It will be 122 years since the first running of Hamilton’s historic Around the Bay road race in 1894. The tradition continues this Sunday with an event “older than Boston.”
An event that traditionally takes place the last weekend of March was pushed back into April this year to accommodate the early Easter long weekend. You might think a later date would mean better weather but that one week difference is not looking good for this year’s race.
Currently, Sunday’s forecast for this famous Canadian race calls for a high of zero degrees with strong winds and possibly even snow. That might not be the best case scenario but is far from the worst weather the race has ever seen.
Newly appointed race director Anna Lewis is also not concerned. She is eagerly looking forward to seeing everyone at the start line on Sunday. “There is so much energy and excitement, you can almost touch it. The sound of everyone heading out is simply inspiring,” she says.
It was being there eight years ago that Lewis decided to take up running. She recalls it being such an amazing feeling and that was only just watching [the race]. At that point, she decided to try the sport for herself.
With the event nearly sold out (only the 30K had spots remaining when online registration closed) amounting to over 12,000 participants, you can just imagine the difficulty of pulling it all off. When asked about the biggest challenges she faces, Lewis alludes to the vast importance of volunteers.
“Sometimes volunteers move on or can’t make it and you realize just how important each and every one of them is,” she says. “They truly impact the whole event and make it happen. But you have to reorganize and other volunteers inevitably step up. In the end, it all works out.”
She notes that every challenge is an opportunity to review, evaluate, and improve the event and enhance the experience of all participants.
Regardless of the conditions, the race is sure to attract a large and loyal group of participants who come back year after year.
One RaceGuide review reads: “If they gave out passports to Canadian distance runners, this would be the stamp that you would be most proud to have.”
Participants can also expect the deeply committed albeit slightly insulting grim reaper to appear at his usual spot along the Hamilton Cemetery, about 28K into the race. As usual, he will be dishing out “motivational” gems such as “You’re looking a bit tubby this year” or “Better stop now, there’s a rock in your shoe.”
Last year, a minor controversy took place when it was discovered that the race may have been a few hundred metres short of the usual and supposedly certified 30K. This was likely due to a minor course change that eliminated the signature hill on Valley Inn Road. Due to ongoing construction, that change remains in effect for 2016 but organizers have confirmed that the course was remeasured and re-certified ensuring it is accurate.
The race expo begins Friday from 1:00 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Hamilton’s FirstOntario Centre and continues Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Last minute registrations for the 30K will be accepted. Canadian Running will also be on hand with a great deal on magazine subscriptions as well as free copies of the 2016 Race Guide.