of my running friends of late as I watched them prep for races. So I decided to sign up for the GoodLife Fitness Toronto Half Marathon on Sunday and at least get out there.

I’m in no shape to race a half, but I’ll be out there doing the running thing. I’m looking forward to 21.1km at a decent pace, enjoying the company a few thousand of my fellow racers.

Selling Out

Have you noticed that your favourite race is selling out faster than ever before?

  • The Chicago Marathon sold out in 6 days this year. 45,000 spots. In six days.
  • The Ottawa Half Marathon is sold out four months before race day. 11,000 spots.
  • Around the Bay Road Race 30k sold out weeks ago. 8,000 spots.
  • The Vancouver Marathon is already more than 70% sold out three months from race day. 5,000 spots.

Running is definitely a sport that has been on the rise over the last few years. Races have been getting bigger, and selling out sooner. And more and more events are being added all the time with plenty of runners willing to put up the cash and run.

There is a downside to all of this popularity. Some runners are missing out on races because they don’t get registered in time. And some races have hiked fees as a way to try and temper the enthusiasm of those who want to run. Want to run the New York City Marathon and you live in Canada? First, you enter the lottery – that’s $11US with no guarantees. Then, assuming your name is pulled from the hat, you get to pony up another $347US to run the race. Crazy! Yet every year there are still three times as many people who want to run the marathon as there are entries available.

Boston has a similar problem – even if you manage to qualify, there’s still no guarantee that you’ll be able to get in thanks to the huge number of runners who are all vying for a limited number of spots.

What do you think? Is running getting too popular? What can be done to help keep race fees down and races accessible to the average runner?

Too Soon?

bmo-may6I’m already getting excited about heading out to Vancouver again next year for the 2012 BMO Vancouver Marathon. It’s way early to be thinking about it, but I had such a great time in 2011, that I really want to bring my wife Ginny along with me this time and have her see what a great event it is.

New Course in 2012

The organizers promised a brand new course for 2012. So far, all they’ve said is that for runners in the full marathon “‘Hitting the Wall’ will mean something totally different in 2012” and to stay tuned for an announcement on October 5th. That could either mean they are doing a loop that will include the monster climb up the Burrard Bridge a second time to really kill us all, or maybe we’re going to get to run more of the Seawall in Stanley Park.

I’m hoping for the latter.

New Friends in 2011

One of the best parts of my 2011 experience was interacting with the social media team, particularly Jon Suk (@jonsuk). He was gracious enough to invite me to a dinner with some runners from Victoria (#yyjrun ftw). I’ve continued to keep tabs on many of them through Twitter and Dailymile and would call them friends, despite having only met in real life on race weekend.

As of today, it’s 237 days until race day. You can bet I’ll be blogging more about it as training kicks in starting in late December. Can’t wait!