The Hamilton Marathon; Road2Hope – Oct 2015

Trek and Run were supported during this event by;

Salba Chia 

Columbia Sportswear

&

Helly Hansen

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Words by Tim Sweeney, Trevor Murphy and Dave Wise

First up, here’s a short video we shot during the event, to give you an idea of the course and atmosphere.

Trevor - Well, I had no intention of ever running a marathon and certainly no intention of doing 3 in 3 consecutive weeks, but, life’s funny that way isn’t it? Crossing the finish line marked the 1 year anniversary of finally quitting smoking cigarettes for good. A fitting end to a year well spent getting into running seriously. This idea was sprung on me quite late in my training for the first marathon and I’m very thankful David Wise suggested it and helped pull it all off. Thanks buddy!

Tim - My first marathon last weekend in Niagara Falls was so painful I figured I’d try another one this weekend. What is wrong with me? Well as it turned out, this one was much more fun. It may have been Dorothy Parker who said “I hate writing, I love having written”, and that sort of summed up how I felt about my first experience racing 42.2 kilometres. I hated doing it, but I felt elated to have done it. So why not get back on that horse right away right? While this still may have been the second or third hardest thing I’ve ever done, I was able to enjoy myself much more along the way.

I moved away from my home town of Hamilton some ten years ago for the bright lights and big smoke of Toronto, so running races there does feel like a bit of a homecoming. The weather forecast changed from rain to sunny and warm just in time for race day, so other than some crazy wind at times, it was a perfect day to run a race…and I managed to knock about 8 minutes off my first go at the marathon the week before. So a new PR and another medal for the collection made it a great day all around. I take back most of what I may have said about the marathon distance during my first race.

Tell us about pre-race (event website/info, expo and on the day)

Trevor – The race day expo for the Hamilton Marathon was quite nice. They had the 5k and 10k racers running on the saturday, so there were plenty of racers mingling with those that were to race the following day. I think that added some extra energy to the day, seeing the accomplishment on the faces of many of those around you.

Pretty standard offerings at the race expo. Time to buy the race day gels and check out some of the offerings from the local vendors. There always seem to be some good deals at these expos and this was no different. I picked up a couple of items that I would have definitely paid more for at a retail outlet.

Tim - I have no complaints about the pre race info, the website spelled everything out clearly. The expo was a little smaller than some but I was able to stock up on my gels for race day, buy some running socks as well as a funky little foam roller, and getting the race kit was a breeze. And I don’t know if she was the race director or just one of the people involved, but the woman who was on our shuttle bus was the best. She had everyone laughing on the way up to the start line and gave us a good history of the race. She was also one of the reasons the race offered three colour choices of long sleeve race shirts as well, which was great.

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How was the course?

Trevor – Hamilton’s course really is fantastic. On a good day with cooperative conditions, this would the place to set your PB and maybe qualify for Boston if that were your goal. The top of the mountain offered a tremendous view of the lake from a bit different perspective than I’m used to seeing. The long downhill stretch was something to look forward to as it gave the legs a brief rest if you choose to just hold your pace, or to allow you to make up some time if you were pushing hard. The home stretch along the lakefront is just perfect!

Tim - Being a native Hamiltonian and having never run this race before, I was surprised to be continually impressed with the views along the entire course. Maybe it was just that I was suffering less than in last weeks race, so I was trying to consciously soak in my surroundings. But running along the edge of the escarpment on Ridge Road early in the race made for some beautiful scenery, and ending the race along Lake Ontario was pretty gorgeous as well. And I have no complaints about the roughly 7 kilometre stretch of downhill that came just after the halfway point. It’s a pretty and very fast course. Mark this in your calendar if you are trying to get into Boston.

Dave – Very fast, very scenic. I was tired before this race yet still, it seemed impossible to keep to a slow gear. Here’s the stats from my GPS watch to show you the extent of the downhill section of the race. As you can see, it’s either flat of downhill, hardly any up at all.

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Your best memories from the race?

Trevor – There were a lot of little nice moments during the day. The nice banter on the bus ride to the start, that nervous energy preceeding the start and all the people sharing their enthusiasm. The finish stretch to this race is about as good as it gets for me. I’ve lived in that area and roller bladed and biked along that lakeshore trail many times and the view never loses its appeal. The temperature was about perfect and the crowd support was pretty nice along that stretch.

Tim - It’s nice to finish something as difficult as a marathon and have your family waiting for you at the finish line, even if my dear mother kept calling my finishers medal “such a nice necklace”. I had some serious highs while struggling through the last 8 or 10 kilometres thanks to some music that came on my phone on shuffle. It’s funny that you can feel so bad and so good at the same time. Apologies to any runners that were subjected to me singing “It’s such a blast to be alive!” at the top of my lungs around the 37k mark.

Dave – All of it. I loved travelling to the expo and the race with the guys, and I felt so great during the race almost all the way, it was the sort of course that helped you get into your groove really quickly.

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Where there any low points, or issues that need addressing?

Trevor – Very few low points during the day. As seems to be the case with most races, a few extra porta potties on the course would have been helpful. I actually stood and waited at one for about 2 minutes before giving up and finding some bushes further along the route. The spacing at the start could have been a bit better, but that’s not really too much of an issue as you’re looking for your ‘chip time’ anyway.

Tim - There wasn’t much I could fault the race organizers for as far as organization. It seems like a well planned race. I wasn’t crazy about the liquid offered at the aid stations in place of the usual sports drink. It tasted pretty awful and seemed to be made with honey…just wasn’t for me. I spat some out and stuck to water only the rest of the way. But the race seems to be have plenty of sponsorship support, so I understand them offering one of the sponsors product.

Dave – I agree with Tim about the honey sports drink; no good for us vegans! But even if it was, it didn’t taste great. Apart from that, no low points at all, and to be honest, the drink wasn’t really a low point as there was water available so that was fine.

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And how was the post-race experience?

Trevor – First rate experience post race. The white jackets given at the finish line (see them in the photo above) are really welcome and surprisingly warm. The post race food was perfect. Bananas for a quick recharge and then on to more substantive food choices like a nice vegetable soup and vegan pizza. Top marks! The medal is quite nice and the choice of colours for your race shirt was a nice treat. Results were up same day in a tent near the food area and were easy to find.

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Tim - Let’s talk about the post race food! A Roma style pizza (think thick bread pizza with tasty herbs and tomato sauce) and piping hot vegetable soup! A lot of other races could learn something from the Hamilton Marathon when it comes to post race food.

Dave – Oh yeah, that food, superb. The best I’ve had, post race, anywhere. Bananas, apples, cookies, cliff bars, pizza, soup, I got my calories in quickly and recovered very quickly as a result (felt great the next day, no soreness at all).

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How would you sum up the race?

Trevor – This race overall was really good. The combination of the beautiful course and the speed it ‘potentially’ offers is pretty hard to beat. I would say if you live in this area or are visiting around the time of the race, it is a ‘must do’ event.

Tim - A fast and scenic course, and a well organized race. If I ever get fast enough to think about Boston qualifying times, this will be the one to try and BQ. And after wondering why anyone would want to do a marathon a mere seven days ago, I’m already thinking I’d love to run this race again next year.

Dave – Brilliant. From a European perspective, if you’d have given me the choice of running the races we have done the past 3 weeks (Toronto Marathon, Niagara Falls and this one) I’d have said that this was probably the least attractive, merely due to me not knowing anything at all about Hamilton except that it’s got a big steel mill. Having done it though I’d advise anybody that this friendly race is worth the trip from wherever you are in the world. It’s a very scenic course and extremely fast. If you’re in shape and think you have a chance of qualifying for Boston, then you’re likely to do it on this course!

To discover more about the Hamilton Marathon, please visit http://hamiltonmarathon.ca/

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