It’s a Capital marathon!

A tale of two running cities: London vs. Ottawa

A whopping 578,000 people entered the ballot for a place in the 2024 TCS London Marathon being held on Sunday, April 21. Let that sit for a moment. Over half a million people voluntarily applied to run 42.2 kilometres for an equal amount of different personal reasons. It’s a little mind blowing.

Running is seeing a surge in participation, celebration and influence once again, thanks in part to events like the TCS London Marathon and Canada’s capital city’s own event, Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend. And for good reason, these inclusive, accessible races celebrate achievement and give back to their communities through robust fundraising programs that raise millions of dollars for national and local charities.

Along with these races, the two hosting cities also possess additional similarities—from natural resources, to parliamentary homes, not to mention their dwellers’ propensity to raising a pint in a myriad of Ottawa craft breweries or London pubs. 

And, of course, both boast strong, inspiring running communities. 

Ottawa may be an infant when it comes to colonial history, but Canada’s national capital can take on the formidable London head to head on a number of other running-related and non-running-related facts. Ottawa may be small, but it is mighty. 

Rivers, and canals, and towers, oh my

Running strong between Ontario and Quebec, Kichi-Sìbì, also known as the Ottawa River, was an important historic 1,271 km long trade route of the Algonquin Peoples, now used for industrial, power, and recreational purposes. The Tartan Ottawa International Marathon course provides multiple breathtaking views of this natural icon and the rolling Gatineau Hills just north of it. 

England’s longest river at 346 km, the River Thames flows through London and is the centre of England’s trade. The venerable TCS London Marathon course also follows its shoreline and takes advantage of its river views at many passes. 

The Rideau Canal, winding its way through central Ottawa, is the oldest continuously operated canal system in North America— a 202 kilometre long canal that links the Ottawa River with the Great Cataraqui River, and then at Lake Ontario. The Tartan Ottawa International Marathon runs along 6 kilometres of this functional and beautiful tulip-lined UNESCO World Heritage Site.

North of central London winds Regent’s Canal, the 13.84 kilometre canal links the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal to the Limehouse Basin and the River Thames in east London.

On the north bank of the River Thames looms another UNESCO World Heritage Site and cultural icon, The Elizabeth Tower, featuring Big Ben, is one of the most well known symbols of the United Kingdom. Big Ben, the nickname given to the largest bell inside the clock tower, stands a prestigious 96 metres high at the north end of The Houses of Parliament.

Standing at 45.7 metres high, Canada’s second-most recognized symbol, Ottawa’s Peace Tower, dominates Parliament Hill, home to Canada’s federal government. The Peace Tower clock was given to Canada by the United Kingdom in 1927 marking the 60th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. This year, in celebration of 50 years of marathon running in Ottawa, both the marathon and half marathon routes will feature this famous spire. 

Hubs of running culture

Bear with us as we geek out on some more numbers for a moment. According to Runner’s Guide to London, there are 77 London city run clubs. At a city population of 8.982 million, this equals 8.75 run clubs per million. Ottawa’s city population is just over 1 million, and hosts 29 run clubs within its boundaries. 

This comes at no surprise to Ottawa’s running community. With its incredibly scenic paths and parks, Ottawa is a long runner’s dream, as the options are endless (quite literally) and the views are magnificent. The city also hosts the largest running weekend in Canada: Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend. Pre-covid, the running festival reached a peak registered participation of 49,174 over 6 events: 42 km, 21.1 km, 10 km, 5 km, 2 km, and 1.2 km for kids.

Runners take part in the annual Ottawa Race Weekend in Ottawa, on Saturday, May 27, 2023. Photo by Spencer Colby/Run Ottawa via HoC

The world-renowned TCS London Marathon is recognized as an Abbott World Marathon Major and is the largest annual fundraising event in the world, featuring over 1,700 charities and raising over $66.9M in fundraising dollars. Fifty-thousand much sought-after entries are made available to this annual event through a ballot system, and through charity fundraising initiatives. Next year, TCS London Marathon will be celebrating 45 years—ballot opens April 20. 

Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend, featuring the Tartan Ottawa International Marathon, is celebrating 50 years in 2024. The very first marathon in 1975 included 146 runners, only three of which were women. 

The 2024 race weekend features over 92 charities registered so far in its charity program, the Desjardins Charity Challenge. And although that number’s a far cry from London’s 1,700, the event currently holds the record for the largest fundraising race weekend in Canada, having raised 1.2 million dollars in 2023. This year’s goal is an ambitious 1.5 million. You can donate to a participant or team through the Desjardins Charity Challenge portal right now to help charities reach their goals. Or better yet, register for an event and fundraise for a charity close to your heart!

An official invitation

The organizing team of Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend cordially and officially invites London’s Mayor to visit our nation’s capital and participate in a future Tartan Ottawa International Marathon, to take on Mayor Sutcliffe’s personal best, or to simply experience the natural beauty and spectator love that is uniquely Ottawa.

Ottawa is celebrating 50 years of running in 2024, having first launched its marathon in 1975. The 50th anniversary marathon IS sold out however there are a multitude of other distances to walk, run, or roll in. FInd out more here.

And if you’re in London, visit Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend at the 2024 TCS London Marathon Running Show (Stall D91), April 16-20, 2024!