Ottawa’s biggest running event of the year is Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend. The name and the route have changed a few times over the years, but this is always a well run event in a beautiful city.
I live in Ottawa and I believe I have run every distance at this event except the kids marathon. My first experience was the 8km in-line skate in 1997! I have volunteered on the route crew and as a pace bunny. I have also worked and volunteered at the expo. Here are a few tips gathered through the years.
Links for more information and athlete tracking:
Link for tracking app https://www.runottawa.ca/download-the-ottawa-race-weekend-app
The Expo and bib pick-up- Shaw Centre 55 Colonel By Drive
More details and a list of vendors can be found here
When to go
- The expo opens on Thursday night 4:00pm-8:00pm. Thursday is the quietest night for the expo and kit pick-up so if you can make it Thursday night that’s the time to go.
- Friday the expo is open from 10:00am – 8:00pm there is usually a big line at 10:00am and another rush at lunch time.
- Saturday the expo is open 9:00am-6:00pm. This is by far the busiest time to go! At times there are lines just to get into the building. Avoid Saturday if you can.
- Bibs for the 2k and 5k must be picked up before 1:00pm on Saturday.
- The kids marathon is at 2:00pm on Saturday and some of the area roads will be closed by 1:00pm or even earlier.
You can pick up other people’s bibs for them. You need to know their bib number and have a copy of their confirmation email.
You cannot pick-up bibs after the expo closes on Saturday
If you are shopping at the expo look around the best deal may not be the first one you see!
The parking lots close to the expo fill up and they are not cheap.
There is a parking lot under city hall by the start but DO NOT PARK THERE on Saturday afternoon. Once they start closing roads for the afternoon events you will be trapped in the parking lot. On Saturday and Sunday parking at World Exchange is free. It’s a bit of a walk to the expo but it’s a good spot for the start and it’s not on the race course.
Consider taking the bus, the LRT or riding your bike to the expo
There is free secure bike parking at the expo.
Thursday, May 27 3:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Friday, May 28 9:30 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, May 29 8:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Free bus tours are available for the marathon course at 9:30 am and 11:30 am on Saturday. You need a ticket which you can get from the info booth at the expo.
Packing for race day: everything you need to pack in your marathon day race bag
You have been training all winter and the big day is almost here. While you are tampering and relaxing take some time to put together your race day bag. What you need will depend on the weather but as any good boy scout will tell you it’s always best to be prepared!
Things to bring to the start:
- Your race bib with timing chip.
- Safety pins or a race belt to attach your bib.
- If you don’t have them on already, your running shoes, shorts and shirt.
- Body Glide because places that never chafed before will chafe on race day! For the guys – You may even want to use nip guards or band aids as well.
- A sunhat or visor.
- Gels, snacks or drinks you plan to use during or before the race. Bring extra just in case and don’t put gels in your shorts pockets if you plan to sit down before the race it can get messy!
- Your GPS, sports watch or heart rate monitor.
- A long sleeved T-shirt to put over your running clothes at the start and even for the first couple of kilometres.
- A cheap hat and some gloves. Great for keeping warm at the start and easy to take off once you warm up.
- On a colder day you can also add DYI arm warmers. Buy some cheap long socks and cut the toes off. Instant arm warmers which are cheap enough to throw away.
- In the past you have been able to get into city hall before and after the races if you get really cold. Not confirmed for 2022
- Extra warm clothes to wear before the race. If you are going to have to hang around before the gun goes off bring some extra layers you don’t care about. Go on a Value Village shopping spree or wear some old clothes you were going to give to charity anyway.
- Garbage bags. These are great for sitting on, wearing to keep warm or dry or for making new friends when you give them away to other runners in need before the race.
- If you tossing extra layers make sure to toss them off the course so no one trips on them.
- A permanent marker. If you want extra encouragement from the crowd write your name on your arm so they can call it out.
Things to put in a checked bag or to give to a friend so you have them after the race is over:
- Dry clothes. Even on a warm day you will get chilly once you stop running.
- Sandals to put on when you have that I never want to wear these shoes again feeling.
- A little money for a cab, the bus or a snack
- A cell phone. This one is a bit risky because it could get lost but at big races it can make finding your friends much easier.
Once your bag is packed sit down and take a break! The hard part is over. All you need to do now is race!
Give yourself lots of extra time race day. The traffic can be bad, if you are driving you need to find parking, if you are checking bags you need to drop them off and there is always that last minute need for the bathrooms!
LRT and Bus
This is the easiest way to get downtown. Tickets can be purchased at all LRT stations with a debit or credit card. You can find more details and fares here The busses still run although they get delayed when the 5k, marathon and ½ marathon races start. The fares are the same as the LRT. You can pay with cash on the bus. You can find a route planner here
In general take the Queensway. You will always be able to get in via Nicholas but the traffic is bad and Saturday the Rideau Centre Parking lots will most likely be full. If you are running the marathon the World Trade Centre parking lot via Metcalfe is a good bet but getting out can take a while and it will probably be full before the start of the half. World Trade Centre is free on Weekends and $5 after 6:00pm on Friday. I would personally avoid the city hall parking because there are too many roads closed and you can’t get in or out during the race starts.
A complete list of road closures can be found here http://www.runottawa.ca/races-and-events/tamarack-ottawa-race-weekend/weekend-information/road-closures note that some parts of Laurier, Elgin and Queen Elizabeth are closed before 1pm on Saturday and 5am on Sunday.
If you are looking for a warm-up! There is Free secure bike parking at City Hall.
Saturday, May 28 3:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Sunday, May 29 6:00a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
All races on Saturday and Sunday start by city hall near the corner of Elgin and Laurier. The actual start line is NOT the same for all races.
There is a bag check area behind city hall on Lisgar. There is a tear off claim tag on your bib which you need to attach to your bag. You will need your bib number to pick-up your bag. Even if you have friends and family there it may be a good idea to check your bag in case you can’t find them at the finish line.
These are ALL big races and the starts are by coral. Your bib will have a colour which is your suggested coral. This is based on the time you said you were going to run when you registered. If that has changed you can start in a different coral. There are signs for each coral so you can find the right place to start. No one checks to make sure you are in the correct coral but please do not start at the front of the race unless you plan to win it! The 5k, 10k, and ½ all have wave starts i.e. they will start a few corals and then wait a couple of minutes before starting the next ones. All races are based on chip time so your time is going to be the time between when you crossed the start line and when you crossed the finish line so don’t worry about how long it takes you to get to the start.
In general all the races are pretty flat and scenic they include many of the city’s main tourist attractions and the crowds and on course entertainment get better every year. They are all pretty fast courses. It can be warm and some years it is hot. The Saturday night events tend to be warmer.
The Marathon – course map https://www.racepoint.ca/maps/orw.html?mapid=6&r=marathon
Water, Nuun, comfort, and misting stations: every 3K
Xact Energy Bars: 11.5K, 27K, 38K
Cooling stations (cooling towels): 16.9K and 32K
Half Marathon course map https://www.racepoint.ca/maps/orw.html?mapid=6&r=half
Water, Nuun, comfort, and misting stations: every 3K
Xact Energy Bars: 9.5K
Cooling stations (cooling towels): 11.5K
10K course map https://www.racepoint.ca/maps/orw.html?mapid=7
Water, comfort and misting stations: 4.2K, 7.8K and 8.5K
5K course map https://www.racepoint.ca/maps/orw.html?mapid=7&r=10
Water and comfort stations: 2.5K and 4K
2k course map https://www.racepoint.ca/maps/orw.html?mapid=7
All the races have the same finish line on Queen Elizabeth. You get medals and shiny metal capes for the longer events.
Challengers: There is a special medal tent for you right before the food tent. Be sure to pick-up your challenge medal there!
New this year: the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend Personal Best (PB) Bell! Make sure to ring the bell if you achieve a personal best at Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend!
Follow the crowd for food, usually bagels, bananas, granola bars and the like although it tends to be slim pickings by the time the last runners get there. The whole area including Confederation Park is only open to runners. There are coloured banners in Confederation Park which are useful for meeting other runners.
If you have friends and family arrange a meeting place ahead of time. There is a friends and family area in front of city hall.
For the kids marathon ONLY
Parents, caregivers, and teachers: There are coloured meet-up pillars in the Secured Recovery Zone in Confederation Park that match the colour bar on your children’s bibs. After the race, kids receive their medals, walk through the food zone before arriving at the pillars. Please talk to your children about meeting them at the pillar that matches the colour bar on their bib.
Parents and caregivers are not permitted on the exciting new course, however volunteers and staff will ensure children stay on it.
Sunday the area between the Alexandria Bridge/ Colonel By and the start and finish are good places to watch and see runners more than once.
On Saturday Queen Elizabeth for the 10K and the Laurier bridge for the 5k
If someone wants to support you out on the course. It will be easier on a bike than in a car but bikes are NOT allowed on the course.
The Pace Bunnies in the 10k, ½ and full marathon at Ottawa are very good. Most of them finish within a minute of their projected time. If you are looking to follow a bunny keep in mind that they run on chip time so it’s better to start a little behind the bunny if you cross with or in front of them you are sure to make you goal.
Extra Mile Crew
Ottawa also has a somewhat unique extra mile crew for the marathon. They will run with you and encourage you for a while towards the end of the marathon. They will be out on the course in the last 10K or so offering encouragement to runners who want it. If you are trying to BQ you will not see them they generally start with the runners who are over 4:30 finish pace.
If you get blisters try putting body glide on your feet
The bathrooms are usually open in the Rideau Centre so if you are doing a warm-up run that may be a good spot to run to.
Have fun and be proud!