So You Want to Run a Canadian Marathon, eh?

Canadian FlagHappy Canada Day Eve, Saltines, and Happy early 149th birthday, Canada!

As Canada’s southern neighbours, some of you may have considered running a marathon in the True North. As the Canadian voice of Salty Running, I wanted to commemorate Canada’s birthday by counting down six of the most eh-mazing 42.2 kilometre races. A Mari Usque Ad Mare (Canada’s national motto, “from sea to sea”), these races will give you a taste of different landscapes to be discovered in the second largest country in the world.

Oh Canada, indeed!

6. Halifax, Nova Scotia – Bluenose Marathon – May

If you are a “bluenoser,” you’re probably from Nova Scotia and know a thing or two about sailing. It’s also the name of the fishing and racing schooner that can be found on the Canadian 10-cent dime. Affectionately named after these seafaring roots, the Bluenose Marathon runs through downtown Halifax, past the Halifax Town Clock on Citadel Hill, through Point Pleasant Park, to the finish. As the largest Canadian city on the Atlantic coast, Halifax’s Bluenose Marathon offers runners a taste of Canada’s east coast lifestyle. The race offers a range of distances during the weekend, with approximately 13,000 participants in all events in recent years.

Fun fact! If you’re from Halifax, you’re known as a “Haligonian.”

Toronto Marathon
Start of the Toronto Marathon

5. Toronto, Ontario – Toronto Waterfront Marathon – October

As the marathon of Canada’s largest city, in the capital of the province of Ontario, the Toronto Marathon is one of the biggest races in Canada. The course runs through the many diverse neighbourhoods and provides runners with an urban racing experience. This race also attracts many elites and is where Lanni Marchant met the Canadian Olympic Standard for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Pro tip! Fly into Toronto Island airport for quicker access to downtown.

4. Quebec City, Quebec – Quebec City Marathon – August 

As Canada’s oldest city, and one of the oldest European settlements in North America, Quebec City is the “crown jewel” of French Canada. This point-to-point marathon starts across the river in Lévis, with a net elevation drop, finishing in Old Quebec City. While there’s lots of cobble stone in the city, don’t worry, the course is primarily on paved roads. Arrive a couple of days early to explore the many historic sites.

Pro tip! Make sure to get a poutine or eat at a traditional fondue restaurant while you’re there.

Hamilton Marathon
Maple at the 2015 Hamilton Marathon

3. Hamilton, Ontario – Hamilton Road 2 Hope Marathon – November

Hamilton is often known for its steel town roots, and is one of the fastest growing cities in Canada. For all you BQ hopefuls, this is your race. Considered an “all business” marathon, the Hamilton Road 2 Hope Marathon begins on the top of the Niagara Escarpment and runs along flat farm land for the first half. Once you reach the Red Hill Creek Expressway, it’s a fairly steep downhill with a flat stretch along Lake Ontario to the finish.

Fun fact! Approximately 25 percent of finishers punch their BQ card.

2. Vancouver, British Columbia – Vancouver Marathon – May

Named by Forbes as one of the top 12 destination marathons, the Vancouver Marathon will not disappoint. Located in the province of British Columbia, Vancouver is notorious for its superb temperatures, Pacific Ocean views, and snow capped mountains. The Vancouver Marathon is one of the biggest West coast races, and runs by 12 neighbourhoods, six beaches, and three parks.

Fun fact! Seventy percent of the race course provides views of the Pacific shore.

Ottawa Maple
Maple running in Ottawa

1. Ottawa, Ontario – Ottawa Marathon – May

Located in Canada’s capital, the Ottawa Marathon is a must for all marathon bucket lists. This IAAF Gold Label race attracts over 7,000 mortals, who run the 42.2K along with elites from around the globe. The course is relatively flat and runs through the downtown neighbourhoods of Ottawa and Gatineau, Quebec. As a runner, you can expect to hear cheers from thousands of spectators. From race expo to finisher’s village, the Ottawa Marathon provides runners with a world class racing experience. Plan to run this race in 2017 and see Ottawa decked out to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday!

Pro tip! Check out StayBillety for cheaper accomodation options.

Have you run a race in Canada? Do you prefer racing local or travelling for a race? 

I'm a Canadian runner with a knack for training in frigid temperatures and completing 20 milers on the treadmill. I'm currently training for a spring marathon, with the goal of Boston Qualifying. Outside of running, I work in public policy and can often be found cross-stitching or being talked out of adopting another cat.

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4 comments

  1. As a local runner I have done Ottawa full 3 times and the half 4 times plus several runs of shorter distances. Best race in Canada I think! I did the other Toronto marathon this spring and while it is a fast course, it totally under delivers as a big city race. Looking forward to trying Scotiabank this fall.

  2. I was surprised to read this list, as I have run four of the six marathons listed. Truly, they are all great runs. I can’t say enough about the Road 2 Hope, however. Their race director is a firm believer in the sheer joy of running. She passes this on through every activity that she organizes, from running clinics to races. Best of all, she strives to make this race better each and every year.

  3. Thanks for the recommendations! I had Toronto on my list to run at some point in the future, but didn’t know about the other ones- will definitely think about some of those as well. I ran Edmonton last August, and really enjoyed it. What drew me to that one (and is the same for most on your list), is the timing- you can expect cooler weather in Canada for a late spring/early fall marathon than you can in the US.