Ottawa Race Weekend Info and Tips

The Expo and bib pick-up - Shaw Centre 55 Colonel By Drive

Ottawa race weekend tips

When to go

Ottawa race weekend expo tips
  • 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-4:00pm. 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

  • NEW for 2017- Bibs for the 2k and 5k must be picked up before 1:00pm on Saturday.

  • The 2k is at 3:00pm on Saturday and some of the area roads will be closed by 1:00pm

  • 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.

  • NEW for 2017- You can pick-up a maximum of 3 race kits for other people who do not share your address

  • You cannot pick-up bibs after the expo closes at 4:00pm 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

  • Consider taking the bus or riding your bike to the expo

  • There is free supervised bike parking available on Colonel By by Nakkertok ($2 suggested donation)

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 and 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.

  • Sunblock.

  • A sunhat or visor.

  • Sunglasses.

  • 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.

  • You can get into city hall before and after the races in Ottawa if you get really cold.

  • 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!

Race Day

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!

Getting Around


The buses still run although they get delayed when the 5k, marathon and ½ marathon races start. There is bike parking available on Saturday and Sunday at city hall if you are up to that!


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. 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 note that some parts of Laurier, Elgin and Queen Elizabeth are closed by 1pm on Saturday and 5am on Sunday.

The Start

Ottawa race weekend start line tips

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. The 10k corals line up on Laurier and the race starts out going down Elgin towards Dow's Lake. The 2k and 5k both start on Elgin and head towards Parliament Hill.

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 NEW for 2017 all bags should be clear plastic bags. 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.

You can find an interactive map for Saturday here and Sunday here

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.

The Races

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 last year it was hot. The Saturday night events tend to be warmer.


It starts slightly uphill on Elgin and you have an uphill and then a downhill on Wellington/Rideau. Once you hit Colonel by its relatively flat to the end. There is only one water station, it ONLY has water and it is almost at the 4k mark! So if you are doing this one with the kids you may want to bring water. Note he course has changed slightly from 2017


The whole course is pretty flat the only climb is up Lakeside Ave just before the halfway point and over the Bronson Street Bridge which is the half way point. You then run down from Bronson to Colonel By. It can be windy along the canal and it’s more likely to be a head wind on the way back. There are three water stations the first is under the Bronson street bridge at about 4K, the second is on Colonel By around 7k and the last one is at almost 9k. All of the stations have water ONLY.

The marathon and half marathon

Hydration stations- taken directly from the website

  • Water/Nuun stations are set up approximately every 3K for the Scotiabank Marathon and Half Marathon.

  • Stations are set up with tables on both sides of the road, in most locations.

  • Nuun is served first, followed by water.

NEW for 2018 •Nuun Performance Mango Orange will be served on course. •Each serving (4oz) contains: 85mg Sodium Citrate, 4mg Calcium Citrate, 53mg Potassium Citrate, 2mg Vitamin C, 5mg Magnesium Citrate, 10mg Potassium Chloride and 4g (15 calories) Carbohydrates

  • NEW for 2018

  • Xact Nutririon stations (this is crew NOT a gel) •Marathon: located at 14K and 26K. Half marathon: located at 11K. Flavours will be strawberry, orange and apricot.

  • Sponge stations: Marathon: located at 16.9K, 25K, 32K and 36K. Half marathon: located at 11.5K and 15.5K.

  • For the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon and Half Marathon, orange and banana sections will be offered. Marathon: located at 14K and 28K. Half marathon: located at 11.5K.

The courses

The ½ Marathon and the Full Marathon

Both start on Elgin and go along the canal to Dows Lake where they turn towards Carling. The first water stop is along the canal at almost 4k. You go up Carling and see a big hill which you DO NOT go up! The course turns onto Sherwood before you get there! Both courses then use Fairmont to get to Wellington. The second water stop is between 7k and 8k on Sherwood. The next water stop is on Wellington around the 9k mark.New for 2018 The first 5k of the marathon course has changed slightly.

The Half Marathon

At Island Park the ½ turns and heads through Tunney’s Pasture to the Parkway where there is a water stop. There is a water station on Island Park and another in Tunny’s Pasture. The course heads towards the War Museum where there is another water stop. It is definitely uphill from Tunney’s Pasture to the War Museum! You then cross the EB Eddy bridge to Hull and run along past the Museum of Canadian History which also has a water stop, back over the Alexandria Bridge, past the National Gallery (and the giant spider) along the side of Major’s Hill Park. There is a water stop just before the Chateau Laurier.

The crowds are always big when you cross Rideau Street to Colonel By. Last water stop is on Colonel By then it’s over the Pretoria Bridge to the finish line. The last 1k is never that painful because there are lots of markers and lots of people!

The Marathon

When you get to Wellington and Island Park you keep going down Richmond, to Athlone where there is a water stop just past the 11k mark. The course goes back along Scott and then takes the same route as the ½ through Tunney’s Pasture and the water stop. When the course comes out onto the Parkway it goes west to Island Park where it turns and goes back to the War Museum just like the half does. There is a water stop on the parkway headed east just past 17K and another at the War Museum.

The course goes over the EB Eddy Bridge and turns left onto Alexandre Tache. The half way point is just over the bridge and there is a water stop just past the halfway point. The next 3k wiggles around a bit, there are also some short hills and some years the pavement is a bit rough so watch your feet. There is a water stop just past 24k.

The course rejoins the half course at the Canadian Museum of History with a water stop. You then cross the Alexandria Bridge and do a slight uphill to the Giant Spider. The full marathon turns left here and goes out along Sussex Drive. The next 5k follows Sussex to the parkway there are 3 water stops along the way. The runners coming the other way are a good distraction and you go right past 24 Sussex The course turns off the parkway at Birch Ave and does a loop around New Edinburg coming back out on Sussex by the Rideau River.

The cheering section around 36k is always enthusiastic! There is a water station past 33k and another around 36k. Once you get back on Sussex you stay on it run back to the Giant Spider cross Rideau with the crowds go down Colonel By to Pretoria Bridge then its just a victory km to the finish line! There are water stations On Sussex at 37k, and 38.5K and a final one on Colonel By at 40.5K.

The Finish

All the races have the same finish line on Queen Elizabeth. You get medals and shiny metal capes for the longer events. 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 Spectators

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.

Pace Bunnies

Ottawa race weekend pace bunnies

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.

Other Hints:

If you get blisters try putting body glide on your feet, You can drop off you old shoes at the expo for donation to charity.

Ottawa race weekend running tips

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!

Featured Posts
Recent Posts