Orléans parkrun, ON, Canada

My 8th and penultimate, at least for this trip, parkrun in Canada. There are now two parkruns near Ottawa, and I ran Kanata the other week, while I had a car. Both Kanata and Orleans are reachable by bus from the city, but Orleans is closer, so I saved it to run to, first thing.

It’s a nice out and back route, as you can see below, with a slightly downhill start to give some welly, after which it is pretty flat. Even the hill that must be there on the way back to the finish isn’t really noticeable, so this is a course to race, if you are in the mood.

Orleans parkrun route

I will admit that in my planning I had not counted on a slightly iffy knee – recurring, but it has been fine recently – nor, more importantly, on how the weather would shift in October. I have had 11 months in hot or at least tepid weather – one rainy 17 degree start on the Gold Coast, and one chilly April morning in Christchurch were the only cool Saturdays I have seen for a year. Kanata, two weeks ago, was freezing when I got there, but it is not so bad stepping from a warm car. This morning, I set off at 7.20 and it was -3. Not just that, but my route to Orleans took me straight up Montreal Road, into a slight headwind.

It wasn’t that bad. I’m still a Brit at heart, it seems, and not adjusted to hotter weather forever. 7-8 miles in to the run, I turned off the main road and got onto the coastal path, which brought relief from the wind, and scenery, too. Running just over 10 miles to the start gave me a lovely feeling of accomplishment, and seems to have stretched out my legs, rather than further injure them.

Ottawa River pathway
Ottawa River pathway, and relief from the wind.

The start is simple enough to find. If you are going to get the bus, I’d recommend just hopping on the 95 (see www.octranspo.com for times – the 7:50 looks like the one from the Mackenzie King bridge) and walking/jogging the last 2km. It is possible to connect onto the 38 and get closer, but unless the timing is good for you, you’ll be waiting around for the second bus and still won’t get right to the run. The Aussie had tried that method, and ended up in an uber from the local shopping centre, missing the start by a few minutes. She got her run in, though.

Orleans parkrun startline
Orleans parkrun startline, obvious at the end of Orleans Boulevard, next to Cairine Wilson School.

The volunteer team were extremely enthusiastic. There were runners from South Africa, England and Australia, as well as plenty of Canadians and at least one ex-pat Brit. The team was French-Canadian; all of which gave an extra international flavour.

As for the run, my fellow Brit, Chris, set off like a bat out of hell. He doesn’t have the same “I’ve spent 11 months in warm countries” for not having warm running clothes, but, like me, he was in shorts, and raced downhill to help warm up. I caught him after a while, but had company, and that company stayed with me throughout. Multiple sets of feet, but none, it seemed, that wanted to take the lead. Luckily for me, and my vanity in enjoying finishing first, even though I know there are plenty of people quicker than me in any postcode, I was able to put some distance between one of the chasers at the turn, and the other was unregistered and happy to have a, for him, gentle run while pushing me to keep my pace up.

Me with a fellow Brit, Chris, at the finish line
Posing with a fellow Brit, Chris, and the Canadian flag, at the finish line.

As a result, although I ran slower than the last couple of weeks, my last mile was my quickest. Courses here err on the side of being slightly long, at least according to my watch, and this one measured 40-50m over (admittedly, I took a couple of corners wide). Which would explain my average pace being sub 19, and my overall time being just over. My goal has to be to speed up to the point where a few extra metres doesn’t push me over into the next minute.

Unfortunately, the cold stopped the hand scanner from working, so we all stood around for a while. The volunteers were very quick to switch to hand-recording id numbers and positions, but the wait, and then pausing for some photos, meant I was chilly when walking to the bus stop. I had company, a couple of international runners who had only planned their trip to parkrun, not back, so we walked. I ought to have run – my teeth were genuinely chattering, so my conversation game was not strong.

But we timed our walk perfectly to be on the 10:08 bus back to town, which got us all back to the Ottawa Jail – the place to be for all tourists, it seemed – before 10:40, time to shower and pack before an 11:00 checkout.

Canadian Museum of History, Ottawa

Thursday evenings, 5-8pm, is “go to a museum in Ottawa for free” time. That is not enough time to cover more than one, perhaps two, without rushing, and I took a leisurely stroll round the Canadian Museum of History, specifically the history of Canada section, and then headed to Cine+ to see Trolley, a love letter to the streetcar.

View over the Rideau River
View over the Rideau River.

The history of Canada took me around two hours. It is separated into three: early history, colonial and then modern. It is an easy read, though I occasionally got lost following the thread, with both French and English sometimes seeming scattered around the boards at random, with the sequence mysterious. It doesn’t go deep into First Nation history, nor the controversy therein, but nor does it ignore it. Overall, though, the impression is of a country that is fairly relaxed with its history.

View of Parliament, behind the National Museum
View of Parliament, behind the National Museum.
Ancient Inuit artefact (reproduction)
No euphemism here. Yes, they are sharing an intimate moment.

There are some digital interactive displays, like the one above – click (in the museum) on different parts of the image for information. Some of those displays didn’t seem to be working.

Canada's proud war history
Canada’s proud war history.

Once again, visiting a Commonwealth country and seeing its proud history, and the loss involved, shows how daft it is for Britain to claim it ever “stood alone” in WW2.

Terry Fox, diagnosed with cancer, who ran across Canada
Terry Fox, diagnosed with cancer, who ran across Canada.

As a runner, I was drawn to the story of Terry Fox, who was enduring cancer when he set off to run across Canada. He made it much of the way before the disease prevented him going further, and achieved his goal of raising $1 CAD for every person in the country (around 24 million at the time).

Pow wow costume
Pow wow costume. A pow wow is a ceremonial celebration of cultural pride.

I loved the colours on this costume. That’s all I can tell you about it. Do you see that large sign at the top of the post, saying Ottawa? From behind it, obviously, reads AWATTO, which has a certain smack to it. At least I understood it. Last Sunday, watching Toronto’s American Football team, the Argonauts, it took me three go-rounds before I understood why people were running round the pitch, flying flags to spell “SOGRA”.

Shot from film called Trolley
Shot from film called Trolley.

I loved the film, Trolley. Partly that was because I had run in the morning, walked around plenty of Ottawa and this gave me the chance to sit down. It is a love letter to the trolley bus/streetcar/light rail, with a warning about the dangers of the combustion engine towards the end. Toronto, unlike other cities round the world, never got rid of its streetcars, and there are great shots of the ‘red rockets’ heading round the city. The film ends with ‘light rail’ use growing, and some great shots of life in various cities (only North American or French, probably to save the cost of heading everywhere) with those street cars rolling by in the background.

Police escort for ?
Police escort for ?

Leaving the museum, I was paused in the act of crossing a street by a police escort whizzing through, stopping traffic ahead of a convoy. I like to think that as a result, I have been this ~~ close to President Trudeau, an actually intelligent head of state, but it could just as easily have been a prisoner transfer (insert obvious joke about your own country’s government here).

Ottawa; relaxed, a little rough round the edges, with great museums and some lovely parks to the North. Also: at the end of October 2018, cold.

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