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.