The Best Thing We Can Do For Our Canadian Marathoners

Having high quality training facilities here at home is critical for our Canadian athletes.

Without these places to train, our athletes can’t be expected to perform at the level we all hope they can achieve on the world stage. Over the years, it’s been demonstrated that hosting international events in our cities is a great way to get these facilities built.

Sporting Legacies

The legacy of the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto is a wonderful swimming and diving facility in Scarborough. Our track cyclists continue to benefit from a new velodrome in Milton. The 2010 Olympics in Vancouver brought the Whistler Sliding Centre where our bobsled, luge and skeleton competitors can train on a world-class track in Canada. The Olympic Oval in Calgary, built for the 1988 Olympics helped create a generation of exceptional Canadian speed skaters.

There aren’t really any specialized training facilities needed for marathoners outside the normal athletics facilities for the training and cross-training that these runners do. There’s no specific building or track required like there is for other sports.

2013 Scotiabank Toronto Marathon
Canadian Olympic marathoners at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 2013.

One of the biggest things we can do to help push our Canadian marathoners forward is to host high quality races right here in Canada.

Is it any surprise that our Canadian marathoners have grown in quality as races like the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon and other Canada Running Series events have done likewise?

Top Races are Training Facilities

For marathoners, the race itself is a key training facility. Running shoulder-to-shoulder with the best in the world is where they learn to run their best. It’s a race that involves tactics and knowing exactly what you are (and aren’t) capable of as you make your way through 42.195km.

Canada now has two marathons with an IAAF Gold Label designation. The Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon in May is one of them, and the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in October is the other. The Gold Label signals that a race is of the highest quality, meeting a long list of requirements. Both races attract a very high-quality field of world class marathoners and that affords our Canadian marathoners a chance to run with the very best in the world right here at home.

Almost as importantly, having these events in Canadian cities bring more spectators to the sport of marathoning. Having Canadians out supporting and cheering on our athletes elevates the sport and brings awareness and funding to our athletes.

When you watched Lanni Marchant and Krista Duchene bringing home a 24th and 35th place finish in Rio, and when you watch Ried Coolsaet and Eric Gillis next Sunday, look to the Canada Running Series and the Ottawa Race Weekend and tip your hat to them for opening up our sport and creating international quality running events in our own cities.

2016 STWM Digital Champions

I’m super excited to have been selected to be one of 14 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon Digital Champions for 2016.

I’ll let the Canada Running Series explain what the Digital Champions program is all about:

For the past three years, the Digital Champions Program has brought together dedicated, connected, and inspiring runners to act as ambassadors of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

This year, we are adding an exciting new component to this program with the STWM Scotiabank Charity Challenge! Our 2016 Digital Champions team represents runners who are making every step count as they run and fundraise for one of our 186 official charities! Get to know our team and connect with them throughout your training for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon!

Fundraising takes centre stage

That second part is the most exciting to me. As my friends and family know, our family is touched by a genetic condition called Fragile X Syndrome. Mackenzie, our oldest daughter copes with Fragile X which is a major cause of inherited mental impairment. For her that means a learning disability, and moderate anxiety. Ginny is a carrier of the genetic defect which causes a few different issues for her as well.

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After the 2012 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. We raised $80,000 for Fragile X Research and I ran a PB!

A few years back I was part of Team Fragile X which raised over $88,000 for the Fragile X Research Foundation of Canada. Over the years, the Team has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for research through Canada Running Series events in Toronto and Vancouver. I’ll be raising money again this year, and Team Fragile X is back again as well.

Canada Running Series

Running has been a big part of my life since 2008. My very first race was a Canada Running Series event and I’ve run many since then. They do so much for the running community in Toronto and also for the hundreds of local and national charities that benefit from money raised by runners participating in CRS events.

Since 2003, CRS and other events that are part of the Scotiabank Charity Challenge have raised over $50 million for local Canadian charities. Amazing.

I’m super proud to be a Digital Champion and I’m very excited to share my training journey along with my fundraising efforts between now and race day on October 16, 2016.

Marathon Clinic News and Fall Racing Plans

Starting Tuesday, I’ll be leading the marathon clinic at the new Canary District Running Room in Toronto.

It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a few years now, but the timing never seemed right. Probably the biggest change is that the kids are more independent now, meaning I can afford a weeknight to run without as much family impact.

I’ve always enjoyed helping runners get into the marathon. I’ve done enough now that I feel confident that my experiences are worth sharing. My time as a member of Team Awesome for the Ottawa Marathon has helped me get more comfortable with that role.

Taking on the challenge of clinic instructor gives me a nice push to go for it in the fall and get on board with another 42.2km in October.

Fall marathon plans

Assuming all goes well, I’ll be running the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on October 16, 2016. I’ve run two full marathons in my home city–the Goodlife once, and the STWM once. I’m super excited to run this one again as it was a great race for me a few years back.

As one of two IAAF Gold Label marathons in Canada (Ottawa being the other), I know it’ll be a well-run event with a great course and lots of people out to cheer.

I’ve been considering running a fall marathon after the disappointment of the hot Ottawa Marathon day when I didn’t get the payoff for all the training I did over the winter and spring. I’ve also been thinking about switching over to fall marathons to take advantage of the cooler weather on race day.

I like the winter training, and generally dislike running in the heat of summer so this will present a bit of a challenge for me. I’m hoping that training in the heat and racing in cooler weather will be an advantage.

Follow along!

I’ll be keeping up with the blogging over the summer and into the fall, sharing some of the Clinic learnings and generally motivating runners training for a mid-October marathon. Do follow along if that’s your plan!

Of course, if you are in the Toronto area (either downtown or the south-east end) and are looking for a marathon training clinic or running group, come down to the Canary District Running Room. Clinic night is Tuesday (6pm start) and we’ll also have the usual free group runs on Wednesday evening and Sunday mornings.

Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon Sightseeing Tour (2016 Edition)

Running the Scotiabank Ottawa Half Marathon? Click here for your course tour!

The IAAF Gold Label 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.

Breaking up the marathon into chunks will help you mentally as you run 42.2km. Here’s a few spots to look forward to along the route. 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. The memorial is undergoing a month’s long restoration, and is closed to the public this year.

Pretoria Bridge (2.8km)

This bridge brings you back over the Rideau Canal for the trip south to Dow’s Lake. It gets its name from Pretoria Avenue which was named in 1902 as a way to commemorate the British victory in the Second Boer War and those Canadians that had served. You’ll cross this twice on the marathon route, the first time 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. Ottawa’s O-Train Trillium Line travels under the lake in a tunnel!

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 here!

Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway (16km)

This out and back section along the Ottawa River can be a little tough mentally, 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. This is a great opportunity to look across to the other side of the road for your running friends here going out as you come back (or vice versa). Give them a cheer!

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. If you’re staying in Ottawa for a few days after the Race Weekend, put a visit to the Canadian War Museum on your must-see list.

Chaudière Bridge (20.5km)

Across the bridge into Quebec we go. The Ottawa Marathon is unique in that it takes place in two Canadian provinces! Make sure to look left over the bridge for a view of the Chaudière (Cauldron) Falls. It’s quite the sight! Over the next few years, this area will be transformed into Zibi, a world-class sustainable community and redevelopment project.

Tour Eiffel Bridge (23.9km)

This ornate and 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. The bridge actually incorporates a girder from the Eiffel Tower in Paris, hence the name.

Alexandra Bridge and Parliament (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. The Library of Parliament survived a fire that destroyed the Centre Block of the Parliament in 1916.

24 Sussex Drive (29km)

Who knows? Maybe Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will come out to cheer you on? He’d only have to walk to the end of his driveway to cheer and has run a number of races in Ottawa over the last few years.

Sir George Étienne Cartier Parkway (32.3km)

This part of the course is a bit desolate in terms of spectators, but it’s still beautiful to run. The right turn to Birch means you’re heading back south and also just 10km from the finish. It can get warm along here, with not much respite from the sun, so if it’s hot on race day, keep that in mind.

Rideau Falls (36.8km)

It’s time to cross over the Rideau River again 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. You’re almost home! The crowds along the Rideau Canal await just a couple of kilometres ahead. Down your last gel, dump some water on your head and find that energy to push through the wall and through to the finish.

National Gallery (38km)

Watch out for the giant spider sculpture 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 crazy, encouraging you to run strong through to the finish. It’s the best finish line anywhere in Canada. and you’ll be drawing energy from the crowd as you push through the last 200m to collect your marathon medal!

Scotiabank Ottawa Half Marathon Sightseeing Tour (2016 Edition)

Running the 2016 Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon? Click here for your course tour!

The Scotiabank Ottawa Half Marathon course takes runners on a nice 21.1km tour of the Nation’s Capital including the Rideau Canal, Dow’s Lake, Lebreton Flats, Gatineau and the Alexandra Bridge. Here’s a few spots to look out for along the way.

Elgin Street (0.4km)

From the start, runners head south down Elgin Street and the Rideau Canal. That’s the opposite direction from the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon route, so if you are out to see friends off for their race, don’t be surprised when you line up on the other side of the start line. Elgin features some nice shops and restaurants, and the crowds will be out early to cheer you on as you start your race.

Rideau Canal (2.5km)

Not long after the start, you’ll hit Queen Elizabeth Drive and the Rideau Canal. Enjoy the views to your left and imagine what it looks like in the winter when the canal is transformed into the world’s longest skating rink. The be thankful that it isn’t -25ºC on race day.

Dow’s Lake (5km)

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. A good “did you know” fact is that the O-Train Trillium Line runs underneath Dow’s Lake in a tunnel.

Wellington St. W. (7.5km)

This quaint village setting is lovely to run through with shops and restaurants lining the street here. Expect good spectator support while you do a little mid-race sightseeing yourself. Resist the temptation to stop for a coffee and pastry!

Scott St. (9.8km)

Look left along Scott St. for the easy-to-spot tower of the Ottawa Mosque. Shortly after you pass the mosque, you’ll turn left, crossing over the Transitway and towards Gatineau, Quebec.

Canadian War Museum (13km)

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. If you’re staying in Ottawa for a few days after the Race Weekend, put a visit to the Canadian War Museum on your must-see list.

Chaudière Bridge (13.8km)

Across the bridge into Quebec we go. The Ottawa Half 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! Over the next few years, this area will be transformed into Zibi, a world-class sustainable community and redevelopment project.

Alexandra Bridge (16.5km)

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. The Library of Parliament survived a fire that destroyed the Centre Block of the Parliament in 1916.

US Embassy and Major’s Hill Park (17.4km)

As you climb up from the Alexandra Bridge towards Wellington St., the US Embassy will be on your left, with Major’s Hill Park on your right. The park is home to events year round, including Canada Day festivities and was named for Major Daniel Bolton who was the Superintending Engineer of the Rideau Canal and lived on-site in a residence that was destroyed by fire in 1848.

Shaw Centre and Marathoners (18km)

On your left is the gleaming glass facade of the Shaw Centre which is the home to the Ottawa Race Weekend Expo where you picked up your race kit. This is also the point on the course where the marathon and half marathon routes come together so be sure to give some words of encourage to the marathoners that you’ll be running alongside. Who knows, maybe you’ll get inspired to come back next year and run the full marathon yourself!

Pretoria Bridge (19.9km)

The turn for home! Heading over the Rideau now and you make the u-turn over the Pretoria Bridge and the north towards the finish. Expect the crowd to start to swell here. Look to your right for views across the canal at all the runners on the other side that you are ahead of. Give yourself a pat on the back if it’s your first half – you’ll be done soon!

The Finish (21km)

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 half marathon medal!

Why a IAAF Gold Label Matters to All Runners

You may have heard that the Ottawa Marathon is an International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Gold Label race in 2016, joining the Ottawa 10km which was first awarded a Gold Label in 2015. But maybe you thought that didn’t really mean anything to the average, non-elite runner like you.

The IAAF Gold Label signifies to elite runners who may be considering participating that an event is of the highest calibre. That said, all runners whether elite or not, see real tangible benefits when they choose to run these high quality events.

What it means to be Gold

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Elites at the 2015 Ottawa Marathon.

Here’s a few of the IAAF Gold Label standards, with an eye to why the average runner should care:

  • International field – Gold Label events need to have elite runners from five or more different countries. This international aspect brings more excitement to the race and draws media coverage and fans out to cheer both elite and non-elite runners. If you love the fans cheering you on around the course, it’s the elites that bring many of them to the side of the road to watch the race.
  • Elites – speaking of elites, a Gold Label race needs to have a top quality field of elite runners. That means the race needs to feature runners who have gone under 2:10:30 (for men) and 2:28:00 (for women). Again, this brings excitement to the event and brings fans out to cheer.
  • Medical services – the quality and amount of medical services must be appropriate for the number of runners and conditions. While we all hope that nobody has to use medical services during the race, the truth is that for some runners who run into trouble, quality medical services on course can be a matter of life and death. IAAF Gold Label races are well staffed with fully trained medical personnel.
  • A measured and certified course – The last thing you want to find our after your race is that the course wasn’t exactly 42.2km. IAAF Gold Label races are measured and certified. There’s no chance you’ll be running a short or long course.
  • A good quality road surface, and a high quality route – IAAF Gold Label races are run on roads that are in good condition. There won’t be any potholes, cracks or other dangers that could trip you up or cause an ankle turn or a fall. And the course must be of a high quality with fewer twists and turns, and a reasonable amount of challenge.
  • All roads closed to traffic – to qualify for an IAAF Label, the entire course must be free of traffic. Unlike some races where you find yourself running next to a lane of traffic, or worse yet, being held to allow traffic to cross, IAAF Gold Label races have a fully closed course. That’s safer for runners and allows for a far better racing experience for all.
  • Aid stations – there must be an appropriate number of stations, adequately staffed by competent personnel. Gold Label races feature aid stations with high quality volunteers who are well-trained and ready to provide water, electrolyte drinks, gels and sponges to all athletes.
  • Video screen – your friends and spectators can enjoy TV coverage on a large screen while you run your race. A big screen must be provided for those watching the race around the finish.
  • Full video coverage in five countries – speaking of video coverage, IAAF Gold Label races must have live TV or Internet streamed coverage of the full race. That includes making it available in at least five countries. This means your friends and family can tune in and see that you are part of a world-class event. And you can watch the elites who out-ran you to the finish after you run your own marathon.

Run with the world’s best

As you can see, there’s lots of benefit to choosing an IAAF Gold Label race like the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon. While there are non-label marathons in many cities, you won’t find a better, safer, more enjoyable experience than one provided by an IAAF Gold Label race.

Running a truly world-class event is special. You’ll be running on the same course, on the same day as some of the best marathon runners in the world. How many other sports let you do that?

Photo by Pierre Lachaîne (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The Marquis de Sade Half Marathon

It’s a “fun” run, they say.

The annual Marquis de Sade goes tomorrow (Sunday, November 29, 2015) starting from the High Park Running Room at 8:30 A.M.

This unofficial half marathon takes on some of the biggest and baddest hills that Toronto has to offer. We’re talking 18 significant hills over the 21.1km of the route.

Runners who complete this monster get a little red button as their reward. No medal. No chiptime or Sportstats listing. Just a small red pin-on button that says you finished whipped the Marquis de Sade.

And you get the personal satisfaction of knowing that you took on one of the toughest half marathons around.

Bring a map!

It’s a bit of an orienteering exercise in addition to being a race. The course isn’t really marked, and you can be sure that none of it is closed to traffic. Did I mention there are no aid stations along the route? You are on your own, armed only with a map, and whatever else you bring along to sustain you.

I’ll be running my second Marquis de Sade tomorrow and I’m gunning for a respectable time well under two hours. We’ll see what happens.

Join the fun

If you want to get in on the fun, be at the High Park Running Room before the start at 8:30 A.M. to sign in. Study the route, make a few maps and bring them along with you so you don’t get lost. There aren’t any bibs, and the race is not chip-timed. It’s up to you to sign in when you start and finish to record your time. Most of the run is on sidewalks and paved trail, but there is an off-road, trail section in High Park near the start.

While the course looks a bit ridiculous, don’t let that scare you off. It’s a fun, festive event that provides a late season test of what you’re made of.