Celebrating Run Ottawa’s Hall of Famer – John Halvorsen
On May 31, 2019, John Halvorsen, Run Ottawa’s outgoing President and Race Director, will be inducted into the Ottawa Sports Hall of Fame as an elite athlete and builder of the sport of running. While John will be leaving his role following this year’s Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend, he leaves a rich legacy, both as an elite athlete and organizer of one of the world’s best running events. Indeed, over his years in running, John has not only represented his native country of Norway but made his adopted home of Ottawa proud.
It all began when the Halvorsen family moved to the nation’s capital in 1980, a result of his father becoming the defence attaché at the Embassy of Norway. At the time, the teenaged Halvorsen likely didn’t think he would go on to become Race Director of Canada’s largest marathon, but it wouldn’t be long before John was making his mark on local running.
In Grade 9, Halvorsen began running cross-country at Sir Robert Borden High School where he first competed at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA). For the next three years, he trained with the Norwegian national team and, upon his return to Ottawa in Grade 13, became OFSAA champion.
The next year, Halvorsen started attending the University of Ottawa where he earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering (Cum Laude) and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from the University of Ottawa. It so happened that while attending uOttawa, John also helped build one of the strongest university cross-country teams in Canada, winning national cross-country championships for the GeeGees in 1986, 1987, and 1990.
In 1988, John registered for the Ottawa 10K as a “regular” runner. He surprised everyone when he finished first, setting the Ottawa 10K record (28:12), a record that wasn’t bested for 20 years. That win gave John the confidence to compete to represent Norway at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, where he placed 16th in the 10,000 metres. Four years later, he again represented Norway at the 1992 Summer Olympics Games.
In 1989, John was awarded the title of Runners World Road Racer of the Year. His personal best times are 13:20 minutes in the 5,000 metre, 27:43 minutes in the 10,000 metre, and 2 hours and 17 minutes for the marathon.
Eleven years after his 10K record, Halvorsen was invited to take on a new role in running, joining Run Ottawa as a board member. Over time, John’s role grew to include positions as chair and Race Director before becoming President of Run Ottawa in 2013.
Under his leadership, the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend has flourished into a boon for athleticism and tourism. With Run Ottawa, Halvorsen has added an additional 20 annual runs to the national capital, welcoming the participation of thousands of people throughout the year. He has also overseen the growth of the popular Kids Run Ottawa program, providing a focal point for introducing running into schools for kids aged 6 to 12.
With Halvorsen as Race Director, the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend has grown significantly in attendance and has become the world’s only running event to host two International Athletics Associations Federation (IAAF) gold-label events. The Ottawa 10K was awarded IAAF gold standard in 2014, one of the four in the world. The Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon was awarded the IAAF gold-label standard in 2015.
Halvorsen is one of five local sports icons to be inducted into the Ottawa Sport Hall of Fame this year. The others are Chris Phillips, Chantal Benoit, Richard Desclouds, and the 1968 and 1969 Ottawa Rough Riders teams. A celebration in the Horticulture Building at TD Place on May 31 will honour their induction.
After this year’s events, John will step down from his full-time role as President of Run Ottawa and Race Director for Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend to return to a career in high tech, where he worked for the likes of Nortel, LG Nortel, and Ericsson-LG for 18 years.
Thank you John!