Winterman 2016. Remember my whining? The race gets delayed to allow time for it to ‘warm up’ to a balmy -25C with a lovely headwind from the west for a windchill of -35C.
It’s now May and time for the Ottawa Race Weekend races – 5K/10K/half marathon/marathon. I started tracking the weather a month ago, because Canadians are just as obsessed with it as the British. It was looking good with the forecast predicting mid-teens. Two weeks out it was 20C and cloudy. Two days out, the heat warnings began and suggestions that one or more of the races could be cancelled as the temperature was predicted to hit 31C, with the humidity making it feel like 38C.
Hmm … I’m sensing a trend here. I’ve only run five ‘real’ races in Canada since I returned and four of them have been either too hot or too cold. ‘Move back to London,’ I hear the Pluckies shout!
Unlike in previous years though, this year we had had quite a bit of hot weather leading up to the race, which helped with training and I had the additional advantage of including the tropical Ealing Eagles 10K in my training plan.
I’ll get to the actual half marathon race in a moment but first I have to commend Run Ottawa, the race organisers. They did a truly amazing job of anticipating the challenges the hot conditions presented.
Run Ottawa started by announcing possible cancellations and warning people of the conditions on Facebook, Twitter, e-mail and in the media on Thursday. This is not an easy feat as there over 40,000 runners registered in the four main races. Saturday morning, it was announced that the 10K would be delayed 30 minutes and start at 7:00pm whilst the half marathon, on Sunday, would start 45 minutes earlier at 8:15 am. (Unlike Boston, the Ottawa marathon always starts at 7:00 am.) It was also announced that if runners turned up late for the HM start, they’d still be able to start at the original time of 9:00 am.
The 30-minute delay on the 10K was enough time for a thunder storm to arrive and douse the runners before they headed off. They started out good and wet, not ideal for some, but still better than good and hot. The 45-minute advance for the HM made an even greater difference. It was cloudy and about 20C, with a nice breeze when I started off. The sun and hot conditions only materialised over the last 3K for me. The HM course support was also adapted and energy drink/water stations were doubled to one every 1-2K rather than 3K. Misting stations, sponges and air conditioned busses were available every 5K or so, in addition to the locals putting on their hoses and lawn sprinklers.
Now for the race.
I was running with my friend, Meg (also waving in the pics), from the Ottawa Running Club and had a fab time. We started off with the 2:10 pacer but got behind as we walked through the many water stations to give us chance to cool down. The morning started cloudy with a nice breeze that cooled you off when running through the many sprinklers and misting stations. We ran through so many of them that at the end, I think we’d gained about 2kg! The sun kept threatening to come out but stayed in the clouds until about 18K. At that point the crowds of supporters were huge so we didn’t even notice the sudden increase in temperature. The finish is along the Rideau Canal where there is wall of cheering and encouragement until the finish line. When you got there you could even have your photo taken with a Mountie – we passed on the opportunity and let the tourists queue up!
The run itself is lovely. It’s a flat, grand loop around the centre of Ottawa and over into Gatineau, Quebec taking in the Rideau Canal, two bridges and great views of our parliament and other iconic buildings. Bands were playing, supporters were out in force and everyone was having a blast. It was the ‘fastest’ HM I’ve ever run, even if my time was not a PB.
If you’ve a mind to do running tourism, put Ottawa Race Weekend on your list. It even fits nicely with the UK half-term break!