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Jeff - Around The Bay is a special event which combines an interesting distance at an interesting time of year. But some may say that signing up for a 30k in the middle of March is just plain smart as far as marathon training goes and it may be the reason that this race has attracted hoards of runners to the streets of Hamilton every year since 1894.
While many of us ponder all winterÂ about whether to run a full or a half to start the season, this weekend 10,000 others choose to split the difference and take their chances with the early Spring weather and run the Around the Bay Road Race. It is a long standing tradition to the region and provides runners of all skill levels the opportunity to take part in individual and team events including a 5k, 30k and 2 or 3 member teams in a 30k relay. What makes this event unique is the 30k route which I think is a dream maker and it would not surprise me if this race is the stepping stone for many in their life goal in running a marathon.
The course is a quest to circumvent the entire Hamilton Harbour beginning and ending at FirstOntario Centre (formally Copps Coliseum). The 30k route is for the most part a flat city tour of Hamilton with lake views from the Burlington Bridge at its midpoint. A few rolling hills provide some zen in the last third before having you make a stadium appearance complete with adoring fans at the finish.
Then basking in the glory of your name in lights on the centre ice scoreboard you get your post-race rewards. It is so refreshing to finish a long race, in March no less, and have no worry about finding a warm seat as you eat your complimentary snacks, cheering the rest of your friends and family over the finish line.
In the end, I completed my first half-marathon (21.1km) in 1:57 and crossed the 30k finish line at 3:08, a little over my goal time of 3:00. I left happy knowing my goal time was completely attainable and my half-marathon time was bang on expected with room to improve. This was my first year doing Hamiltons Around the Bay Road Race but surely I will be back to challenge my finish time for years to come and hopefully I’ll see you there.
Make sure to round out the day with a stop at Boon Burger in Burlington. More selection than you can imagine and we all left there full, happy vegans
Virgil – Around the Bay. The oldest North American foot race, this year in its 123rd edition, infamous for its hills on hills and lack of wind cover to prey on the unsuspecting runner. Race pickup was done by my team mates, the expo wound itself around the upper levels of the arena. Apparently John Stanton was there on Saturday. The timing chip attached to the shoelace, but the design meant that you had to untie your laces to attach it. I enjoyed the fact that it was a 9:30 start, though by the time we got through traffic and found parking and taken the obligatory last bathroom break, we were cutting it a bit thin (because I left my house late; I should def set my alarm earlier on race day!). The crowds were whipped up into a frenzy as a large Canadian flag was being conveyor-belted down the corrals admist loud cheers, just before the start of the race.
Jeff and I were running together, and at the 10k mark we headed north along Beach Boulevard where crashing surf waves and high winds along the highway ramps helped raise my heart rate to uncomfortable levels. I had to slow down the pace to keep from blowing up. I lost Jeff at the 14k mark, and came in at the halfway point just under 1:30. It was a decent pace, but I knew that my pace was trending downwards and I would have to dig deep. After 18k for the next six kilometres it was rolling hills that were taking a toll on my knees. Along the route there were plenty of spectators keeping us company.
I was crossing a bridge watching out for the bumpy surface when I noticed a photographer at the foot of the bridge, so I had to pick up the pace to look good for the photos, before slowing down again. That’s when I noticed my photographer friend just around the corner and I had to make another brief burst for the camera! The grueling 400m climb up Valley Inn Hill (which was absent when I did the race two years ago) had many weary walkers and I was glad to finally reach the top. The run along the Hamilton Cemetary led straight to Tim the Grim Reaper dishing out trash talk. As I ran by, he yelled out “I’m walking backwards faster than all of you!!”.
The last 3k led back to the FirstOntario arena, where the downhill ramp and barricades led to the most welcomed sight of the finish line. A large monitor suspended above with a video of the finish line added to the Olympian-like welcome for weary runners. It was pretty noisy in there, with the announcer calling out names and spectators in the stands waiting for their runners to come home.
I picked up some food and the medal and went upstairs to take a quick walk around the expo before heading off with my friends to a well deserved lunch at Boon Burger. I only found out afterwards that the race organizers had a surprise for the last runner on the course in the form of a marching band and confetti bash, along with a year’s worth of bread… would that be a new race goal for ATB 2018? Stay tuned…
Tim - This was my second crack at the historic Around The Bay road race, and the first time running the original course. I’m starting to think of it as one of those races that you just have to make an annual thing. With a great race week expo and the start and finish line being at Copps Coliseum (I guess they call if FirstOntario Centre now, but being from Hamilton originally, it’s still Copps Coliseum to me!) this race makes for a very unique experience. I don’t know of any other races where the finish line has you running into an arena with people in the stands and the brightly lit scoreboard overhead showing the runners approaching the finish. I also love the course, going around the bay with the Stompin’ Tom Connors song stuck in my head half the time, passing Pigskin Pete posing for pictures with runners (Oskee Wee Wee!), crossing the lift bridge into Burlington and a challenging last 10k featuring some rolling hills through some beautiful neighbourhoods. I got to experience the infamous hill on Valley Inn Road, which for my money makes the course even better. Generally you’re so glad to be done with the hills you look forward to passing the Grim Reaper, who this year was telling people they looked fat when I passed him. I did take my second ever fall in a race (the other being at the Hamilton Marathon, what is it with me falling in Hamilton races?) on a small wooden bridge in the last 5k of the course. I know when I’m fatigued I don’t lift my feet much, but if I had any criticism for the race directors, it might be to have a spotter before that bridge warning runners that it’s not exactly flat. I know I wasn’t the only runner to take a header on that bridge. But all things considered, If I could only run one road race per year, it would definitely be Around The Bay!
Philip – I was really looking forward to this race as it’s a great test of the training I’ve been doing over the winter for my spring marathon. Runner packet pick up was a breeze since Jeff was kind enough to do this for me!
We were running a bit late but luckily to the great pre-race maps of parking and the start, we managed to make it right on time for the race. They were passing down a huge Canadian flag to commemorate Canada’s 150th birthday which was really cool, and instead of the usual start horn a train whistle was being played (since CN was the major sponsor).
The first 10k everyone was full of energy and the support was great, running through the streets of downtown Hamilton and then to industrial areas along Burlington St. It was relatively flat so the pace was brisk and it was nice to be running with a big group since it was a windy day. I enjoyed the fact that there was a relay exchange at 10, 15, and 20km mark since it was lined up with runners waiting for their team mates and great crowd support. The relay seemed to be a popular option as it was sold out a few weeks early.
I continued with a steady pace for the next 10k along Beach Rd which is relatively flat road. There were great views of the lake along the route and you cross the Burlington Canal Lift Bridge with the unmistakeable word “Canada” painted on it. As you drive along the QEW you will see this great landmark and it was awsome to be able to get a different perspective running by. This was another relay exchange at 15k; more runners and great support. Running on the steel bridge felt very different compared to the asphalt, almost like having a foot massage!
The last 10k is along North Shore Blvd and some nice residential areas with a few rollers leading up to Valley Inn Hill. There was still another 4kms after the hill but it’s a slight downhill finish, so I just maintained pace and sailed smoothly to the 29K mark. Once at this mark I picked it up a bit and made a right turn down the ramp into the stadium for a memorable finish.
After you soon as cross the finish line there are people to see if you need medical attention, then further along you are given a bottle of water, bagel, juice, banana, a few snacks, and your finisher’s medal. Overall this was great race, water stations were well stocked and volunteers cheering you on and a great finish in the stadium making you feel amazing!