Winterlude triathlon changed to marathon

By Josh Clipperton

Despite a recent cold snap, organizers of the annual Winterlude Triathlon have been forced to modify the race to an eight-kilometre run because of Ottawa’s mild weather in December and early January.

The Really Cool 8km Run will replace the usual triathlon on the first weekend of Winterlude, Saturday, Feb. 3.

The Winterlude Triathlon usually includes speed skating on the Rideau Canal, a cross country ski course in the Arboretum and a land race on Queen Elizabeth Drive.

The Really Cool Run will start at Preston Street and follow Queen Elizabeth Drive to Pretoria Bridge. Racers will then loop back along the same route.

Rick Hellard, the triathlon’s event director, says the decision was made to be fair to all participants.

“We had to make a call,” says Hellard. “There’s no more ambiguity.”

He says making a clear decision gives people time to train for the modified event.

The street race portion was also the only guarantee because of the unseasonably warm weather in early January.

“I can count on the Queen Elizabeth Drive always being there,” says Hellard. “I can’t count on snow and ice always being there.”

The number of registered participants is down for this year’s event. Hellard says he hopes more runners will sign up because the triathlon is now a street race.

“There are a lot more runners than triathletes in the city,” he says. “So there are a lot more possible participants.”

Jamie Stephenson is one potential runner. He says the street race is more appealing than the triathlon.

“I’m more interested now that it’s a race,” says Stephenson. “There aren’t that many winter-time races, so it gives people a chance to compete in the winter.”

Hellard says he hopes there are more runners like Stephenson.

“This can be an extra objective for runners, extra motivation,” he says. “It gives them another goal for the winter months.”

Although some runners are excited to race in the winter, some triathletes have decided to stay away from the pared-down event.

“I’d been toying with the idea [of entering the race],” says Theresa Wallace, who has entered past Winterlude Triathlons. “But the idea of Winterlude is the winter events: the skating and the skiing. I can go for a run along the canal anytime.”

Past Winterlude Triathlons have attracted more than 450 participants. Hellard says he expects The Really Cool Run to attract at least 300 runners.

“Everyone is a little bit disappointed that it’s not going to be a triathlon, but I think people understand,” says Hellard.

“Most of us winter enthusiasts really look forward to putting the bike away. But this winter we had to put it away a few times and take it out again.”

Hellard says the decision to switch to The Really Cool Run is final, even if the canal and Arboretum are ready by race day.

This is the 24th year for the Winterlude Triathlon. Last year, the skating leg of the race was cancelled due to poor ice conditions on the canal. The triathlon was called off entirely in 1998 because of the ice storm.

The entry form for this year’s race can be found at