Run ByWard Market: The Great Crossroads

Love it or hate it, the ByWard Market is an important crossroads for Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend runners.

There’s a lot to appreciate about the city’s oldest neighbourhood, but as participants in the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon and Scotiabank Ottawa Half-Marathon cross the interprovincial Alexandra Bridge, they each make different turns.

For half-marathoners, the Bridge is the last climb of the race and they turn right on Sussex Drive to their final kilometres.

For marathoners, they take the left towards Rockcliffe and New Edinburgh and turn effectively away from the finish line.

“That’s an interesting point of the race, as you are two-thirds through and really starting to hurt,” says Westboro runner Geoff Riggs.

“Some might say that this is where the race begins,” says Gatineau runner Terry SanCartier.

No matter how many times he’s crossed that Bridge, SanCartier says he’s always wowed by the view of the powerful Ottawa River, the Parliament Buildings and the City. 

“Crossing the Alexandria Bridge is usually a quiet experience,” he says. “This is where I take notice of the sound of footsteps of the runners around me, our breathing and our determination.”

“As mentally difficult as it can be to head in the opposite direction of the finish line, I like to take this point to remind myself that I’m doing something really special today,” says Old Ottawa East runner Jesse Blondin. “I’ve chosen to take on the full marathon challenge, and that the next time I pass by the National Gallery, I’ll be heading for home.”

National Gallery of CanadaMajor landmarks encircle the intersection at the entrance of the Market. Sussex, Murray and St. Patrick branch away from the Peacekeeping Monument named Reconciliation, the Notre-Dame Cathedral, and the National Art Gallery.

Reckoning with their remaining miles as they pass historical markers and great views, runners also encounter a sea of emotion and energy.

Cheering spectators along Sussex Drive catch runners running in both directions. Huge crowds of fans with funny, encouraging signs greet the athletes as they return to Ottawa and enter the Market. Strangers in the crowd call out to strangers in the race, reading their names on their bib.

“Crossing the Bridge into Ottawa onto the curved road to Sussex, it’s always great to feed off the energy of the crowds gathered here,” says SanCartier. “We run by here again, on Sussex, later in the race and there are still many people cheering to well past the Shaw Centre on Colonel By.”

Half marathoners pass the glass dome of the Shaw Centre overlooking the Rideau Canal sooner. For the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend, it houses dozens of merchants, promoters, and guides that welcome runners to the Health and Fitness Expo.

The Expo is connected via a second-floor footbridge to The Westin, which fronts westward out of the CF Rideau Centre—one of Ottawa’s most popular shopping malls. Kaitlyn Elgie, the Westin’s marketing and communications manager, says the downtown hotel is incredibly busy that weekend.

“Our front office team is very involved directing our out-of-town guests,” she says. “It’s something that we like to be a part of, since we are a health-focused hotel.”

Downtown Ottawa is a mixture of shopping, dining, and entertainment. The area connects the bustling ByWard Market, founded in 1827 by Colonel John By who built the Rideau Canal, to Rideau Street, a swath of welcoming pubs, clubs, and specialty shops.

At the heart of the Market is the red-bricked ByWard Market Square, built in 1848, around which dozens of booths and stalls sell fresh produce, confections, and handmade goods. Come enjoy cafés, restaurants, and food trucks in the  busy ByWard Market streets for the perfect post-race celebrations.

Have fun and good luck!