I am not a runner, but after cheering for my friends at the 2011 Army Run in Ottawa, I wish I was!
The Army Run is described as “an experience you don’t want to miss” and I can see why! 16,000 people, military and civilian, lined up to do the 5km and half marathon distances on what can only be described as a glorious September day in Ottawa. I was there to cheer on my friend for his first half marathon, yet knew very little of the event that was about to unfold. Turns out that the Army Run is the fastest growing running event around. It serves as a great opportunity to thank the men and women who serve our country in so many ways, both at home and over seas. The run raises funds for Soldier On and Military Families Fund. More than anything though, the Army Run demonstrates a spirit of camaraderie that is felt throughout the event with people joined in a common goal.
Electric with the excitement of the runners, the festivities were kicked off with the Governor General’s Foot Guard and a cannon rather than the traditional starter’s pistol. The Army Run has a definite military feel. Military personnel, including those who have been injured and disabled, and civilians alike took to the streets. Some military members dressed in full field gear – including a group of RMC (Royal Military College) cadets in full hazmat suits! The race shirts given to all participants have sleeves of camouflage – just another hint at the military theme.
The half marathon route took the runners through many scenic areas of Ottawa, running past Parliament Hill, crossing the Ottawa River twice, before running past the Governor General’s Residence, returning along Sussex Drive and back to the finishing chute at City Hall. Spectators of all ages lined the route. Cheers of encouragement brought smiles to many as the course swept through town. At the 17 km point, runners were jubilant as spectators yelled encouragements – only 4 kms to go! For some, the evidence of their first run was painted on their faces. Friends encouraged their running partners to keep it up – almost there. Kids lined the sidewalks with signs for their parents as they waited anxiously to see them run by. As the runners crossed the finish line, they were greeted by a line of honour – soldiers handing out dog tags as finisher’s medals for the event.
The Army Run is a full weekend event with family fun on Friday and Saturday. When racers pick up their race kits, they are invited to check out the military display and talk to the soldiers at the Cartier Square Drill Hall. A popular diversion for kids were the tanks on display. There is also a sports exhibit hall with the opportunity to buy last minute running gear, or learn about running tours that are available to the running tourist (how about a run in the Bahamas???)
If you are a runner looking for a weekend in Ottawa, why not add the Army Run to your “to do” list of runs. Who knows, I may just get out there for next year!
Looking for more runs: check out the Color Run – we headed down to Boston for the New England Color Run – the happiest 5K on the planet and definitely the most colorful!