May 28-29, 2022 is a weekend that has been a long time coming. And I mean, a LONG time. I’ve been involved with Run Ottawa as a member since 2010, and have participated in every TORW since then – including the virtual 2020 (I ran the half-marathon) and 2021 (marathon) versions. But it has been three long years since I’ve heard the gun to start a TORW event.
I jokingly refer to TORW as “Christmas in May” because I experience the same childhood joy this weekend as I did at Christmastime when I was a kid. Maybe more, to be completely honest.
Why? I’m *so* glad you asked. Here, in no particular order, are the things I love SO much about TORW and cannot wait to experience again next week … and a “pro tip” for each, based on my 12 years of participation:
Health and Fitness Expo: the kickoff party for any good mutli-race event (and TORW is Canada’s biggest, in case you weren’t aware!) is a great race expo. TORW’s Health and Fitness Expo happens at the beautiful Shaw Centre – Thursday afternoon/evening, Friday, and Saturday. This is where you get your race kit, your shirt (if purchased) AND you can go shopping for other essentials (or, let’s be honest, non-essentials) that you need! Pro tip #1: try to go during off-peak hours (i.e., not Thu or Fri right after work) … and don’t just pick up your kit and go – hang in the Expo for a while … meet up with some friends … talk to some exhibitors … take a look at the other racing events that are being promoted there. Pro tip #2: if you are in the Kids Marathon, the 2k or the 5k events on the Saturday, you MUST pick up your kit before 1pm that day!
Routes: regardless of your event, you will LOVE your route. Ottawa is one of the most spectacular cities in the world in which to run – it has a great mix of urban and non-urban spaces. You’ll see incredible buildings and spectacular scenery. Most routes, for example, follow the historic Rideau Canal – a UNESCO World Heritage site. Pro tip: while this sounds trivial, be sure to keep your head on a swivel and take in the view on your run – I guarantee it will be amazing and if you don’t look, you might miss it!
Corrals: this is something I’ve missed the most since 2020 – the feeling of huddling in your corral in the 15-30 minutes before your big race … meeting people from all over who are exactly where you are in your journey, and know what you’re feeling … and just soaking in that great pre-race vibe before the gun! Pro tip #1: in your corral, find a pace bunny who is well matched to your race goal and stick with them … you’ll likely meet some new running friends as a result. Pro tip #2: don’t be shy – introduce yourself to those around you in corral … tell your story, and hear theirs!
Kids: kids are always a big part of TORW. In fact, on Saturday there are TWO kid-friendly events: the kid-exclusive Ottawa Kids Marathon at 2:00pm; and the Ottawa 2k presented by ASICS Runkeeper at 3:00pm. Both start right downtown at Ottawa City Hall. Pro tip: if you have kids, you know the drill – plan to arrive at least 30 minutes early so that you can park find your way to the event start line.
Canadian 10k Championship: to me, this is one of the extra-fun and special features of TORW. Ottawa hosts the Canadian 10k Championships on Saturday at 6:30pm. This is coincident with the Ottawa 10k presented by Otto’s Ottawa … so if you are running the 10k, you are literally running the same course as Canada’s elites … and trust me, you’ll see them … screaming back along the east side of the Canal as you make your way toward Dow’s Lake on the west side. Pro tip: if you are running the 10k, hold back a bit of energy for the middle part of the course – there are a couple of significant hills you’re going to have to deal with!
Desjardins Charity Challenge: this is where one of TORW’s core values shine through. Last year, even though COVID greatly limited the number of participants in the virtual TORW event, those participants managed to raise over one million dollars via the Charity Challenge, for charities who participate in the event. COVID times have been tough, including on charities. The fact that TORW participants rallied to the cause is amazing. Pro tip: it’s not too late to donate to a participating charity, or to an individual TORW participant … my fundraising page for the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Foundation is here.
Festival Plaza and the Kichesippi Beer Garden: this is the area outside of Ottawa City Hall (specifically in Marion Dewar Plaza) in which you can relax after your events on the Saturday and Sunday. There will be live music, medal/award ceremonies, photo stations, special guests and speakers – as well as beer from Kichesippi Beer Company and kombucha from Carlington Booch on hand (a free drink is provided to runners in the 10k, half and full events!). What more could a runner ask? Pro tip: this is a less-crowded place to meet up with a runner after their race; scout it out in advance, and make plans to meet in the Plaza and Beer Garden!
Volunteers: these people are the heart and soul of TORW. They do it all: measure, mark and marshall the courses; put up signs and banners; manage registrations and race kit pickup; work the race expo hall and booths; shepherd the corrals; hand out water and fuel during the races; give out medals and food at the end of the races; and clean up afterwards. They do it all behind the scenes, and without asking for kudos. Pro tip: thank a volunteer whenever you can – trust me, it means a great deal to them.
Spectators: I’ve run half-marathons and marathons in many cities. Ottawa hits WELL above its weight when it comes to crowd motivation during TORW. You will be inspired by the people who will line the streets, regardless of weather, to cheer you on. From the kids and dogs you’ll see, to the neighbourhood themed cheer stations, to signs you’ll read (every year someone comes up with a new one that makes me laugh), to the people offering up their lawn sprinklers or giving out freezies when it’s hot, to the crazies in costume with cowbells, to the musicians you’ll come across at various points in your route – Ottawa’s got it all! You will NOT run alone. Pro tip: high-five a kid. It only takes a second and is a guaranteed power-up.
And finally .. YOU! TORW would not be possible without the tens of thousands of athletes who come out to run or walk the routes. Your love of a healthy lifestyle is legend, and your energy infectious. Thank YOU for coming to Ottawa for TORW 2022 … it’s been a minute, and we’ve missed you! Pro tip: take a bow and give yourself a hand!