Running builds community…and vice versa

2024 Run Ottawa Community Builder Award recipient Kayla Nettleton founder of OCRC (Ottawa City Run Club)

“Community is much more than belonging to something; it’s about doing something together that makes belonging matter”

– Brian Solis, Author

Established by founder Kayla Nettleton in August of 2015, Ottawa City Run Club (OCRC) began as a judgment-free, positivity-exuding run club. From their early beginnings at Dundonald Park, through COVID lockdowns and social distancing regulations, and now to their current location of Beyond the Pale in City Centre (where they moved to in August of 2021), OCRC has continued to be a welcome and inclusive space. When asked what pace do they run? The answer is always “your pace.”

Through OCRC, Kayla has created a way to connect runners, build community, and create safer spaces and opportunities to run. The OCRC cheer station at Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend, which is organized annually by Kayla, is known for giving participants an extra push with their endless enthusiasm and party spirit andis often mentioned as one of the most memorable parts of the course.

We asked some of the OCRC run leads to share their thoughts about Kayla and their experience in being a part of OCRC.

“Kayla, as the leader behind the small group of volunteers who organize the weekly events, always prioritizes inclusivity and fun in the running program. Kayla is very welcoming to new runners of all calibers to OCRC and makes them feel like they are part of the bigger team. Her creation has become a highlight to many people’s weekly running schedule and often brings new runners into the community. She thanklessly puts in an incredible amount of work in the background to keep the administration of such a large group running smoothly.”

– Craig Piccolo

“I moved to Ottawa in 2018 and went to OCRC my first week in town. What I didn’t expect was finding “my” people in Ottawa. Kayla has created a community that’s inclusive and welcoming thriving in its simplicity. It has grown beyond measure but the groundwork of the original intention remains all thanks to Kayla.”

– Emma Ferguson

“My favourite thing about OCRC and Kayla is that it was never about her, she genuinely just wants people to share in the joy and friendship that running has given her. I likely would not have hung around if it weren’t for that. She recognizes that especially these days we are a huge target for advertising but she always finds that balance between putting on fun events (everybody loves free prizes) while not making it feel like we are being sold out.”

– Simon Festa-Bianchet

“Kayla is one of the best leaders I’ve ever met and it’s all in the genuine way she loves her community. There is no way a group could have grown to OCRC’s size, consistency, and presence without the culture she created. Thousands of people have risen to the occasion thanks to Kayla. Whether that’s dragging themselves out the door when it’s easier to sit at home, putting in the work to get to know local people, charities.”

– Gracen Johnson

Running builds community. As the founder of OCRC Kayla has successfully created a continuously growing community that is always welcoming and never discriminates. She is the 2024 recipient of the Run Ottawa Community Builder Award.