First and Last Days in the Big Small Town

Here we are. The end of the last long weekend of the summer. Labour Day marks the unofficial end to summer, and despite the fact that summer doesn’t officially end until September 22, the leaves are already changing so it looks like Mother Nature is on board with this. Where exactly the summer went I couldn’t tell you. It was lost in a sea of research and playing with puppies. Spent running and baking and loving. But here we are.

^ This is me every September.

Dylan's first day of Grade 1! When he grew up is as big a mystery as where my summer went...

Dylan’s first day of Grade 1! When he grew up is as big a mystery as where my summer went…

It was Dylan’s first day so of course Aunt Niki HAD to come!

Shortly after I completed the Niagara Falls Women’s Half-Marathon, I made the leap to go to the Run Club at the Running Room on Merivale. I was new to the running thing, afraid that I wouldn’t fit in, or that somehow they would see beyond my snug dry-fit, tightly laced running shoes, and newly charged Garmin watch and see that I wasn’t one of them.

I was a walker. Not a runner. Reality check? If they did see, they didn’t care, or maybe – just MAYBE – the instant I had made the decision to run and laced up I became a runner.

I have met some fantastic people there, really encouraging and enthusiastic people. The kind of non-competitive people who are eager to share their knowledge, and newbies like me, who are eager to hear their words of wisdom. The kind of people that congratulate you every week, because when you’re training for your first half, every Sunday is a new personal best distance. It’s honestly an experience I would recommend to anyone who is nervous about starting running, or wants to get active by walking. With all distance and skill levels present it’s easy to find a group to go with that will fit your goals.

NCC Experimental Farm Trail (One of my favourites from Run Club)  For more trails in Ottawa go to http://www.ontariotrails.on.ca/trails-a-z/search

NCC Experimental Farm Trail (One of my favourites from Run Club)
For more trails in Ottawa go to http://www.ontariotrails.on.ca/trails-a-z/search

I also found some amazing areas of the city that I did not even know existed. Ottawa has over 300 kilometers of hiking and biking trails. To put that in perspective, I could almost drive from my house in Barrhaven to Nippising University in North Bay. I could also go from Ottawa to Montreal and about half way back. These trails run through parks I didn’t know we had, along the beautiful Rideau Canal, through the experimental farms. You don’t even feel like you are in a city at some points. In the winter many people will skate to work on the world’s longest outdoor skating rink. Where else can you do that?!

Running you see all parts of the city, the good, the bad, and the hilly. But that’s what I love about this city – its diversity both of scenery and landscape and of the people. I love the parks and farms that remind me of home, and the pavement and bright lights that are the big city. Ever since moving to Ottawa I have described it as a big small town. The kind of place that is big enough to have all the amazing benefits of a big city – the vibrant night life, the diverse cuisine and population, a rich job market, good health care options including a bounty of specialists. But the parks and trails make it feel like a smaller town than it is.

For the last three years Ottawa has been judged to be the most desirable place in the country to live according to Money Sense Magazine. And despite its horrible weather, and occasionally unreliable transit system, I can see why.

I come from a fairly small town, big cities actually FRIGHTENED me first year. It was the reason I didn’t even apply at the University of Toronto for my undergraduate degree. First year I grumbled about the lack of sleep from the traffic on the highway off-ramp my room faced in residence. Now, when I go home, I can’t sleep because it’s too quiet. I love the hum of the city, the feeling of life when you’re in the downtown core. This city is alive, the possibilities excite me.

Fill 'er up! Where's a politician when you need one?!

Fill ‘er up! Where’s a politician when you need one?!

Hot Air Balloons on the way to Run Club

Hot Air Balloons on the way to Run Club

Driving to Run Club this morning I saw hot air balloons being inflated on Woodroffe Avenue. I ran through a park where they were setting up for a folk festival. We ran past the first year Ravens registering and moving into the Carleton University residences. And through a park where children playing in the sprinklers. I get that this all sounds incredibly nostalgic and cheesy. And I’m cool with that. I like cheese.

It’s just that days like this remind me how much I love this city.

It is potentially my last year in this beautiful city and I am determined to enjoy it. I want to visit all the museums, go to Oktoberfest, experience New Years Eve downtown, go to that quirky art exhibit downtown, watch the buskers in the Market, visit the local farms, and of course, run the beautiful trails.

It’s going to be a busy year, school will chew up a massive chunk of my time and energy. And call me nerdy, but I am glad to be back to school because it means I will be back in the core of the city, I will be riding the buses, and learning so many new things, I will be investigating and writing, and reading. And this is the kind of excitement I try to hold onto come midterm season. But I am excited for all the possibilities. Even if all I discover is a new coffee shop to hang out at that potentially has more seats and outlets than the campus Starbucks.

Right. Like that’s going to happen in downtown. Maybe I’ll settle for trying that little Mexican restaurant on Elgin.

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