TORW 2015 – Ottawa Marathon Water Station

Another TORW – this will probably be the last one and then we are back to our regularly scheduled programming….

Although you might as well replace TORW with STWM – because training for that marathon starts in a few weeks!.

When I found out that I would be returning to my school for second semester, two things came to mind: Track and Field coaching and leading a water station for the Ottawa Marathon. My school and I worked a water station in 2013 and we had fun. We didn’t have 50 volunteers (more like 32-35 with 5 random volunteers), but the kids had fun. We ended up having some difficulties with keeping water cups available and it seemed really hectic.

This year was a bit different. I knew what to expect and started recruiting in a few of my classes right away. We had 43 students arrive at 5:50am on Sunday morning to volunteer.  I am rather impressed that all but one (who did text that she was on her way) were on the bus ready to go at 5:50. I actually told them a time that was slightly earlier than our actual departure time, expecting some stragglers.  I also had Josée come out and join us – hopefully she didn’t mind the 40+ “loud” teens. We were on our way at exactly 6am, which was our original departure time. You would figure a bus full of teens in the morning would be quiet, but they were actually all up and talking. Proof that students CAN get up early.

We arrived at our station just as our delivery truck was arriving at our location.  My experience in the previous marathon meant that I knew how fast we would need to set up the table. We arrived at our station at 6:30am – the race started at 7am, with the elites coming by roughly at 8am. Meaning, we had an hour and a half to be fully set up. We had 12 tables – some for gatorade and the rest for water. The idea is to triple-stack the cups so that ideally, you don’t have to refill at all during the marathon. Once those 4:15 pace runners come through, it gets really crowded and busy.

Other set-up things we had to do included: washing all the boards that held the cups, washing the Gatorade tubs, washing the 20+ pitchers and making sure the tables were in the right spots. I saw on the Marathon broadcast that some groups had their tables on the sidewalks and some on the road. Our location had very little space on the sidewalks, and some of the sidewalks seemed to be slanted – so we went with the road. It was probably a good idea since there were so many people walking around/on bikes that used the sidewalk during the marathon. We also had a radio station come and set up by the station. Both the students and I loved having music at our station.

During the set-up, one of my jobs is to make sure the students don’t set up the station slowly. This isn’t a tea party and cups don’t need to be perfectly straight on the table nor perfectly full. Ideally, you have two people at each table: one sets up cups, another fills. I really hated the cups this year: both as a runner and volunteer. That awful crunching noise when someone stepped on a cup was really annoying. For those who are wondering – not really the organizers call. Normally the cups are from a certain sports beverage company – that is the only clue I will give. Don’t blame Run Ottawa :-)I also assigned four students to the water hoses to be responsible for filling everyone’s jugs. The students also had to prepare the Gatorade. After a few gentle reminders times I had to yell – we finally got a groove on. By the time we had about 10 minutes to go before the elites, we had all but the last two tables triple-stacked. Our station looked great!


Soon, I could hear the motorcade coming with the elite men behind them. I told the students to stand back and just let them go by. When watching the broadcast later, our station was so loud!! We were at approximately KM 22 – just past the halfway point. The elite men went by and our students were yelling “whoooaaaa!!!” and even one kid yelled “did you see the size of this tight muscles?!?”. The elite men went by, and then it was quiet for awhile. Next was Rob Watson – students cheered him by name since I knew who he was. The the elite women came by, followed closely by the top Canadian Rachel Hannah. Of course I totally blanked on her first name even though I totally recognized her.


After the elites go by – there are a few runners who come in behind them, but it is rather quiet for a good 10 minutes or so. It doesn’t really pick up until the 3:00 marathoners start coming in. I knew that a teacher friend would be around that mark, so I waited at the front for him to go by, so I could get the kids to cheer for him. After he went by – I started getting the kids to chuck the used water cups under the tables so that it would be easy to pick them up. The kids liked giving out the water and turned it into some sort of game of “WHO WILL TAKE MY WATER?!” – the fast runners pose an extra challenge because they are going so fast, that you might actually just get soaked rather than giving them water. This is with the open hand technique and all – those cups….awful!

As soon as the rush started – all the students were put on the tables, with a few students assigned to garbage duty. I also had a hockey stick that I used to clear off the road. I would start all the way at the back and move forward so that I could see the runners at all times. There were some parts I just stayed to the side. I saw a number of runners, including Colin (co-coach from the track club), David (fellow STWM Digital Champ) and a few other people that I totally recognized, but was unsure where I knew them from ;-). I did know of several other people running – but when it is busy, I can only see who is directly next to me. Oh and Batman was there – the one student yelled “BATMAN TOOK MY WATER”. There was also someone in some sort of Clown costume – he liked our energy I think 🙂


After the 4:30 marathoners group went past (I can tell who the group is by the pacers), it got really quiet. This definitely surprised me. Considering that I am a slow marathoner, I didn’t expect that there would be next to no runners at this point. I don’t remember it being this quiet in 2013. I don’t think the marathon sold out and I think the cold winter effected registration. When the 5:30 marathoner went by – they were a small group with no one around them. Definitely makes me wonder if I should register for the Ottawa Marathon since I’m definitely not fast. It could have been a slower section though because we were not on the half marathon route.

Our weather conditions were nice and cool – a couple times the sun came out and you would feel the fit. This made Josée look at each other and say “oh oh!”. We knew that the half marathoners would be getting the brunt of the heat. From what Kristi said in her blog – it was almost like last year with lots of people down. For the marathoners, the first half was cooler – which showed in the amount of water they drank. They barely touched our station. We did not have a single empty table. A couple of tables still had two layers. If we were on a more sunny, half marathon station, I’m pretty sure we would have been out of cups.

After the main group of runners is past our station – we started cleaning up. Those cups go everywhere, so we had to walk a bit to make sure they were all picked up. We also have to grab every little piece of Gel wrappers from the road. All the cups are recycled – so they had to go into clear bags. Once the last walkers have gone through – we then start dismantling the station. We still had tons of time left over and the kids were a bit bored while waiting for the bus. In all of this, they even had a little water fight.



Luckily the bus was able to come by early and we were on our way before noon. It did take us awhile to get back to school because getting through downtown was a nightmare. We did open the windows and cheer on people we saw who had finished the races. One person on the bus questioned “how do we know if they are marathoners?”, in which another student replied “Because they are wearing tin foil!”. LOL. On our way to the highway, I looked down at Colonel By Drive and noticed the 5:30 pacer, just finishing the race. Cool!

The students had a great time volunteering. I’ve heard lots of great feedback from them and their parents. They really want to do it again next year. They did an amazing job at the water station – I think our station was set up really well and we had next to no problems during the day. As a reward – the students were given a pizza lunch, complete with DQ ice cream cake for lunch yesterday. We demolished that lunch! Josée, I owe you a beer!


What a way to wrap up a successful Ottawa Race Weekend. See you next year!


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  1. Lisa @ Lulus Big Adventure

    Sounds like they had a lot of fun!
    Lisa @ Lulus Big Adventure recently posted…Highlights from ChileMy Profile

  2. Jane @ 50statecanuck

    So impressed that you got those students out to catch the bus so early!! That’s awesome!

    I’ve volunteered at a water station before and I loved it!!

    OMG – those cups look TERRIBLE!!!!!

    Good for you for doing this!!! For the runners and for those kids and the experience they got!!
    Jane @ 50statecanuck recently posted…Aargh, Abby! Resuming my circus trick and being a happy auntie!My Profile

    1. ~Rebecca~ (Post author)

      They loved it!

  3. Ann-Marie

    Thank you for all your volunteering! I looked for you quickly while running through your station (saw a lot of your students in their school team shirts!) but didn’t spot you. It was a hot day and the volunteers were much appreciated! 🙂

    1. ~Rebecca~ (Post author)

      I blend in 😉 I was also moving cups with a hockey stick for awhile

  4. Kristi@Blog for an Average Runner

    I thought maybe it was just me that hated those cups! Definitely didn’t like running over them and I was worried they would make me slip.
    One day I really should volunteer for a water table. Another friend of mine was at the 11k table and she and her son also had a great time.
    On another note – have you decided on a particular training plan for your marathon? I will be 2 weeks behind you in training so I will use you as my guide 🙂

    1. ~Rebecca~ (Post author)

      I’m probably just updating the one I used from last year. Need to add strength/cross to it and maybe a small increase in mileage. I’m currently a bit injured so probably looking at a 16 week one again

  5. Andrea

    New to your blog which is why I’m commenting on an older post. Yes, you should run Ottawa. It was my first in 2014, finished in 5:25. The crowd support was still pretty good for the back of the pack. Also, is one of the few race I’ve seen with a 5:30 pace bunny.

    1. ~Rebecca~ (Post author)

      Thinking about it for next year! I have all the medals but that one!


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