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Finding the best route for the 2021 virtual Ottawa Marathon

Mapping out the best course for your virtual run will give you the best shot at posting a great result

Photo by: Victah Sailer@PhotoRun

The 2021 Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend is less than a month away, and seeing as the events will be wholly virtual this year, anyone planning on running will need to find a route for their race. One of the best parts about virtual racing is the fact that you’re in charge of the course, meaning you can pick the best route possible for your run. To help with that ahead of this year’s Ottawa Marathon and the Tamarack Race Weekend events (which can be run any time between May 1 and 31), Canadian Running got tips from the locals to help you find the best course possible.

Start of the 2018 Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend 10K 

Dylan Wykes is the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend elite athlete co-ordinator, and he also represented Canada at the 2012 Olympics in the marathon, so he knows a thing or two about running fast. On top of these credentials, Wykes is a coach and co-founder of Mile2Marathon, and he says he encourages his athletes to enter virtual races. 

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“Virtual races are awesome because they give people a sense of community and a goal to chase,” Wykes says. He raced the virtual Boston Marathon in 2020, and while he says he wasn’t well prepared for the 42.2K run, he had a great time. One of the keys to being prepared for any virtual race, Wykes says, is having a set course in mind for the run. While this is especially important for a long race like a marathon, it’s beneficial to have a route planned for any distance. 

When it comes to the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend, there are multiple distances open for participants, from shorter runs like 2K, 5K and 10K, to longer races like the half and full marathons, to a 50K ultra. For athletes racing virtually in Ottawa, there are a lot of great options for fun and fast routes, and Wykes has a few tips for picking courses (plus some recommendations based on his go-to routes). 

“When I did Boston, I ran some loops that came past my house so I could get some water and gels and stuff,” Wykes says. “I know that’s easy to carry with you, but it was just easier for me to do it that way.” While he enjoyed running loops around his neighbourhood, Wykes acknowledges that might not be something everyone likes. Even so, he recommends running loops for longer virtual races. 

2016 Ottawa Race Weekend. Photo: Bruce Wodder @ PhotoRun

“Loops allow you to pick up water and nutrition, and they’re also a good barometer of where you’re at in the race,” he says. “I know you have your watch, but loops make it a bit more tangible. You know, telling yourself, ‘I have to do that seven more times,’ is easier to grasp than saying, ‘I have 35K to go.'” 

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For people looking to run a fast virtual race (which, let’s be honest, most runners want to do), a flat course helps, too. Wykes adds that it’s ideal to find a route that won’t require you to stop for traffic. “Ottawa is so great, because we have so many pedestrian paths that are free of cars,” Wykes says. “I can’t think of much worse than being 39K into a marathon and having to stop at an intersection to wait for traffic.” 

In Ottawa specifically, Wykes suggests heading to the path along the Ottawa River. “There’s a lovely path that you can take behind Parliament, out toward the west on the Ottawa side and then back on the Quebec side,” he says. “You can easily make a big, big loop with that of 25K or 30K.” He also points to the Rideau Canal, which is lined with paths that are reserved for pedestrians and cyclists. (It should be noted that, due to the pandemic and provincial lockdowns, Ontario residents won’t be able to cross over into Quebec until at least part way through May.) 

Other Ottawa residents recommend running the Trans Canada Trail, which one runner, Allison McKenzie, says “goes on forever.” Gatineau Park is also a great place for a run according to locals, although hitting the trails might not produce the quickest result for a virtual race. Running in the park will make for a scenic route with a lot of variety, though, which could make the time fly by. 

A shot from the Ottawa 10K. Photo: Rémi Theriault

Lisa Georges, another Ottawa runner, notes that the city’s Central Experimental Farm is a great location for a 5K, with long and flat roads that will help anyone running there hit a PB. “Yes, there’s a farm in the city,” she says, adding that it’s a safe route to run.  

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For a 10K loop, trace both sides of the Ottawa River, running in Quebec on the Voyageurs Pathway before crossing over on the Champlain or Chadière bridges (whichever you hit first, depending on the direction you run). From there, you’ll be in Ontario, following the river on the Trans Canada Trail. You’ll even get to pass by Chaudière Falls, a beautiful landmark that is featured on the actual Ottawa Marathon route. 

The race is normally held in Ottawa, but since it’s virtual, there will be runners competing all over the country. If you’re planning to run any of the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend events, your race day is fast-approaching, and you’ll want to nail down a route sooner rather than later. Anyone unsure of where to run is in luck, because just as Wykes suggested his go-to routes, other Canadian elites have done the same in the past. To find the best routes in your city, no matter where you are in Canada, click here to see where your local legends run when they want a fast result. 

To learn more about the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend, click here, and to sign up for one of the races, head to the registration page. Plus, head over to the Run Ottawa Instagram page to enter a contest. Let the team know your favourite training route, and you could win a limited edition Run Ottawa apparel kit. To enter, click here