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Ottawa Race Weekend 2010
By:  Katie McMahon   (2010/06/02)


Running shoes? Check. Sunscreen? Check. Bib number and timing chip? Check. A crowd of 30 thousand to run with...? Check!

                What began in 1975 as a potential one-time affair marathon has now, thirty years later, become known as the Ottawa Race Weekend. Not only is one of Canada’s most popular marathon’s being held in XC Ottawa’s backyard every year, but there are a 2km, 5km, 10km, 21km to accompany it. Each event holds its own in numbers as well as variety of participants.

                 As I lined up for the start of my 5km race this past Saturday evening, squeezed between a serious looking high school track runner and a mother/daughter team hooked into their iPods, I wondered if the entire city of Ottawa was out here by the Rideau Canal. Looking back over my shoulder, the crowd that stretched from Elgin over the Laurier Bridge, disappearing into the Ottawa University campus, confirmed that query.


              Spectators lining the street to watch the race

      My watch flashes 5 O’clock and BANG! the gun goes off...and over 30 seconds later I cross the start line. Not fazed in the slightest, knowing the time that counts is what the timing chip on my shoe indicates and not the race clock, I began zig-zagging through what can only be described as a massive sea of people. Some may describe this task as incredibly frustrating, but it can also make the race that much more exciting and unpredictable. Now add thousands of spectators into the mix and you get one unforgettable run. From start to finish the entire course was lined, sometimes 5-10 people deep, with everyone’s parent, child, friend, dog, cheering them towards that finish line.  I think the only time I lost the smile from my face due to all the positive energy the entire race was the last 500m to the finish, where the pain I was experiencing momentarily dulled the roar of the crowd.


               Katie after her 5km

     After my race, I stuck around to watch the 10km unfold. This is my favourite race to watch because of what began in 2007 to create more exciting finishes for the crowd; the gender challenge. The elite women begin their race 4minutes 7 seconds before the elite men and the rest of the participants. If a woman crosses the finish line before the first man, she wins an additional $5000 and the right to say she was the first person to break the finish line ribbon. Every year it comes down to mere seconds but this year was the first time a woman, Dire Tune of Ethiopia, crossed the finish line first  in a time of 32minutes 11.5 seconds over her male countryman Lelisa Desisa who won in 28minutes 8.9 seconds. Funny thing is, the male winner was a surprise to most, seeing as he had been recruited to pace a veteran champion to a world record time. When the man he was pacing faded, Desisa decided to make the move for himself and at 19 years of age won the overall title with the course’s second ever fastest time.


              Dire Tune 500m away from winning the Gender Challenge

     The half and full marathon were held bright and early Sunday morning in relatively cool and drizzly conditions; perfect whether for running. A marathon is a beast of distance to run, let alone race, even if you are an elite athlete. It requires mental strength like almost no other sporting event and can really put people in touch with their true selves. To many, it is a torturous experience, to others, an adventure of a life time. However I guaranty that the feelings of satisfaction, accomplishment and joy are felt by every single runner as they step over that finish line. From surprise winner Arata Fujiwara of Japan, who enjoyed his first international marathon career win with a time of 2:09:33.4 to the first-time marathon runner finishing in 5+ hours, the streets of Ottawa were overflowing with people giving everything they had and running their hearts out. Scanning the crowd for familiar faces about 1km away from the finish line, a man standing beside me caught my attention as he kept shouting “Congratulations everyone, you’ve done it!” I had never really thought of it like that. Nonetheless, that is exactly what these runners need to hear. For some of them, this is something they never thought was even possible, so being able to run 42.2km, truly is one of the best moments of their lives.


               Arata Fujiwara sprinting to the finish of the marathon 

         After every drop in the sea of racers have made it back, medals around their necks, bagels and juice boxes in hand and heating blankets over their shoulders, the city of Ottawa quickly returns to normal. Cups are cleaned up, banners taken down and roads opened once again to traffic. The tens of thousands of people who came together to complete a common goal and filled this city with an indisputable energy, disperse and head back to their respective lives...until next year that is.

Interesting Reading. . .
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