Oh, Canada

I have a history of unabashedly recommending things that I myself have only done once before — a weekend trip to Austin, lunch at Duck Fat in Portland, dipping birthday cake in ranch dressing — so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I’m about to make yet another hardly tested declarative statement:

Ottawa is a runner’s paradise.

I say this after having only logged one single 5-mile run in the Canadian capital on what was arguably the mildest autumn evening the far north has ever seen. Were I to revisit this statement in, say, February, I might feel differently, but as of this moment, I can confidently say that 100% of my Ottawa-based workouts have been perfection indeed. Why, you ask? Because this Ontario city ticks off every single one of the “Three Fs” (patent pending) I’m looking for in a training route: flat, friendly and fair. 

  • Flat: There’s something to be said for cities built along waterways, and this quiet metropolis of less than 1 million people has two: a river and a canal. I chose to run along the canal, and literally the only time I encountered elevation was when I stepped up the curb to re-enter my hotel. What a welcome change from mountainous Central Park.  
  • Friendly: About two miles into my workout, I was startled to hear a voice coming up on my left. “Gorgeous night for a run, eh?” I looked all around me, assuming she was talking up her running partner or into a blue tooth. But there was no one else there — this Canadian runner was making weather-related small talk with me! To those of you reading this outside of New York, this may not seem unusual, but for those of us training in Manhattan, there’s some unspoken rule that conversation between stranger runners is supposed to stay, well, unspoken. Only after she started to pull ahead did I realize her observation warranted a response, so I stammered off something barely intelligible, tacking on my own “eh” in a futile effort to blend in. I then spent the rest of my evening giving in to my natural born inclination to acknowledge other runners as they passed and, my god, I felt humanized in a way NYC had almost made me forget.   
  • Fair: By fair here, I really mean gorgeous, but “The Two Fs and one G” of running routes doesn’t really have the same ring. And gorgeous Ottawa was. Old architecture, picturesque bridges, clean sidewalks and ample nature were the mainstays of my canalside run last night. Don’t get me wrong – Central Park is beautiful in places, especially when the cherry trees bloom in April and the leaves turn colors in fall. But I’ve run that loop hundreds of times this year, while this Ottawa landscape was something new altogether. For this mentally fatigued runner in the final weeks of marathon training, that change of scenery was just what the doctor ordered.   

But fear not: great running routes (and handsome new prime minister) aside, I will not be staying northside indefinitely. While Central Park no longer gets me excited after 20 weeks of marathon training, there are plenty of other wonderful things in the big apple enticing me back. So thanks, Canada, for the welcome breather, and now I bid you a warm farewell!


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