What’s in a Challenge?: Why runners choose to go the distance in multi-race and multi-day running events

In 2020, Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend is launching its newest multi-race running event, the Bytown Challenge, which asks runners to run three back-to-back races in a single day for a grand total of 17K.

Sounds kind of crazy right? It’s more popular than you think!

Running a race – a 10K, half-marathon, or full marathon – is a common New Year’s resolution, fitness goal and even bucket list item for many people. What they don’t expect though is that once you start running you actually become a runner, and suddenly you’re hooked on setting and reaching your next running goal.

Running challenges have risen in popularity because they offer something more than your average race. In a challenge event, the total number of kilometres usually sits between two standard race distances, like the 10K and half-marathon, or goes far beyond, which helps runners push themselves to the next level. These challenges also tend to come with a cool name (the Dopey Challenge and Goofy Race anyone?), some sweet extra swag, and of course bragging rights!

The most surprising part? They’re easier than they sound. With the right training, just about any runner can participate in a running challenge event at Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend.

Here’s a rundown of what you can expect from an Ottawa running challenge and some thoughts from Team Awesome members are taking part this year.

Bytown Challenge logoBytown Challenge

Beyond a 10K but not quite a half-marathon

The Ottawa 5K Bytown ChallengeSaturday is one of the most fun days at Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend because it brings together runners and walkers of all levels for the Ottawa 2K, 5K and 10K. Some of them are first time participants and some come back year after year to cross the finish line with old and new friends, or to raise money for charity. It’s also the only race in Canada where the last thing you see as you cross the 10K finish line (other than your time!) is the sunset over Parliament Hill.

It’s a day all about Ottawa, and the Bytown Challenge brings together all of the Saturday races for a 17K event that honours the city’s original name.

Chantal Provost, a returning Team Awesome member, who ran the 10K in 2019 is taking on the Bytown Challenge because the preparation is similar to that of a half-marathon which makes it more accessible, even if it seems intimidating at first glance!

“Training through the winter comes with its own set of challenges and an ambitious goal is the best motivation for training,” says Chantal. “Most importantly, for those like me who love medals, I’ll have four in my pocket by the end of the race! After the event, the rest of the weekend takes care of itself, and I can spend time enjoying whatever opportunities present themselves, from being a spectator to volunteering.”

Voyageur Challenge logoVoyageur Challenge

Prepare for your half-marathon by running two races the day before!

Voyageur ChallengeAt 36.1K, the Voyageur Challenge is tough enough for a half-marathoner and an extra challenge regular 10K runners. Over two days runners take part in three races: the Ottawa 5K and 10K on Saturday, and the Scotiabank Ottawa Half-Marathon on Sunday.

This challenge’s unique t-shirt and medal are inspired by the voyageurs – French settlers who trapped and traded furs with First Nations peoples, to take back to France.

It’s a challenge that remains exciting for new and returning participants. “After completing back to back 15K challenges at the Army Run in 2018 and 2019 with 60lbs on my back, taking on the Voyageur seems like a great way to test myself (minus the weight this time),” says Team Awesome member Kyle Dowd.

It also presents a way for participants like Anne-Lisa Nadeau, to run with the people they love in different races. “I’m doing the Voyageur Challenge so that I can run with my boyfriend and kids in the 5K and 10K, and do the half-marathon with my friends!” she says. “I did it last year and it was so fun to be on more than one start line!”

For others, it’s really about the challenge. “When I was on Team Awesome in 2017, I wasn’t able to complete the Voyageur Challenge,” says Maxime McGee. “Last year I still wasn’t ready to take it on, but I did run the Scotiabank Ottawa Half-marathon, which had its highs and low, and the feeling of crossing the finish line was indescribable. I’m very excited to be attempting the Voyageur Challenge a second time, it’s a personal competition that keeps me going.”

Lumberjack Challenge logoLumberjack Challenge

When a marathon just isn’t enough

For those with a few marathons under their belts or who are training for longer distances – such as those training for an ultra-marathon – the Lumberjack Challenge is a perfect fit. This two-day challenge comes to a total of four races at 59.2K, and includes the Ottawa 2K, 5K, 10K on Saturday, and the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon on Sunday.

Lumberjack ChallengeNamed for the rough-and-tumble, hardworking and hard-partying lumberjacks who used to occupy the Ottawa River and flood the city’s streets, this challenge is no walk in the park.

“Racing multiple days in a row is both exhausting and exhilarating!” says Erika Goreski. “I’ve had a heavy focus on trail running these past few years, and I’ve fallen in love with the stage-race format. Running four road races in two days is a new experience and seems like a pretty cool challenge. Having a variety of unique experiences on my annual race roster helps keep me challenged and interested.”

The Lumberjack Challenge is also popular among returning runners – who doesn’t want a plaid running shirt and a medal shaped like an axe? – and among them is three-time participant and Team Awesome Captain Leanne Richardson.

“I enjoy the challenge of distance running and use Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend as  training for ultra-marathons,” says Leanne. “Every year there are a few people who reach out looking to challenge themselves to a new distance or a first ever race. Running the Lumberjack means that I get the privilege of sharing the course with them in one, two or all of the events – no matter which race weekend event I recommend.”

Think a challenge might be calling your name? Choose your distance and register before these limited events sell out. Once you’re registered, share your training journey on social media alongside our Team Awesome members (give them follow too!) by using the hashtag #RunOttawa2020 and tagging @OttawaMarathon.

Register for Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend 2020