The Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend : Old Ottawa East is Running Territory, and The Journey to The Start Line Begins Soon

Jesse Arnup Blondin and her daughter with their Virtual 5k medals from Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend in 2020. Photo by Jesse Arnup Blondin

Jesse Arnup Blondin and her daughter with their Virtual 5k medals from Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend in 2020.
Photo by Jesse Arnup Blondin

Theresa Wallace


If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we should pursue our dreams when we can. As Theresa Wallace explains, if your body is good to go and you have always wanted to enter a 5k, 10k, half-marathon or marathon, each May our city hosts one of the best race weekends anywhere, Old Ottawa East has great running routes, and now is a perfect time to plan your training.

If you have always wanted to take up running but need a goal to keep motivated, you live in a city with what Canadian Running Magazine has called one of the best race weekends anywhere. Local runners agree.

“Race weekend is a great celebration of running and spring in Ottawa. After everyone has trained all winter through the bad weather and the snow, they come together in what feels like a big community event one weekend in May,” explains Jesse Arnup Blondin, who has participated in Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend since 2007 and is signed up for the half-marathon in 2023.

“One year at mile 22 of the marathon, I passed my former high school math teacher watching the race and she recognized me. Every year I run into people I haven’t seen in months or years. I love the atmosphere, and the boost you get on race weekend when you see someone you know running or cheering you on.”

Arnup Blondin, a 40-year-old Boston marathon veteran, federal public servant and mother of two, moved to Old Ottawa East (OOE) in 2015 partly so she could run to work. Another big attraction was that OOE is between the Rideau Canal and the Rideau River. Her canal run might take her on a loop over the locks at Carleton University, through the Central Experimental Farm, around Dow’s Lake on the Queen Elizabeth Driveway side, over one of the bridges to Quebec and back. “Another favourite route,” she explains, “is along the Rideau River path through Brantwood Park to Strathcona Park, over the Adàwe Crossing toward New Edinburgh and then along the bike path parallel to the Rockcliffe Parkway.” Arnup Blondin is fast—she has run a half-marathon, which is 21 kilometers, in 1:32, and a full marathon in 3:17.

Race weekend, Arnup Blondin’s favourite running event, was started in 1975 because local runners got tired of bumping into each other at out-of-town marathons and wanted a race of their own. In the almost half a century since those 159 marathon runners surged off the starting line at Carleton University on a humid morning in May and headed out along Colonel By Drive, the one race has expanded into the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend with many thousands of runners participating in two kids/family runs, a 5k, 10k, half-marathon and marathon.

Over the decades, the OOE section of Colonel By Drive has remained an important race weekend arterial and currently offers local residents front-row spectating opportunities within walking distance for the 10k race on Saturday evening, which is also the Canadian 10k championships.

Ian Fraser, executive director of Run Ottawa, which organizes the race weekend, is pictured here in his race announcer role. Photo by Run Ottawa

Ian Fraser, executive director of Run Ottawa, which organizes the race weekend, is pictured here in his race announcer role. Photo by Run Ottawa

So OOE is an ideal neighbourhood for running in a city with a great race weekend. More good news: if your medical practitioner says you’re good to go, now is the time to buy those running shoes.

Ian Fraser, executive director of Run Ottawa, the non-profit organization that puts on race weekend, says January is the perfect time to start training. “However you celebrate the holidays, that calendar turns over onto January 1st and everyone starts to think about spring and what they want to accomplish in the coming year. You go through that thrilling moment of pushing the button on your screen and you have registered. Now what? Part of the race weekend experience is the journey to get there, and we are here to support that journey.”

Fraser, a former runner, triathlete and coach, says the technological innovations that have made the biggest difference in race weekend over its almost half a century are the internet social media platforms that allow participants to be in daily touch from the moment they sign up. “We have amazing complimentary training programs available through ASICS Runkeeper and lots of nutritional and other support through partners we bring in.”

If you do sign up, you won’t be the only newbie. Fraser says last year, the first in-person race weekend after two years of going virtual due to the pandemic, 34 percent of registrants were new, with the biggest concentration of new registrants in the 10k and half-marathon.

If you don’t feel ready for 2023, there’s always the year after. The little race that grew up to nurture generations of runners and become the heartbeat of the Ottawa running scene will mark its 50th anniversary in 2024. For generations of past, present and future Ottawa runners, it’s going to be a celebration.

Filed in: Front Page

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