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First Ottawa Marathon winners 40 years later

As runners gear up for the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend, the winners of the very first Ottawa Marathon four decades ago are taking a bow.

Eleanor Thomas won the women's title and was just one of three females to participate.

"Oh, things have changed so much. I mean in 1975, it was really unusual, well to see anybody running, but to see a woman running, people were pretty astonished, I must say."

Thomas, laughing as she jogged lightly for a photo at the Race kick off at city hall, revealed she will once again be lacing up her sneakers and running the marathon on Sunday, making it her 17th.  It's a type of birthday present to herself, because she just one day before, she celebrates her 70th birthday. "I love this race...it's not just so much that the Race has grown, but the community involvement has grown and just the tens of thousands of people watching, volunteering and organizing...It's just a fabulous event to me."

Mehdi Jaouhar, the men's title winner of that first Ottawa Marathon, is still a bit in shock that he won even after all these years.

"It's exciting (to be here for 40th anniversary) because I couldn't believe it I won the marathon. I'm not a real marathoner, I'm a half-miler, a sprinter."

He said he owes his still-youthful and fit physique to lots of vegetables and a little bit of meat, and running for fun.

"Still look young! Still look strong! Sports keep you healthy," he said, laughing.

This year, there are 48,000 participants for the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend, and 7,000 are registered for the marathon.

Organizers say it's the biggest multi-distance race event in Canada, which also includes a 2, 5 and 10 kilometre course and a half-marathon route.

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