In May of 1975, 146 runners came out for the first — and what organizers believed would be the only — Ottawa Marathon.

This weekend, nearly 36,000 people will be taking to the streets of the nation’s capital for Ottawa Race Weekend.

As of Thursday afternoon, 35,857 people had signed up for seven races over two days, said race weekend marketing manager Susan Marsh-Marconi.

“We’ve seen a significant increase in all areas,” said Marsh-Marconi.

While the half-marathon sold out on May 1, the 10K event sold out last week and the 5K sold out on Thursday, other events — which include the 2K race, kids marathon, wheelchair marathon, and of course, the marathon — are near capacity.

Years earlier, longtime Ottawa Race Weekend general manager Jim Robinson predicted the growth of the event.

“People are getting more health conscious,” he said.

The event draws runners from all over Canada. With only 12,278 of this year’s participants calling Ottawa home, the event has a huge impact on the economy, said Marsh-Marconi.

“They have to stay somewhere and eat somewhere,” agreed Robinson. “It has a huge economic impact.”
In addition to runners, the event also draws 100,000 spectators and requires more than 1,500 volunteers.

This year, elite athletes have another reason to come to Ottawa — any runner who sets a world record for the 10K distance this Saturday will win $100,000 — the largest prize purse in Canada.

“We’re the largest marathon in Canada,” said Marsh-Marconi. And possibility of winning the prize money aside, there’s a reason for it.

No detail — from the cheering stations to the medals to the goodie bags — has been overlooked, she said: “We put on a fantastic race.”