Old Ottawa East Neighbourhood Runner: Jesse Blondin

For Boston qualifier Jesse Blondin, Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend isn’t just about running but about cheering on the sidelines.

It’s been a tradition for several years for the Old Ottawa East runner: she encourages the 10K runners on Saturday and runs the Scotiabank Ottawa Half-Marathon on Sunday.

“I’ve participated in the Ottawa Race Weekend in some format every year since 2007,” she says. “It’s one of my favourite weekends of the year.”

Running became her physical activity of choice in 2006 after she graduated from the University of Ottawa. Rugby had been her sport throughout high school and post-secondary. She missed the challenge — and the cardio.

She completed 10 marathons in 11 years and has run the half-marathon in Ottawa more times than she can count. She reached her long-term goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon in 2017 and will run it for the third time this April.

It helps that she regularly runs with the Run Ottawa-affiliated Ottawa Athletic Club Racing Team, which trains weekly through the winter in the domed athletic field at Louis-Riel. During the rest of the year, the women’s road race team trains around the city and often along the Rideau Canal, which she considers one of the best running routes in Ottawa.

Running is a part of her everyday life — she simply loves to train. On top of running with peers, she’s also fond of going solo.

Check out one of Blondin’s favourite 10K loops, which leaves and returns to Old Ottawa East along the Rideau River.

Besides a strict training schedule, Blondin regularly commutes with a 7.5-km run to work at Health Canada every morning. Every afternoon she runs home, which is near Main Street and Riverdale Avenue, and she’s stoked to take the Rideau Canal in each direction.

“I would say proximity to those paths was a major selling feature for us when we bought our house four years ago,” she says.

Much like her regular commute, the Ottawa 10K also follows the Rideau Canal. The proximity of the route to her house makes it easy to get her kids involved.

“For the last three years, our whole family has set up a freezie station along Colonel By Drive, near Clegg,” she says. “I think it’s around the 7K mark, just where people are getting tired.”

With about 300 opened freezie pops in their wagon, the Blondin kids sling sustenance from the edge of their neighbourhood to runners ready for a boost. It’s one of the best parts of the weekend, says their mother.

My kids are quite talented at handing them out now that they’ve figured how to do it so people can pick them up while they’re running fast. Keep one foot on the curb, hold them out into the crowd, make eye contact with the runner.”

Blondin is once again signed up for the 2019 Scotiabank Ottawa Half Marathon and her seven-year-old daughter will probably run the Scotiabank Ottawa Kids Marathon again too.

“It’s really nice that it’s at the same time as the marathon and the half because the kids see adults of all different ages, shapes, and sizes participating in the sport,” she says. “I also think it gives them a sense of autonomy.”

With races of every distance and runners of every level, Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend reminds everyone that they can all be runners.

Want to get you family involved in Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend? Here are some race distances to help every member become a runner:

Scotiabank Ottawa Kids Marathon
Ottawa 2K
Ottawa 5K

Prices go up February 15th, 2019 so register today!

New Edinburgh Neighbourhood Runner: Ashley Kokelj

The ever-busy Run Ottawa member Ashley Kokelj puts balance first in all she does.

“Running is like meditation for me,” she says. “I choose to run not to break PBs, not to win any races, but to clear my mind and to challenge myself.”

As a community organizer and entrepreneur, she’s also linked meditation and libation in a unique way. Although yoga and beer are two ways to unwind, when do they ever go together?

Her business Yoga on Tap allows both to be enjoyed simultaneously. Sessions with sips of beer in between poses are Kokelj’s way to tackle moderation, she says, and to encourage others to balance their healthy life choices with pleasurable ones.

“I always make sure to talk about why it is that we’re spending our time doing this,” she says. “Your time is like money and you need to spend it wisely.”

When she isn’t running events with her business, she’s attending running events or hitting the trails in Gatineau Park. She also bikes or run-commutes to and from yoga studios and gyms across the city, and enjoys spending time with her growing family.

Finding balance is, for everyone, a personal quest andKokelj loves to encourage others to find what works best for them. Her community events aim to bring people together who wish to prioritize their health and happiness.

“I’ve always been a very outgoing and interested kind of person,” she says. “All these events just brought those interests all together.”

They have also been a way for Kokelj to foster new interests. After starting Yoga on Tap in 2015, she began commuting everywhere by bike. This kindled her love for endurance sports and led her to help people train for strength and endurance at Iron North Studio. And EPIC Fitness & Lifestyle. Currently, she is ompleting her Marathon Coaching certification.

Check out Kokelj’s favourite New Edinburgh running route.

As a counterpoint, Kokelj recently started offering meditation classes at The Peace Room on Sparks Street which has led her to run-commute 5K from North Vanier a few times a week.

“I’ve only been a runner for two years, as long as I’ve lived in New Edinburgh,” she says. “I do most of my running in Gatineau Park when it comes to trails. However, my very favourite route is probably down Beechwood to Birch, and then getting over to the Sir George-Étienne Cartier Parkway. If you take the Aviation Parkway, off some of the parking areas, you can actually go right down by the water on the Ottawa River Trail.”

At the Run to Beer events she organizes, a cold pint is the reward at the finish.  Her regular Run to Beer group meets monthly at a different Ottawa brewery before going for a 10K run (with 3K and 5Koptions). Since its inception in 2017, Kokelj has hosted speakers to talk about running, motivation, training, and even the brewing process, while the runners cool down and enjoy their pints.

“Actually, my son was born on the day of one of our speaker series,” she laughs. “We had 80 people signed up and Ray Zahab was coming to speak. I was on my way to the event and my water broke. That was a really interesting day for us!”

After completing the Ottawa 10K in 2016, she ran the Scotiabank Ottawa Half Marathon in 2017. Last year, a month after her son was born, she jogged to the Beechwood Cheering Station with her five-week-old for the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend.

“I hope to participate in the next race weekend, but if I don’t, I’ll definitely be present,” she says. “I just feel very, very blessed to be part of this running community.”

Are you ready to be part of the running community? Register for Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend to be part of the experience, and if a post-run beer sounds right for you take part in the Ottawa 10K, Scotiabank Marathon or Half-Marathon and enjoy a cold Kichesippi beer at the finish line.

Run New Edinburgh: A beacon of support for marathon runners

When Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon runners cross the Rideau River and pass two major Canadian landmarks—the Prime Minister’s official residence at 24 Sussex Dr. and the Governor General’s Rideau Hall—they know they’re in New Edinburgh.

Almost 30 km into the race, they also know the marathon is starting to get real.

After following Sir George-Étienne Cartier Parkway along the picturesque Ottawa River, runners then wind their way back through the forested residential area of Rockcliffe Park before emerging on Beechwood Avenue to head back downtown via New Edinburgh.

It’s this run down Beechwood Avenue—which straddles the neighbourhoods of New Edinburgh and North Vanier—where things start to get interesting for these long-distance runners.

“It’s kind of a gauntlet,” says Pierre Deschamps, who has run the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon three times. “It’s narrow, and there’s a lot of people. By the time you get to Beechwood, you’re approaching 35K and you’re starting to hurt.”

Thankfully, this is where marathoners find the first Extra Mile Crew station, where temporary running partners are ready to lend a hand.

“If things aren’t going according to plan, it can start to get pretty dark,” says Deschamps of the psychological state experienced in these late race stages, “and the Extra Mile Crew members are really good at taking you out of the darkness.”

Deschamps, who hasworked in IT for close to 25 years, is also the marathon clinic leader at the Running Room on Bank Street. His longer distance clinics on Sundays often come through the neighbourhood where he has lived for over 20 years.

“I think it’s one of the best places in the city because it still has that character, it still feels very much like a village,” he says of New Edinburgh.

The main thoroughfare is peppered with restaurants, shops, and cafés. Tucked off the avenue but easily accessible are hot spots like Ola Cocina, a family-owned and operated taco counter, and Fraser Café, a locally-sourced bistro. Deschamps says The Scone Witch bakery is a staple: “It cannot be missed.”

Joseph Cull, a City of Ottawa group fitness leader for people over 55, has lived in New Edinburgh for 18 years.

“It’s a community that has been designed to encourage people to be healthy, active, and engaged,” says Cull. “There are all these places to be out and about, and you never feel like you have to work hard at it. ”

The 2018 Beechwood Cheering Station

Cull founded the Beechwood Cheering Station about 15 years ago, which first started applauding marathoners at the Fieldhouse in the New Edinburgh Park on Stanley Avenue.

“I thought, there’s no cheering station for New Edinburgh and Vanier so why don’t we try to get both communities involved?” says Cull.

Since then, it has set the bar for Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon cheering stations. Last year, Cull estimates over 500 spectators participated.

“It’s an amazing feeling when you can touch someone’s life that you don’t know,” says Cull. “It does the heart good.”

Deschamps, who was a marathon cheerer before he became a runner in 2015, says the station regularly wins the Cheer Station Challenge partly because of its large presence all the way through to the last runner.

“It’s around 8 a.m. when the elites get here,” he says. “That’s something to see, I mean these guys just glide, fly right by. But, as amazing to me—if not more—are the ones showing up three or four hours later.”

Finding himself on the other side of the marathon’s sidelines in 2015, Deschamps was starting to lose steam when he ran into old friends and neighbours at the Beechwood Cheering Station.

The Xtra Mile Crew helps a runner push through New Edinburgh.

“By that time in the race things were starting to be less fun,” he says. “To have somebody that you know cheering for you is very motivating. Actually, extremely motivating.”

If you’re looking for a supportive marathon atmosphere, you’ll find it in New Edinburgh and all along the marathon route at the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon.

Register for the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon at Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend.

Gear Up: How Best to Handle the Change in Running Seasons

There are a few reasons to be wary of running during the shortest days of the year. When it’s not quite fall and not quite winter, and definitely not summer, getting out poses a triple challenge for joggers. How best to stay dry, stay warm, and stay visible?

The answer to all three is simple: gear up. Messy streets, low lights, and temperatures hovering around 0° are challenges best met head-on.

Footwear First

Finding good shoes can pose a challenge in any season, but when it comes to running in the ice and slush, softer soles and deeper treads allow for better traction.

James Davis—a year-round runner who works in the footwear department at Bushtukah—recommends a regular trail shoe with strong water-resistant coatings. To go a step further, get fully waterproof trail shoe models that are made with GoreTex.

“GoreTex is really great because it provides a better waterproofing coating and it’s a little warmer,” says Davis.

Their insulating liners are part of the shoe’s construction: a kind of hidden bootie that protects you from the elements. More adventurous runners who will trudge through deep snow may want to add ankle or shin gators to their footwear.

With element-proof shoes, thicker wool socks are also going to help. The thickness, just like other apparel options, are a matter of personal taste.

Dress Up Time

Even if late fall is a snowy one, it doesn’t quite call for winter’s jackets with built-in gators or toques and balaclavas. It is that time of year though to pull out weightier wool base layers, liner gloves, and windproof pants.

The real trick, says Davis, is to not overheat.

“I know a lot of people, myself included, who are guilty of wearing too many layers at the start of a run,” he says. “It’s best to be a little bit cool at the start because you’re going to heat up quickly.”

On the torso, start with a medium-weight, long-sleeve base layer made of wool. If that’s not enough, cotton gloves and a lightweight buff can keep out the elements. The idea is to keep the wind from getting in, which will be felt mostly on the legs.

“Choose something for your bottom half that provides wind-proofing and that has a softshell surface,” says Davis. “Really blocking the elements from reaching your legs is of great importance.”

Seen Means Safe

Besides staying warm and dry, safety and visibility are major concerns during this time of year. Runs before or after work often mean jogging in the dark. Unless you go running on a sunny lunch hour, says Davis, reflectors and lights are essential.

Reflectors come in all shapes and sizes: from wrist bands and ankle bands to safety vests, reflective stickers, or more technical running clothing with built-in strips or dots. Lighting accessories are just as versatile. There are basic blinking heel clips and armbands but, to both see and be seen, upgrade the game with a double-ended headlamp. The Black Diamond Sprinter Headlamp is lightweight and has both a front lamp and red blinking lights on the rear.

It’s this kind of multi-function tool that parallels the best thing about fall-to-winter gear: what you use at this time of year will come in handy again in early spring.

Of course, the best thing to help get you through these short, dark days is a light at the end of the tunnel (or at the end of your training) and a 10K, half-marathon or marathon at Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend might be just what you need! Register for your next race today or get the runner in your life a gift certificate for their first race of 2019.

Roasted Vegetable Soup for Winter Running

Winter is finally here and that means it’s time to swap out the fall running gear for a new season, but winter running is about more than a wardrobe change, it also means changing our diets. How can you make sure you are getting the nutrients your body needs to keep healthy and running during the winter months? We asked nutritionist Beth Mansfield for some tips and a recipe.

“Important nutrients for winter training include fluids, Vitamin D and lots of vegetable based antioxidants! This roasted veggie soup made with milk accomplishes all of those,” says Beth Mansfield.

So, get roasting with this tasty soup to fuel your runs, and remember to keep hydrated when you work out!

Roasted Vegetable Soup


4-6 peeled parsnips (1 bag), 1 butternut squash, 6 large peeled carrots (1 large bag baby carrots), 1 unpeeled sweet potato, 1-2 large peeled beet(s)


  • Cut into small cubes and spread in a large roasting pan.
  • Drizzle olive oil, garlic, pepper and Herbes de Provence on top.
  • Mix well with hands. Roast at 345 F in oven, tossing vegetables once, for 30-40 minutes.
  • Puree into a think soup in blender using skim milk.
  • Store in containers in fridge for up to a week or freeze for use later on.


Dr. Elizabeth (Beth) Mansfield, PhD, RD is a Registered Dietitian, Sport Nutrition Specialist, and Certified Exercise Physiologist with Peak Performance in Ottawa. Beth educates Canadian athletes on sport nutrition for health and performance.

Gatineau Neighbourhood Runner – Terry SanCartier

In 2007, Terry SanCartier, a member of the Run Ottawa-affiliated running club Place du Portage (PdP) Road Runners, ran his first ever marathon in Ottawa.

“You never forget your first one,” he says. “The goal was to do 3:45, and that’s exactly what I did. Coming through the finish line, having done something so big, I was ecstatic. I’d never done anything like that.”

Originally from Sudbury, SanCartier moved to Nepean in the late ‘80s to attend Algonquin College, and moved to Gatineau in 1991. It wasn’t until 2007 that he began to run in earnest: that year he ran marathons in Ottawa in the spring and Toronto in the fall. Gradually it came to be that he was running up to three, then five, and then six or seven marathons a year.

“In those early years I really tried to get into Boston,” he says, “but it was getting tough and I was disappointed after some races.”

Worried that his love for the sport would fade, he adopted a different objective: to run 50 marathons before he turned 50.

“I reached that goal when I was 45,” he says. “Then I had two months where I thought, ‘what am I going to do now?’ So I made it 100 marathons by the time I was 50.”

SanCartier turns 48 this month and he just completed his 75th marathon on Nov. 4 at the Hamilton Marathon Road2Hope. With only two years and 25 marathons left to go, he plans to run at least 13 marathons in 2019.

Here is the map of my chosen running route. I call it the Champlain Bridge Loop — I alternate the direction from time to time but I most often start on the Ontario side of the river. The Quebec side of this route is not flat and is good training for races with uneven terrain. I enjoy this loop as it is generally less congested than the paths along the canal in the summer months — especially on the Quebec side.”

He regularly runs in Ontario and Quebec but would like to run more in the Maritimes, the prairies, and the territories. He and his girlfriend, Geneviève Lagrange, also take turns deciding on an international running trip every year. Next year, he decided that they’d go to Croatia.

“My girlfriend and I absolutely love to travel, and it fits in with my love of photography.”

In 2014, he travelled to Gambia, West Africa to participate in a run called Love4Gambia. Created to promote and raised funds for health education in Gambia, SanCartier was part of a group that ran 424 km in 17 days — this just a week after he ran Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend.

“I like sharing stories, but it’s not about boasting,” he says. “It’s about inspiring people… It sounds so cliché, but had I not run that marathon in 2007 of course I wouldn’t be where I am now. I wouldn’t have done something like the run in Gambia to help people in that country.”

SanCartier, who lives in Gatineau near Chelsea and works in Ottawa at Transport Canada, joined the PdP Road Runners about eight years ago. Several civil servants realized they were all leaving for runs from the Place du Portage complex and began to run together.

Richard Goodfellow, a founding member of PdP, says they chose nicknames for each other. Due to his high mileage, SanCartier’s nickname was Diesel.

“He is one of the nicest guys I know,” says Goodfellow. “His strategy seems to be to meet a new friend at every race in order to pass the time.”

Sometimes the PdP Road Runners would take a slightly longer lunch, says SanCartier, and drive into Gatineau Park. Though fall is his favourite season to run, he remembers summer lunch runs being a lot of fun. One day, the PdP crew drove up to the O’Brien Beach P11 parking lot to run to the Carbide Willson ruins. They capped off their jog through the woods with a cool down in the stream’s water.

Goodfellow remembers the day just as fondly: “Did Terry mention that there was some beer chilling in the water at the end of the run?”

Want to explore Ottawa and Gatineau in one go? Register for Canada’s only cross-provincial marathon and half-marathon.