Run Old Hull: One Marathon, Two Provinces
Every May, the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend send runners in the Scotiabank Marathon and Half-Marathon from Ontario to 200-year-old Vieux Hull in Gatineau, Quebec.
Participants cross the Chaudière Bridge, turn left on Alexandre-Taché Blvd., and head north on the Lac-des-Fées Parkway. Cutting east back into Vieux Hull, the course passes a 1914 steel-foundry-turned-sports-facility La Fonderie before crossing Brewery Creek. This is Montcalm Street, lined with foodie destinations like the Brasseurs des Temps brewery, wine bar Soif, and Resto Naples Pizza. Once the course reaches Promenade du Portage, runners head through the heart of Vieux Hull.
It’s where La Foulée Sportive, a running store, has served thousands of runners from both provinces for 17 years. According to store manager Martin Lacroix, Gatineau’s bike paths make for great runs and the area has something for everyone.
“There are also those who run to work downtown every morning and home every afternoon,” he says. “There are always Place du Portage workers taking their lunch hour to run the two bridges, Alexandra and Chaudière. That’s a very popular run around here. It takes 25 to 30 minutes.”
The neighbourhood’s architecture is a mixed bag of 19th-century heritage and 1970s Brutalism. Its residential streets are lined with red-bricked houses in the “Hull style”, two-and-a-half-storey high, and dotted with eateries and shops. During the Great Hull-Ottawa Fire of 1900, the area that became known as the Museum Quarter was spared while more than half of Hull was destroyed. This Quarter is therefore one of the oldest parts of the region.
Although the area houses close to 12,500 federal government employees in its Place du Portage buildings, Vieux Hull isn’t just office space. It’s home to a lively arts and culture scene. Pubs and clubs like Le Troquet, Minotaure, Gainsbourg Bistro-Brasserie, and Aux Quatre Jeudis make up the small but boisterous entertainment district in a popular pedestrian mall.
Around the corner stands “Love/Amour”, a ten-metre tall fibreglass sculpture by Henry Wanton Jones, in the middle of Parc du Portage. By following a painted red line along the square you find City Hall, or la Maison du Citoyen, and Douglas Cardinal’s wavy, award-winning landmark of architecture, the Canadian Museum of History.
This self-directed tour of the Culture Trail spans 3 km from La Fonderie to Jacques-Cartier Park, which is where, in front of Maurice Richard’s bronze statue, that marathoners turn right on the Alexandra Bridge to head back to Ottawa.
According to Richard Goodfellow, a founding member a running group of civil servants called the Place du Portage (PdP) Road Runners, most of them participate in the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend. Starting from the Place du Portage Phase III complex, the group would often test their mettle with stamina and speed challenges.
“We have covered many trails and accumulated a lot of miles including Lac Leamy, the Champlain loop, Gatineau Park, and the Hull to Dows Lake loop with a few laps of the Canadian Musem of Agriculture,” says Goodfellow, who works for Public Services and Procurement Canada.
There’s something for everyone in the area, from city runs to woodland trails. Gatineau Park, a forested playground for outdoor enthusiasts, is effectively the National Capital Region’s backyard. There are multiple running groups that make the most of the colourful park, including Run Ottawa-affiliated running clubs Mon Groupe de Course and the Chelsea-based trail running and XC skiing athletic club Natural Fitness Lab.
Just a few minutes from downtown Hull, it has over 165 kms of hiking trails and several park highways that are ideal for off-season runs. Late-fall joggers take note: Gatineau Park’s “parkways” — Gatineau, Champlain and Lac Fortune — closed at the end of October and won’t reopen until May, though other winter activities abound.