The first International Big Rideau Lake Speed Skating marathon -as Skate the Lake was initially known- was held on January 31, 2004 in Portland and it was a huge success. Approximately 150 skaters took part in the races from four countries (Canada, USA, The Netherlands and Australia) and the Ottawa Sun reported an attendance of more than 1,000 spectators. Overall winner of the 50-kilometre race with the men was Jeff Bakal from Sydenham, Ontario and with the women it was Allison Turner from Montreal, Quebec.
Portland hosted the official North American Marathons Speed Skating Championships In 2006 and 2014. These races were sanctioned by Speed Skating Canada.
In 2018, approximately 100 skaters from the Netherlands joined North American skaters in the first ever 100 kilometre tour on Big Rideau Lake. They were part of a group that normally skates on the Weissensee in Austria where annual races of 100 and 200 kilometres are attended by thousands.
The Skate the Lake oval is usually 1kilomtre in length but we are flexible. Twice (including the first year) the oval was 2.5 kilometres and once it was 500 metres.
Over the years, Skate the Lake was joined by several Canadian Olympians, some who were supported by RBC. They include short track speed skater Tania Vicent, freestyle skier Deidra Dionne, curler Rachel Holman, rower Derek O'Farrell and swimmer Mike Brown.
• Rick Mercer at Skate the Lake
• Early in his career, Canadian Olympic speed skater Jordan Belchos skated a memorable race in Portland at the 2006 North American Marathon Skating
• Canadian Olympic road bicycle racer Denise Ramsden skated in Portland early on in her career