The Hamilton Road2Hope Marathon – Nov 5th 2017

The Trek and Run Team were supported during this event by;

Kusaga Athletic

Salba Chia

The Scotiabank Toronto Marathon is Toronto’s premier running weekend. Before we talk more about the event, here’s a film that’ll give you an idea of what Dave experienced as he ran the 5k and the marathon.

4 of the Trek and Run Team took on the marathon, here’s what they thought of the event.

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EmrysWith the prospect of this year’s racing season coming to an end, I was looking at one more big thing to do before setting sights on 2018. I’ve always thought about running a marathon so when I heard Dave and Virgil were running the Hamilton Marathon I decided to give it a shot! I hadn’t really done any long runs before this although I do race cross country at Uni, and so I had no real idea how it would go which added to my anticipation.

On Sunday morning I got to Confederation park where many buses were ready to transport runners to the starting line up on the escarpment. Despite the dark and drizzle everyone on the bus was upbeat and friendly. At the starting line it rained, hard, adding to the sense of excitement.

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I caught up to Dave soon after the start and we ran together at a comfortable pace. We decided to cruise until halfway and conserve our energy for the last half. We made sure to drink water consistently, which was easy with aid stations set up every 3km. About thirty kilometers in I surprisingly still felt fairly relaxed and at that point I knew I could finish the race.

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We decided to up the pace a bit as we got off the long descent down the highway and onto the trail. My legs felt heavier but the change in pace altered my form, and made me feel like I was using a different set of muscles. Kilometers 35-38 rolled by very quickly, not least because of the view from the trail which runs along the shore of Lake Ontario. With 3km to go I noticed how tired I was, but Dave and I pushed on and made it across the line side by side in about 3 hours and 35 minutes. It felt amazing to have finished my first marathon so well, and on such a great course.

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After re-learning how to walk we got lots of food from the race tent. I found out I won my 19 and under age group, which made my day even better. Overall, this was a fantastic event and experience and I hope to be back next year!

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Dave – Hamilton is always a great event, our team has done it a few times now and we always look forward to it because it’s the end of the season (by November we’re tired out from a lot of racing and in need of a rest!) but also because it’s a scenic course, super friendly, potentially very fast and the event village at the end is fun and stocked with a lot of good food!

We were due rain and heavy winds so I prepared for the worst by bringing my Gortex running jacket. The rain appeared on cue, a few minutes before we were due to start, and as I stepped out into it I realised that I was so used to running in just a t-shirt that I’d forgotten to take my jacket out of my drop bag. Oh well, I was in for a soaking, then.

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Luckily the rain only lasted for the first 10 or 15 minutes. Afterwards I heard other runners say that it rained all through the race but maybe it was very localised because I only remember a few showers now and again. I definitely didn’t mind that I’d forgotten my jacket as it was around 15 degrees, pretty warm for November in southern Ontario!

I knew I wasn’t on form for a PB unless a miracle happened so I thought it would be good to pace Emrys through his first marathon. Concentrating on doing that might also help my own race as I have a history of going off too fast in Hamilton and then not being able to take advantage of the downhill and flat sections of the course that kick in from the half marathon stage onwards. I’d use my experience to try to hold us back for the first half so we didn’t use up too much energy and then if he was as fit as I thought he was, he’d be able to pull us through the final 10k or so at a respectable speed.

The first half marathon took us around the upper part of the Escarpment. There were a few rolling hills and a wicked headwind at one point but the crowd support was good and we held our pace well, passing the half marathon in about 1:50. That was good, I thought, we’ve got the next 7 or 8km downhill and then it’s flat, we might do a 3:30 here which would be phenomenal for Emrys in his first marathon.

The second half of the route took us down a 3 lane freeway where we could start to get some speed up and then at about the 29k mark the aid station had gels on offer so we grabbed one each and started to go for it. There was a little trail to mix up the surfaces a bit and keep us focused and then we hit the flat concrete path of the lakeshore. We were running well now doing 4:30 minute kms consistently, and nobody passed us in that final 13km, we’d saved our energy well.

The horizon of the lake was filled with black clouds but the rain held off and it wasn’t that windy for us either as that was coming from the land side and we were largely sheltered from it by the lakeshore houses.

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It became clear that we weren’t going to make it in under 3:30 but that was ok. I knew we’d run our best and it was great to enjoy the finish line straight and crowds knowing that we’d left everything we had out there on the course. Then it was time for the food tent, where not only was there lots of good food but also loads of friendly runners, many of whom had seen our magazine and films and were very complimentary about both. That felt good, to meet them and hear that, it’s part of why we do this, to help people understand the races better, so it’s gratifying when you get some good feedback about it all.

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Good luck in the San Francisco North Face event!!!

And bravo Rene, for breaking your half marathon PR yet again. Every time I see you you’re fitter, faster and stronger, I’m looking forward to seeing you at lots of races again in 2018!

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A final thing to say; the Hamilton Marathon usually has a good medal and shirt, the design of which gets better and better each year. This time it was superb, check it out.

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Adam – In November of 2014 I ran my first marathon, this very same Road2Hope in stunning Hamilton, Ontario. By the 20km mark I’d sworn I’d never run another marathon. What had I gotten myself into? From that day until this spring I didn’t run anymore marathons, I ran trail ultra marathons instead!!!  But in the years between I still had many questions to answer about this race, and finally I got an opportunity to pose them this year.

With the Niagara escarpment, rolling farmlands, Lake Ontario and a birds eye view of the vast sprawling city beneath us, the Road2Hope offers phenomenal glimpses of the city I call home. Unfortunately on this day my views were interrupted by wind gales, pouring rain and what felt like a tropical storm in the cool autumn!

I rose early for the short drive to the start and relished the extra hour of sleep due to the time change.  My wife dropped me off with no trouble and it did not take long to get to baggage checked. I met the Trek and Run crew, took a couple of photos and walked out to the start, which looked more like an open car wash; about 2 minutes prior to the gun going off it’d began to pour and now there was surface water all around.

The first 10km flew by but I ran the next 10k conservative.  I had tanked badly by 15km on my first Road2Hope and I was determined not to be beaten up this time.

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The weather and head wind were making it hard. At some point a group of us watched a deer break across an open field.  So stunning and so strong.

The aid stations were frequent.  I thought about what a horrible thankless job the volunteers had especially in these conditions. I tried to thank them as much as I could.  THANK YOU!!! The medics, both on bikes and in tents, the Hamilton Wentworth Police, all those at intersections, handing out oranges, thank you!  Volunteers often make races and these special people sure did.

I let my legs go once I got to the Red Hill. As I ran along I saw lots of folks slowing and walking. Here people began to cramp, tighten up, limp, lose race goals. I knew the face. I had wanted a 4hr race today but knew that after the top half that wasn’t going to happen.

There are quite a few memorials along the Red Hill and I gave silent respects as I passed, focusing on gratitude for my health and blessings.  Just before the 30km is a favourite point of mine when you get to cross a bridge over the QEW.  By this point the sun shone through the clouds and I noticed it had warmed up significantly.

Running along Beach Blvd is always a favourite in both the Around the Bay and Road2Hope. There are lots of cool architectural pieces to see, a castle to name one. It’s neat to run an out and back at this point of the race. Especially because the back portion take you along the back of not only magnificent homes you’ve just seen, but also because you have Lake Ontario to the other side. There’s great scenery everywhere.

By the 35k point I felt out of juice. My legs were sore and aching. Jolts of pain kept shooting along my sciatic nerve on the right. But the smiles and encouragement from the roadside never stopped so neither did I. I finished at 4:32, taking almost 9 minutes off my previous time. Considering how slow I had felt, finishing in that time made my race!

Afterwards the vegetable broth saved me, brought my energy back. I was able to sit and relax with the Trek and Run team to reflect. The Road2Hope puts on a classy event with precise vision. The organizers to my knowledge got everything spot on even if they neglected to have the weather engineered! There are lots of aid stations, medics, and friendly faces to keep you going. As the fastest Boston Qualifier around, this course is smooth with great downhill sections that will leave the legs on fire.  I look forward to returning next year to achieve a sub 4.

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VirgilThe tenth edition of the Hamilton Marathon started with an ominous special weather alert of rain, rain and more rain. I debated whether a short sleeve t-shirt, shorts, and compression shorts would be sufficiently warm enough to fend off up to 45 km/h wind gusts in 14°C with 1 mm rain per hour from start to finish. This race marked my 29th and final event of 2017, and I was determined to end the year on a high note. 

Our team of four met up inside the sports centre beside the start line…

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…put our belongings in bag check and took a selfie in front of the Halloween decoration centerpiece that nearly reached the ceiling. When we walked outside, mere minutes from the start time of 7:45, we were greeted with a torrential rain burst.

It was cold but I hoped that it would warm up quickly once we got going. The rain petered out into a refreshing intermittent drizzle rather quickly, thankfully, and I was glad that I wasn’t tempted to pull my jacket out of baggage check before the start.

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A runner at the start, standing beside me, who was not on my Facebook knew me as a runner from Trek and Run, bringing a smile to my face – that’s called brand recognition!

I had just completed a hilly 5k at Angus Glen the day before, a measured effort that showed that my busted ankle was healing well but was still a bit niggly. Therefore I started off ultra-conservatively at a 6:30 min/km pace to not upset my ankle – after all, a marathon is a long distance if you have to walk it. 

As we headed alongside Hamilton’s portion of the famed Niagara Escarpment I chatted to a few runners beside me and found that several of them were first time marathoners. Oddly, I felt a sense of leadership responsibility as I settled into a steady pace and amassed a small group of 10 runners. It was a gloriously exhilarating moment as I snapped picture after picture of my pace group, with yours truly as a pace bunny!

 

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The 4:30 pace bunny slowly but surely distanced me and shrank into the horizon, while my pace group eventually splintered up and dropped out of view. I gritted my teeth and soldiered on, determined not to let myself reel pace bunny in, I was at the mercy of my ankle after all and didn’t want to overdo it too soon. Hamilton bills itself as Canada’s fastest Boston Qualifier, largely due to the 125m elevation drop to the finish line, including a fast 7km downhill stretch of Red Hill Valley Parkway. 

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The wet highway surface provided an interesting slick but not slippery surface that favoured a glider run technique. You could tell the difference because running on the shoulder created more friction and slowed me down considerably.

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I noticed one runner had his family of four adorable kids and his wife standing by the side of the road cheering him on, holding signs and noisemakers. After we ran by them, they all headed to the rear of a shopping mall lot to see him again, just as he was heading down the highway ramp. The kids even ran alongside the chainlink fence, only to be stopped by the fence at the end, separated by a steep embankment along a ravine. I would eventually see them again in a pickup truck at the turnaround at the lakefront trail. I stopped twice in the race to capture this precious family moment on camera.

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After exiting the highway I was swamped with wave after wave of endorphins. I felt good; nay, I felt strong! My ankle had held up thus far and at 29k I was texting my team my expected finish time of 4:53 – not the 5:15-ish time I did at Scotia Toronto Waterfront Marathon two weeks earlier. After the bridge at 30k I was in control of the race and started negative splitting like crazy. Unfortunately I missed taking a photo of David and Emrys running together, heading east along the waterfront trail just before the 40k marker in the opposite direction. My finish line prediction was shaved to 4:45, then 4:40…then sub 4:35! I was faltering after the turnaround along the waterfront at 37k, but a running angel in the form of a couple doing 6:10/min pace came up behind me. 

I stubbornly clung to them, matching them step for step like a bad ex. At 41k I broke free and sprinted to the finish. My friends laughed at me after seeing my Pain Face.

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Only 366 seconds separated me from a new PR time, it looks like I do my best runs in rainy weather. I made sure to thank the 6:10 couple afterwards for doing such a fine pacing effort.

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It was gratifying to finish with a decent negative split, a gap that could have been bigger if it weren’t for the injury. Emrys rocked his race, even keeping his gunpowder dry to finish with David and win his AG, congrats! Considering how the race started in heavy rain and uncertain ankles, it was a wonderful end to a busy calendar of races. #Finish2017LikeABoss.

Epilogue: It was a bumper crop of running races this year and it seemed like I had something going on every weekend, even consecutive weekends. I set 2017 as the year that I would work on my running form, strengthening myself with a regular weekday morning gym routine with Andrew, my personal trainer and friend. I spent a lot less time swimming and cycling because I wanted to work on my weakest triathlon discipline – running. I used to hate running and if I’m honest a part of me still does. I treat it as my albatross, something to conquer, a burden required to complete a triathlon. The runner’s high I experienced in many races this year was ephemeral but the aching knees and blistered feet stretched my pain threshold limits. Then, at some point towards the end of the season, I realized a dark secret. I actually relished the pain! From then on I submitted myself as an understudy of running – fully and willingly. I had my darkest moments fighting the time cutoff at a hilly 50 miler in June and battling sleep deprivation and painful blisters at a 24h race in July, daring my body to go further than ever before and redefining my limits. Somehow that self-flagellation morphed into an enlightened state and a wave of accomplishment that non-runners would struggle to understand.

On this pilgrimage of self-discovery, I met an incredible number of new friends and deepened my connections with close friends in road, trail and triathlon circles. I also reached out to many superstars and influencers in this wonderful sport, and will share their stories and personal stories with you in upcoming issues in the new Trek and Run magazine. Speaking of, I’m honoured to be a writer and contributor to this new publishing format, the brainchild of David and Dave. I believe we have a absolutely winning formula here – a medium that connects the T&R’s teams’ experiences with a boosted circulation counts courtesy our race partners, and most importantly, you, our audience. Without you, our efforts would be far less rewarding. A debt of gratitude goes to the Trek and Run team this year – Dave, Michael, Adam, Pam, Brian, Jeff, Phil, Trevor, Tim; and last but not least David – who I’m blessed to have as my running mentor and friend. I can’t wait to see what adventures Trek and Run will bring to us in 2018!  

To learn more about the Hamilton Road2Hope Marathon, and how to take part in 2018, please see https://www.hamiltonmarathon.ca/

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