Jessica O’Connell is a lifelong Calgarian. Born and raised in the city, she still lives there, is still coached by Mike Van Tighem (who also coached her during her varsity career at the University of Calgary), and–most importantly–loves running there. If you’re planning to be in town for the 2020 Calgary Marathon, she gives the inside scoop on everything the city has to offer a runner.

Canadian 5k championships
Jessica O’Connell in the women’s 5000m final at the Athletics Canada 2016 Track and Field Trials

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O’Connell has an impressive running resume. The runner holds a 5,000m personal best of 15:06.44 and is a 2016 Olympian. She is currently training for the 2020 Olympics, so her perfect day in Calgary would start with a run in Nose Hill or Fish Creek Park, both located centrally in Calgary. O’Connell says she goes there when she wants to be in nature.

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5k around Nosehill in -1!? Felt like freedom.

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Following her first run of the day, O’Connell would ideally finish up at a coffee shop. “I love finishing my run with coffee. My favourite place in the entire city is called The Roastery. It’s in Kensington. They roast their own beans and it has a really cool vibe.”

Another place that O’Connell loves for coffee is in the East Village. “There’s a place known as the Simmons Building that’s got a few vendors. My favourite is called Sidewalk Citizen. It’s got great, great coffee and baked goods. It’s also right near where the marathon starts.”

If O’Connell was in the mood for brunch, she’d certainly go to Bite (it’s one of the few Calgary brunch places where you don’t have to wait for a table). “It’s so good, it’s inexpensive and it’s not super well known, so you can always get a table–which is rare in this city.”

In the afternoon, O’Connell heads out for her second run of the day on the Bow River Pathway. She explains that Calgary has a long, winding path that weaves its way through the entire city. “The river path goes right through downtown and meanders its way around the city. It’s continuous and it’s flat–two things I love.” After her second run she’ll head to the gym and for treatment. “I lift with Carla Robbins, who owns Vital Strength and Physiology. She’s amazing. Then I go and see Tyson Plesuk at Movement Sports Clinic for treatment. He’s the best–people come from all over to see him.”

After a big day of training, O’Connell’s on the hunt for either a beer or some ice cream. “Made by Marcus is my favourite ice cream in the city, and it’s conveniently located a mere three blocks from my house. If I’m meeting friends for a drink, we always go to the Barley Belt–a new area in town where tons of craft breweries are popping up.”

For some great areas to walk around, she suggests Kensington, Inglewood or 17th Ave. She also adds that Calgary just got Lime scooters, “So runners don’t have to worry about tiring out their legs pre-race. Also, check out the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and our new library. Calgarians are very proud of those two landmarks.”

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