Before going on a family vacation trip that included a stop at Ottawa I’d never heard of the Rideau Canal. Now I’m happy to say that I know it well. The canal is the place to be when you visit Ottawa, judging from the number of runners and cyclists I saw.
There are wide, well-maintained paths on both sides of the canal as it winds through the downtown of Ottawa. There are interesting views of the city and plenty of grass and trees along the way to make this the most welcoming of urban running areas. As you run, you’re accompanied by boats of all types, including canoes and kayaks, and even stand up paddle boarders.
A quick note: for anyone thinking of traveling to Ottawa in the winter, be sure to bring your skates. The Canal has the title of the world’s largest skating rink; it’s almost 5 miles long. Last year there were 71 days of skating, with 1,200,000 visits to the canal—along the same route runners and cyclists use in warmer weather.
At the south end of the path are the locks to help transport boats down to the Ottawa River–
definitely an interesting conclusion to your run. There I encountered two kayakers on an 8-day 180 mile trip from Kingston, on Lake Ontario, the north end of the canal. One has run Boston twice and made me a believer in the great opportunities to enjoy endurance sports in Canada.
The canal is an important part of the highlight of the running year in Ottawa—the Ottawa Race Weekend that will be held on May 23-24, 2015, http://www.runottawa.ca. The marathon start and finish are on the Canal, and runners get to enjoy the path twice during the run. There’s also a half marathon, 10K, 5K, 2K and kids race. Last year 47,500 runners competed in the six events during the weekend.
Once you’re done with your run, take some time to walk along Parliament Hill to see the very impressive Parliament and government buildings that appear to be straight out of old England and are surprisingly accessible. Be sure to walk up behind the buildings to see the spectacular view of the Ottawa River. Maybe even take in the changing of the guard if you want to play tourist.
If you need some new running shoes or other gear, make your way up Bank St. to the Glebe neighborhood and stop in the Running Room, www.runningroom.com, 613-233-5617. You’ll need to take a cab if you’re staying downtown and are not with a car.
Speaking of downtown Ottawa, there are quite a number of good hotels within walking distance of the government and the canal. At breakfast, you may even encounter a foreign government official in town for an important meeting. Also, before you travel, check out Ottawa’s schedule of festivals—it seems there’s one for every interest. When I was there, we wandered over to Confederation Park to catch part of the Jazz Festival.
My suggestion: add Ottawa to your list of places to visit and to run.
The part of the path I ran then turns east for more open views of the city with parks
Will Kuhlmann is an avid runner who has completed marathons in many states and internationally. He also enjoys other endurance sports and traveling. Will is actively involved in helping develop On The Go Group, Inc. He and his wife, Mary Sue, live in Ohio, and their two children live in