Behind the scenes at Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend

There is so much that goes into the execution of a large scale event like Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend. Those that are working behind the scenes are so skilled that they are able to make the whole experience seamless for participants.

We thought we’d pull the curtain back to give you a glimpse of what goes into putting on a world class, weekend long event like Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend:

Race committee and volunteers

The Tamarack Ottawa Race Committee is made up of volunteers, giving generously of their time to provide participants with an amazing weekend long experience. The Race Committee leads teams of dedicated volunteers that will work throughout the weekend. You will find volunteers handing out race kits at the Health and Fitness Expo, at the start and finish areas, securing the course, working at water stations and at Festival Plaza and the Kichesippi Beer Garden. The work of the Race Committee and volunteers brings Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend to life.

Two-way radio communications 

Run Ottawa works with Howard Selcer and Associates for onsite communications. Over the weekend over 220 portable two-way radios will be used by staff and volunteers at the Command Centre, Medical Command Post and on-site. 

In 2018, Howard Selcer and Associates created a customized radio system specifically and exclusively for Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend, enabling the Medical Command Post Group to have 9 uninterrupted conversations throughout the event. This is a key safety strategy, especially during Sunday’s longer events, when all hands are on deck. Currently, there is no other event in Canada that has an exclusive radio system designed for nine (9) conversations at the same time.

Using a radio system allows organizers to be independent, avoiding any potential system outages. Should an equipment malfunction occur, a technician is onsite all weekend long.

Event structures

Event structures are varied in purpose. Some structures are there to enhance the participant’s experience, be it a distance marker or a timing mat that will record a split time. Some are there to provide information, such as where medical aid stations are located on course, where turnaround points are on course. Or they can even be an arrow mounted on a structure to indicate a major shift in the course, these are only prevalent on the marathon and half marathon courses. There are specific structures that are for the benefit of the elite athletes in the marathon, signs that signify water stations are 300 metres away and another at the start of their aid station. The stations for elite marathon athletes are spaced five kilometers apart, starting at 5K and ending at 40K. Two teams of volunteers will drop off the elite water station signs and flags at the designated medical aid stations early Sunday morning, prior to the marathon start at 7:00 am.

Course measurement and certification

Measuring the courses for Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend is not accomplished by climbing behind the wheel of a minivan and driving until the distance has been reached. It is an intricate process, using a very basic method. Dave Yaeger, a member of Run Ottawa, is an accredited Class A World Athletics Association (W.A.A.) course measurer. He performs the measurement and submits his documentation to the Canadian representative of the Road Racing Technical Council for the W.A.A. The documentation is reviewed and course measurement certificates are issued for each race. The certificates are valid for 5 years unless the course is changed.

Dave attaches a device called a Jones Counter to the front wheel of his bicycle. He then rides a certified 300 m calibration course that has been previously measured with a steel tape. The calibration course is ridden 4 times and the start and end counts displayed on the device for each ride are recorded. The recorded counts are used to determine the average number of counts for the 300 m distance and then extrapolated to determine the number of counts per km. A short course protection factor (SPF) of 0.1% is then applied to ensure that the measured distance will not be shorter than the race distance. Each route is measured by the measurer and an assistant, who follow the runner’s shortest possible route throughout the course.   

To achieve this, the measurement is performed early on a Sunday morning, with a police escort in front of and at the rear of the riders. Once the route measurement is complete, the riders head back to the 300 m route and do it 4 times. If the count is significantly different than four trips performed before the measurement, the process has to be redone. So, when you look at your Garmin after the race, you may find that it reads longer than whatever distance the race was. This means you may have been weaving in and out in places or unknowingly taking corners too wide.  

Road crew, barricades and Operations Team

The road crew closes the roadways, organizes detours to facilitate traffic around the city and ensures all barricade locations are staffed. It is a multi-faceted operation. There is a crew of 12 route captains and co-ordinators, each who manage a sector of the marathon and half marathon route. They work with Ottawa Police officers to manage the movement of runners through each sector, organize pylons to assist in directing runners and ensure volunteers are at their posts at all times. Eventually, sector captains facilitate the opening of their section when the last runner passes through. Every intersection where a car could drive onto the route is secured by a wooden traffic barricade and staffed with a volunteer. Runner safety is paramount at all times. A co-ordinator and twelve captains have the responsibility to recruit groups and individuals to cover off all locations on the race routes. Beacon Lite, a local traffic management company is also employed to assist with setting up detours, lane reductions or routing runners at specified intersections.       

Timing

Timing for Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend is provided by Sportstats, they are the largest timing company in the world. Sportstats records your race results with the help of the timing chips located on the back of your race bib and the timing mats out on course. The Ottawa 10K presented by Otto’s Ottawa includes one timing mat at the 5K mark. The Tartan Ottawa International Marathon has timing mats at 10K, 21.1K (half marathon), 30K and 40K distances. There are multiple teams setting up the timing mats on race day as there is a Sportstats employee at each mat with gear and emergency backup power. All of the mats have to be set up by 6:00 am at the latest due to road closures.

Chip timing enables Sportstats to precisely measure your race results by registering your race chip as you run across RFID timing mats located throughout the course. Your individual chip time starts once you pass over the mats located at the starting line, and ends as you cross the mats at the finish line. 

Rogers TV

Rogers TV provides live coverage of Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend including the Ottawa 10K presented by Otto’s Ottawa, home of the Athletics Canada 10K Canadian Championships and the Tartan Ottawa International Marathon. Their broadcast team also provides commentary and insights for both of these exciting events.

There are so many moving parts that work together to create an amazing Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend experience. Their hard work, dedication and attention to detail are what make this event what it is, the best and biggest running weekend in Canada. Join us this spring!