|Senators defenceman Alex Picard will get an early start on his off-season training by running the half marathon during the annual Ottawa Race Weekend (Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images).
For Alex Picard, the finish line is finally in sight.
The Senators defenceman is less than a week away from taking the 21-kilometre test that is the Ottawa Half Marathon, which is part of the annual Ottawa Race Weekend. Picard will toe the line at 9 a.m. on Sunday near the intersection of Elgin and Laurier streets for a run that has attracted some 10,000 participants.
After three weeks of hard training for the big day, the Gatineau native is anxious for the gun to go off. And to cross the finish line sometime before 11 a.m.
"I'm just going to be relieved," he said when asked how he'll feel when it's all over. "We're going to be done by 11 o'clock. I don't know many people that have run 21 kilometres before 11 o'clock. Most of my buddies will still be in bed."
It's a few of those friends who talked Picard into running the half-marathon and they'll share the experience with him.
"Since the season was over pretty quick, I thought it would be a good way to get back in shape and do it with them," he said.
While he's never conquered this kind of distance in a competition, running isn't exactly foreign to a hockey player who would "rather run than bike" as part of his off-season training.
"A lot of things we did when I was in Philadelphia with the Flyers... there was a lot of running involved," he said. "A lot of the off-ice testing was about running. That's probably where I picked it up."
Picard has been running every other day to get ready for Sunday's event, starting out with lighter five- and seven-kilometre runs before pushing up to 15 kms. Most of it has been done on his own, with a large percentage of it turned in on a treadmill.
"I did it outside a couple of times but mostly I ran here (at Scotiabank Place) on a treadmill," he said. "I'd rather run on the treadmill so I don't mess up my back or my knees further on. If you gave me the choice, I (prefer) running outside better but I think it's easier on the body if you do it on the treadmill."
Though he hasn't yet run the actual 21-kilometre distance, Picard believes he's ready for that challenge.
"It's a little long sometimes when you run for over an hour but other than that, it's a half-marathon, so you're not sprinting," he said. "You just have to keep a nice pace the whole time. It's a little easier than I thought it would be."
"We're going to be done by 11 o'clock. I don't know many people that have run 21 kilometres before 11 o'clock. Most of my buddies will still be in bed." - Alex Picard
For the time being, at least, Sunday's run figures to be a one-time thing.
"I think for now it's a one-shot deal because we didn't make the playoffs and I had a lot of time (to prepare)," said Picard. "I don't know about (doing) a full marathon. I don't know if it would be wise for me to do it... It would take me a lot of time to recover and the month of June is when you really start pushing yourself to get in shape for the season."
He'll enjoy it while it lasts on Sunday.
"I think I'll just be relieved (when it's over) and it'll be a good feeling," he said. "It's a story I can tell later on, that I did a half marathon."
While he's the lone Senators player lacing 'em up this weekend, Picard isn't the only runner who'll carry the club's banner. Captain Daniel Alfredsson
's wife, Bibbi, is entered in the half-marathon as well, along with Teresa Donovan (wife of Shean) and Janelle Forest (girlfriend of Nick Foligno
Other Senators staffers joining the thousands taking part in the Ottawa Race Weekend include Brian Morris (marathon), Phil Legault (half marathon), Isabelle Perreault-Lachapelle (half marathon), Kristin Wood (10K), Andrea Clark (10K) and Rob Brodie (5K).
If you'd like to support a worthy cause, please lend a hand to Legault (running for 20-20 Team supporting Ottawa Hospital Cancer Centre), Perreault-Lachapelle (Prevent Cancer Now) and Brodie (Canadian Athletes Now).