It is a tradition that has now carried on for 121 years. Hamilton Ontario’s, Around the Bay Road Race was started in 1894. Established 3 years before the Boston Marathon, this 30 kilometer running race steeped in history has become a destination race drawing many runners throughout North America, but also from around the world.
Only 4 weeks after completing my Chilly Half Marathon, I arrived at the very same hotel as before, just a different room . Once again I played around with my layering system while watching The Weather Network. But when 8:30 came around for Earth Hour, it was lights out. I simply turned off the TV, turned off the lights and went to bed. And this time I slept.
As I crawled under the covers, I was thinking what it must have been like for a runner 121 years ago. Runners would have arrived by horse and buggy, or if it was a longer distance, by steam train. Of course, there was no electronic distractions like we have nowadays. And when it got dark, runners would have simply gone to bed, just like I did that evening.
The next morning, as we were waiting in the starting corral for the horn to go, there was such a splash of color, from the high tech running apparel that went from the top of the head to the soles of the feet of all the runners. What would it have been like 121 years ago? How would they have dressed without all this breathable high tech dri-wear? It was -6C to start, with a wind-chill that made it feel much, much colder that day.
I could not even hear the starting horn because of the wind, but when the pack started moving, I knew the race was on. What a thrill to be taking part in such a historic event. I started off in the pace area of 2:40 to 3:00 for the 30 kilometers, hoping that I could do this under 3 hours. If I could, I would be more than extremely happy. My 2 runner friends that I travelled to Hamilton with were soon gone and out of sight, I just kept running a pace I was comfortable with, but also thinking of what many runners have warned me of what lay ahead……the HILLS.
At about the 5 kilometer mark a lady started pacing alongside of me, and we started talking. She was a veteran of this course, successfully completing The Around the Bay 15 times, and was on #16 that day. I was so much in awe. We got separated at the water station as many dozens of runners on the run would grab a Dixie cup of water or Gatorade and keep going.
I was disappointed that I lost my running partner, but kept going. I knew I needed to learn to run without a companion to keep me going strong. But a few kilometers along the course my new friend, came along to see how I was doing. With close to 8,000 runners running the course, what were the chances? But this happened 5 or 6 times. As I started to fade around the 20k mark, and as I headed into the hills, I thought my running friend was way ahead. Then I discovered she had been just a few paces behind me for a couple of k’s, and as I faded, she slipped up beside me to give me much needed encouragement and strength. She was sincerely looking out for me.
When I hit the 28k mark, what a sight to behold, First Ontario Centre, the stadium where we finish and a long, gradual downhill stretch for the next 2k’s. Several runners who have completed this forewarned me to be extremely, careful entering the stadium. Coming from a bright sunny day, you enter a very dark, steep ramp, and runners have been known to go flat on their faces. Entering the ramp, I yanked off my sunglasses, felt the ground level out, went around a “S” turn and then straight into the coliseum towards the finish line. What an amazing feeling to complete this in such an grand atmosphere. My time shocked me, a chip time of 2:51:38 for the 30k’s. All credit due to my new friend. She pulled strength out of me, I did not think I had.
I did not expect to see again the angel who kept appearing and encouraging me along the way. Went along the refreshment tables, and there were the wonderful volunteers handing me items for my lunch, a banana, a juice box, and some other well received snacks. The medal was then draped over my neck, and I proceeded to try and locate my 2 running friends I arrived with, who would have been waiting in the stadium. Then I saw someone frantically waving in my direction. It was my newest friend, the angel who kept appearing, disappearing and reappearing along the course. She had been looking for me, and wanted to congratulate me. We met each other half way and embraced, a 16 time veteran and a 1 time novice, having just completed the oldest road race in North America. If you ever happens to read this, thank you from the bottom of my heart for reaching out to me! 🙂
Thank you everyone for reading! 🙂