Ottawa Marathon looks to stay on course

ROB BRODIE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:32 AM ET

Ottawa Race Weekend organizers are confident their marquee event will go off without a hint of controversy this year.

When runners entered in Sunday's ING Ottawa Marathon hear the gun for the 7 a.m. race start, they'll head out on a revamped course that is flatter with less turns in the first half. That should make it faster and heighten the possibility that a record time will be established.

It's a revision race officials also believe should eliminate the possibility of a repeat of the snafu that caused 14 elite runners to veer off course in New Edinburgh last year. They were disqualified after accidentally taking that race shortcut.

Race Weekend president Susan Longbottom said last year's incident provided "a further impetus" for changing the marathon course.

"We never ideally wanted a course with a lot of turns," she said. "It's just how it's evolved over time. That (mixup last year) really just confirmed what we suspected."

Also playing into the change of the single-loop course, which will now stretch farther into Gatineau, were the pleas of half-marathoners who had to run much of their race a year ago in searing heat. The start time for their event has been backed up to 8:30 a.m.

Race director John Halvorsen said that meant the marathon route had to be revised, to keep the fields for both races moving along simultaneously at a proper pace.

"I think the flow will work well," he said. "We'll see."

Halvorsen is certain the publicity generated by the foulup of the finish of last year's marathon will help prevent it from happening again. Organizers have stressed to volunteers the importance of manning their posts at all times and better signage is being posted at potential "high-risk" corners.

"You can never predict something like that will happen," said Halvorsen, who admits the route through New Edinburgh last year was "not ideal."

"We're aware of (a potential problem) this year ... the awareness in the city is a lot better. I'm comfortable that we'll do the right things."

Longbottom is hopeful that, someday soon, the marathon will be run on a permanent course that can become something traditional, along the lines of the famed Boston Marathon.

"We'd love to settle on one final course and have it for many years," she said. "At the same time, when we do settle on that course, we want to make sure it's the best one that we can provide."

They'd also like to provide a Hyundai Tucson for the marathon winner. The vehicle is up for grabs again for any runner who can post the fastest marathon time ever on Canadian soil. That mark remains the gold medal-winning time of East Germany's Waldemir Cierpinski (2:09:55) at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

Both 2006 marathon champs -- Abderrahime Bouramdane of Marocco and Canada's Lioudmila Kortchaguina -- are back to defend their titles.

More than 29,400 entrants took part in last year's Race Weekend events. But they're on pace to crack the 30,000 mark for the first time in 2007.


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