Sisters to run 84 kilometres and register 84 new organ donors at Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend

Two Ottawa sisters, Cristin and Caitlin Shanahan, are gearing up to run their first marathon in honour of their mother. The sisters aim to register 84 new organ donors, one for every kilometre they will run during the Tartan Ottawa International Marathon at Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend on May 28. 

Cristin and Caitlin’s mother was an organ donor, and they have a personal connection to the cause. “Organ donation is a cause that’s very near and dear to us,” they said. “In August 2020, our mom unexpectedly passed away. She always stopped to smell the roses and cared for everyone she met. She carried this kindness forward in her death by donating her lungs, liver, and kidney. Our mom’s sister recently received a life-changing kidney transplant, so we’re closely connected to this cause from both sides. We’re hoping to register one new organ donor for every kilometre we run, for a total of 84.”

Working with the Ottawa Gift of Life Network, the sisters hope to educate people about the organ donation process and encourage more people to become donors. They believe more open conversations about organ donation will normalize the process. “It can be a morbid, scary topic to talk about, but the more we talk about it, the more we can help people understand the importance of registering as a donor. We hope people learn there is an incredible way that you could forever change someone’s life without spending any money – just by registering. We want to encourage as many people as possible to check their status as organ donors and discuss their wishes with loved ones.”

While new to running, the sisters are no strangers to sports, both being hockey players. They started training for the marathon in February, researching how to best prepare and finding an app that provides a personalized training program. They run together three times a week and cross-train on other days, mixing in hockey when it’s in season.

“From a running standpoint, we’ve been surprised by how our bodies have adjusted to this relatively new activity. It’s still early in our training, but we anticipated our hockey legs having a bit more trouble than they have so far! More so though, it’s the conversations we’re having with people about organ donation. It’s been impactful to have normalized a difficult topic for many people. Hearing about how they’ve gone on to have many conversations with loved ones has been a wonderful experience.”

The sisters look forward to the upcoming Race Weekend, anticipating the energy of the event. “People in a big crowd all running together, with people cheering you on as you run by, it just doesn’t seem like training can compare. We’ve also heard good things about the snacks along the route, and we won’t pretend we aren’t looking forward to a post-race beer!”

As the marathon approaches, the sisters have some advice for fellow runners or anyone considering signing up: “slow and steady wins the race – it doesn’t matter how fast or how far you go. If you want to run, just go for it!”

To learn more about the sisters’ cause and register as a donor, visit their Shanny Sisters for Organ Donation form.

To register for an event at Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend, visit From a marathon to a 1K for kids, there’s an event for everyone!