Ready, set, run!

Make this the year your child participates in Ottawa Race Weekend

Every May, you and your child watch runners go by during Ottawa Race Weekend. But could 2018 be the year your child toes the line at this internationally renowned event?

Although Ottawa Race Weekend is known for its marathon, half-marathon and 10K races, which draw competitive athletes from around the world, there are also the more kid- and family-friendly 2K and 5K events – perfect for first-timers looking for a memorable race experience. 


David Dazé’s tips for race day

• Get there early so you aren’t rushed getting to the start line. 

• Make sure your race bib is pinned to the front of your shirt.

• Tie your shoelaces nice and tight.

• Do a warm-up so that you’re ready to run when the race starts.

• Figure out where you’re most comfortable in the starting pack (beginning, middle, or end).

• Enjoy your race and smile as you cross the finish line.

• Have a post-race meeting place established beforehand.


Participating in a race is about more than just running. “It’s about goal-setting, encouraging participation and fitness, and learning how to live a healthy lifestyle,” says Ottawa Race Weekend director John Halvorsen.

There’s an event for everyone – for the very young, strollers are welcome in the 2K, while three- and four-year-olds can do the 2K with their parents running alongside. For older, more mature kids who want to try the 5K on their own, Halvorsen says the race course is well-marked and a simple course to be on. There are also colour-coded meeting points in Confederation Park that will facilitate meeting up with parents afterwards.

To get the most out of the experience, Halvorsen says that training is key. To make preparing for Ottawa Race Weekend a family event, Halvorsen suggests taking walks or short runs together. “There’s definitely a bonding component,” says the accomplished competitive athlete, two-time Olympian and father of three. Halvorsen says that in many cases, the race experience stays with the child for a lifetime. Many kids grow up to become lifelong runners and participants, and Halvorsen has seen families gather more team members year after year.

David Dazé, a retired Ottawa teacher who has coached more than 700 kids to the finish line for Ottawa Race Weekend, suggests keeping running fun for the kids, “the same way you would want soccer, hockey, or any other activity to be a fun, positive experience.

“Running can be a lot of fun when you do it with friends, so think of it as a social event, says Dazé, who has run 27 marathons – including Ottawa, Boston, New York, Chicago, and Toronto – in his 28 years in the sport. “Set small, achievable goals such as running for a particular time or distance.”

A tracking sheet, like the one provided on the Run Ottawa website for the Kids Marathon, is a great way to track progress, he adds. Although he says kids don’t need to run everyday, he says consistency is the key to developing as a runner.

There are also ways that parents can support their budding runners.

“Get out and run with your kids,” says Dazé. “And if it’s not running, how about riding a bike, or walking around the neighbourhood?  Be a good role model for your child by maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle.” Many young runners become nervous for their first event, he says, so send lots of positive encouragement their way as race day draws near.

Running has great benefits, says Dazé. Besides the obvious fitness benefits, it can be a great social activity for kids and a great way to connect with friends, he said.

“Running can also be a great stress reliever and can be a wonderful tool for developing self-esteem,” Dazé says. “I have seen so many kids feel great about themselves after putting in the training and then completing (a race) on race day, especially after getting the finisher’s medal around their necks. Over the years, I have heard from parents about what a positive effect running has had on their child.”

“In sports in general, you learn a lot about being with other kids and how to deal with people,” added Halvorsen. “You learn self-esteem, to work under pressure, how to set goals, to respect each other and how to deal with success, failure and disappointment.”