Steering towards greatness

By Ian Fraser, Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend Race Director

Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend holds a very special place in my heart. My journey began back in middle school as a volunteer when the National Capital Marathon was only a few years old. By the time the mid eighties rolled around, I toed the line at my very first marathon. I will never forget the thrill of arriving at Carleton University, wondering exactly what I got myself into.

Over the years that followed, I participated in Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend at least 25 times and ran on pretty much every course iteration. In the late 1990s I even flipped burgers as an onsite vendor! However, there are a number of constants that have defined my participant journey. No matter how many times you wait in the start coral, the thrill of the day transcends age and experience. Your heart rate is elevated, the nervous energy radiating off everyone around you is palpable, and smiles of joy are everywhere. The 25th time feels like the first time. 

To me, Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend is like a ship on the ocean. The size and shape of the ship has changed many times over the last 50 years but the precious cargo remains the same. Inside you’ll find a wonderfully connected community that shows up year after year to support a charity, seek out a personal best, participate with a best friend, or to make a profound personal connection with running or walking.

Over the years, this amazing ship has had wonderful tailwinds, strong headwinds, and even a category one hurricane during a global pandemic but somehow, some way, it stays strong and true on top of the water.

As a working athlete, a very long time ago, I was fortunate enough to see the world and race in many far away places. Coming home to participate at Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend has reminded me that there is no better event, anywhere. I have crossed the finish line at the Ironman World Championships in Kona, been on the start line of world cup events and major world marathons. Nothing compares. Maybe it’s because I love my city and am proud of what we bring to the streets each May but to be sure, nothing compares.

Since September of 2019, it has been an honour to lead Run Ottawa and to be the Race Director for Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend. I follow in the footsteps of giants who during their own time, and in their own way, moved us forward. Like them, I guide the ship as best I can by trying to find the right currents and the most favourable winds. I’m the caretaker and pilot of something very special.

Unfortunately, it’s not really possible for me to run at Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend anymore—although, I now have a very different view. I get to stand back, look out over the crowds and feel all that energy in a new way. Standing at the start line in 2022, knowing that we were finally back to an in-person event and that the world might be ok again, was incredible! With the music pumping in the background and the announcers lifting everyone up, the tears were streaming down my cheeks. We made it!

If my parents were still alive they would be amazed at a world where putting on Canada’s largest running weekend could be considered honourable work. I’m not even sure I consider it work? The whole Run Ottawa team puts love and passion into everything we do to bring you the best show we hope you ever experience. We’re right there with you on this big, beautiful ship. I’m looking forward to all the energy and all the smiles at Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend in 2024.