The Rideau Canal, a fine piece of nautical infrastructure built between 1826 and 1832, has become one of the features of Ottawa’s downtown neighbourhoods. During the summer months, hundreds of boats cruise down the waterway from Kingston to Ottawa, along with many canoeists and kayakers. In the winter, tourists and locals alike flock to the World’s Largest Skating Rink to glide along the 7.8km stretch of ice, equivalent in area to 90 Olympic-size hockey rinks!
However, to many endurance athletes in the region, spending time on the canal has a much different meaning. Alongside the waterway are kilometers of paved recreational pathways that stretch from the Chateau Laurier to Hog’s Back, and connect with other networks of pathways throughout Ottawa. This makes it very easy to find routes for running, biking, and roller-skiing that can be 30km long or more! Throughout your ride, run or ski, you do not have to contend with any cars or exhaust, and this allows you to get into a great rhythm and chug out some major training hours.
Like many Ottawa residents, I am fortunate enough to live very close to the canal, and this is great motivation for training! Anytime I look out my window or walk out my front door, there are dozens of active people running and biking and having loads of fun. When so many people train side by side, it creates a strong local community with great positive vibes. It’s great when you frequently see the same people and develop a sense of belonging within this broad sport community.
Rideau Canal at Delaware Avenue - Home Sweet Home
Although some athletes may find the canal too flat or too busy with pedestrians, I suggest that it can compliment other training well. Many athletes find that while their hill-climbing ability may not improve, and their knees can suffer from the incessant pavement pounding; remember that we also have the Gatineau Park at our disposal. There, on the Fortune Parkway, we can get our one-skate rollerski climbing technique nailed down, and do all the trail running we can handle. For those mid-week long distance runs, or a 25km+ double-pole workout, I find the long and winding pathways of the canal to be perfect.
I also think it’s important to recognize how lucky we are to have this resource available to us. As recently as the 1970’s, there was a push by Ottawa City Council to pave over the canal and convert it to an expressway! I cannot imagine the effect this would have had upon neighbourhoods such as the Glebe, Old Ottawa South, Old Ottawa East, and the downtown Golden Triangle. Without some progressive political pressure during that era, we might not have the extensive pathway network and green space that we have today.
The end of the Rideau Canal, as seen from the Quebec side of the Ottawa River