When 146 runners lined up under sunny skies at Carleton University for the first Ottawa Marathon on May 25, 1975, organizers believed they were staging a one-time affair. Few would have thought that almost 30 years later organizers would be celebrating one of Canada's oldest major marathons boasting not hundreds, but thousands of competitors. Braving cold temperatures (-8 C in 1996) or hot weather (28 C in 1993), the marathon has grown in size and popularity.
Like with any event, the organizing committee has faced challenges over the past quarter century. These challenges were all met and as a result the Ottawa Marathon continues to be Canada's best marathon destination. Looking to expand, organizers introduced the Ottawa 10K in 1986 - now known as the MDS Nordion 10K Run/Walk. Adding the shorter event has proven to be a popular decision, attracting roughly 6200 participants in 2005.
Over the years, other races were added to enhance interest in the race weekend and make it possible for everyone in the community to participate. Now the weekend also includes the half marathon, the 5K and 2K family fun runs/walks, as well as the in-line skate marathon and half marathon.
In later years an important fundraising component was added to the race and runners were encouraged to raise pledges for various charities. To date, the Ottawa Race Weekend has raised over 3.5 million dollars for the Ottawa Hospital Foundation, benefiting the Breast Cancer Centre and the new Prostate Centre. In recent years our fundraising efforts have been propelled forward by the MDS Nordion/Ottawa Hospital Fundraising Challenge. Led by former Ottawa Mayor Jackie Holzman and MDS Nordion’s David McInnis, the challenge has added yet another element of excitement to the Race Weekend.
Many other changes and additions, including the Race Weekend Sports Fitness Expo, the move to a one-loop marathon course through downtown Ottawa and of course the growing support from the running community, have all contributed to the Race Weekend’s rich history and helped to make it what it is today.