It was a meeting of two Marathons.
Marathon, a tiny village in West Carleton, played host to an event with Olympic overtones on Thursday, May 23.
Eleftherios Anghelopoulos, the Greek ambassador to Canada and Iordanis Louizos, mayor of Marathon, Greece, were on hand to light the ceremonial torch during Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend’s first ever marathon torch relay run.
Louizos carried a flame in a special lantern, along with two torches brought from Marathon, Greece.
More than 60 runners chosen by the race committee were selected to carry the torch 42.2-kilometres -- coincidentally the distance of a marathon -- from Marathon to Ottawa city hall, a route that travelled through West Carleton, Kanata, Nepean and west Ottawa.
“I was amazed and I was excited to see that there was a place 42 km away from city hall here called Marathon,” said Louizos. “It’s an excellent area. People are very, very friendly and I can see they love participating in marathon races.”
The idea was suggested to the race committee by Anghelopoulos, who said the torch-relay was a success in other major North American cities, such as Toronto and Chicago.
“It was my initiative,” he said. “I suggested to them they have the flame of Marathon here and they were thrilled with the idea and they accepted the suggestion.”
West Carleton-March Coun. Eli El-Chantiry was the first runner to carry the ceremonial torch, sprinting down a 200-metre stretch of John Shaw Road, before handing it off to another participant.
The torch relay team travelled in a yellow school bus, and the runners were escorted by police cars across a route that included Carp Road, Second Line Road, Terry Fox Drive, Carling Avenue, Richmond Road, Wellington Street and Somerset Street.
When the torch reached city hall, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson was scheduled to light a cauldron provided by the Hellenic Community of Ottawa, officially signalling the start of Ottawa Race Weekend, an event on May 25 and 26, that attracts more than 40,000 runners who compete in the marathon, 2K-, 5K- and 10K-races.
“It’s a fun way to sort of kick off the overall race weekend with something that symbolizes marathon, marathon running,” said John Halverson, president of Ottawa Race Weekend.”
The concept of a marathon honours the courage of Pheidippides, a Greek soldier who in 490 BC ran 40 kilometres across rocky ground from Marathon to Athens, where he announced the Greek’s victory over the Persians before falling to the ground dead.
“That’s really what marathoning is about it’s about fighting through tough times and getting through a very tough race and this is a symbolic way of kicking things off,” said Halvorson.
The race organizing committee ran a contest this year, asking Ottawa residents to submit photographs of themselves imitating the pose of Pheidippides, immortalized by a statue near Marathon, Greece.
This year’s participants included community leaders, city councillors and members of the city’s running community.
Dimitri Koutris, 13, and his sister Katherine, 15, two Barrhaven youth, participated in the torch-lighting ceremony, arriving in traditional Greek clothing.
“It’s an honour to be here, to represent the youth of the Hellenic peoples of Ottawa on this historic day,” said Katherine.