Wellington West Neighbourhood Runner: Hieu Nguyen

There’s a lot to love about the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend according to local marathoner, Hieu Nguyen.

From the impressive elite runners, to the excitement and the joy of seeing friends run their first race, Nguyen says that the energy is palpable. And a big part of that is the spectator support.

“I think my favourite part is the crowds,” she says. “The whole city is into it, and there are so many people out.”

Originally from Nova Scotia, Nguyen moved to Ontario to study at the School of Urban and Regional Planning at Queen’s University’s in Kingston. She graduated with a master’s degree in 2005 and moved to Ottawa shortly thereafter to work for the City of Ottawa.

She started running in Ottawa because it seemed like an easy and natural thing. Plus, most people she knew were into it.

“I lived downtown, the weather was nice, we were right near the Canal,” she says. “It’s something my friends and I would do. It just seemed like that’s what everyone did in Ottawa.”

Shortly after moving to Ottawa, she was somewhat surprised that her sister and brother-in-law agreed to do the half-marathon with her. Though neither had expressed much interest in long distance running before, she bought them three entries for the 2006 Ottawa Half-Marathon as a Christmas present.

It was a sweltering hot Sunday on May 28, 2006, and as Nguyen ran the half she wondered if she had trained enough.

“I think my time was just under 2:30,” she says. “My goal was 2 hours and I thought, ‘Yeah right. When will I ever hit that?'”

Nguyen didn’t give up on that goal though, and in September 2012, she achieved a sub-2 finish time at the Army Run Half-Marathon.

“That’s what I love about running, you can really see your progress, and you can measure your results.”

Nguyen also loves how running complements her work.

“Being an urban planner, I love running through neighbourhoods, seeing what’s new, what’s happening on the streets,” she says. “I feel like you can see the city through a better lens when you’re on foot.”

It’s the mix of urbanity and green space, and the action in the street that constantly gets her excited about running in Wellington West. Nguyen loves to run along the long stretch of Byron Park, along the O-Train pathway, and near Bayview Station, where she can see the progress of the light-rail transit (LRT).

“I know some people like running in the woods, or just like their solitude, but I like my attention to be captivated by what’s going on in the streets.”

Check out one of Nguyen’s favourite loops, which runs through the Byron Park pathway into neighbouring Westboro, and back to Wellington West.

“I remember saying to my friends, ‘I never want to do a marathon.’ I used to think people who did it were crazy.”

But after so many half-marathons in almost 10 years, Nguyen decided to set her sights higher in 2016, and signed up for the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon. When she stepped up the distance, she found some extra motivation with the Slater Street Running Room training group which gave her a plan she could stick to.

“It first surprised me how much I enjoyed the training,” she says. “I’ve never been so committed to a sport.”

After completing her first marathon in 2016, and a second in 2017, Nguyen decided to volunteer for the Extra Mile Crew in 2018 to help participate in a slightly different way. It’s just another great way to add to the weekend, she says.

“I had friends who appreciated the support of the Extra Mile Crew at Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend and I thought it was a really good idea,” she says. “I joined in 2018 and helped a few people finish both the half-marathon and marathon.” She is volunteering again this year.

Thinking about running your first marathon or half-marathon? It’s not too late to register! There is also still time to join a Running Room training clinic. All participants registered for Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend get a discount on Running Room registration, in cities right across Canada!