Ottawa

Silent streets 'bittersweet,' says Ottawa Race Weekend organizer

For Ian Fraser, watching this weekend come and go without thousands of runners taking to Ottawa's streets has provoked a few mixed feelings.

Annual race was cancelled for 1st time ever due to COVID-19

A pace runner leads Hiwot Gebrekidan of Ethiopia, second from left, Gelete Burka of Ethiopia, and Lucas McAneney of Canada across the Alexandra Bridge in front of Parliament Hill during last year's Ottawa Race Weekend. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

For Ian Fraser, watching this weekend come and go without thousands of runners taking to Ottawa's streets has provoked a few mixed feelings.

The annual Ottawa Race Weekend, which normally attracts tens of thousands of athletes, was cancelled for the first time in its 45-year history over COVID-19 concerns. 

"It is incredibly bittersweet," said Fraser, executor director for Run Ottawa and one of the weekend's organizers.

"I woke up yesterday morning absolutely beside myself about how profound this is. I hadn't really given it much thought or felt much about it until yesterday."

Racers running on their own

Saturday would have kicked off the race-filled weekend with the two, five and 10-kilometre races. Sunday would have featured the half and full marathons.

While no organized event is being held, Fraser said those who registered are still running their own races individually. 

Fraser said runners can still clock and submit their times until Sept. 7, although those results can't be used to qualify for larger races like the Boston Marathon. 

Although the event was on track to host 33,000 runners, Fraser said nearly 20,000 people are still registered to participate in the virtual competition. 

He suspects another few thousand runners will register to compete in the coming months. Those who do sign up this year will get half off next year's race, Fraser added.

"What I realized is that the running community is so much more than just a weekend," Fraser said. "The sense of community has been really overwhelming. I don't think I truly understood that until this weekend." 

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