This is a must-do race if you have never ran it before! All the cool kids run it! Hamilton’s Around the Bay Road Race is the oldest on the continent, first run in 1894, three years before the Boston Marathon. I feel like it’s a huge run party since I always see so many familiar faces. It’s a great kick-off race for the 2015 season. One of the great things about this race is that the finish is inside Copps Coliseum (now renamed to First Ontario Centre – but I will always call it Copps).
I had planned to run this race as an easy training run. With my first marathon scheduled two weeks after, I could not risk getting injured. I started off at an easy pace and enjoyed the scenery and crowd along the way. If you’ve ever ran this race before, you would know that there isn’t much to see in Hamilton and the first 20k of the race was pretty boring. Things got a bit more exciting and challenging as we ran through the rolling hills of North Shore Blvd. The finish inside the Copps Coliseum is the best part as people are cheering you on and you can look up and see all the spectators. I had a goal time of finishing before 3 hours and 30 minutes and my official time was 3:16:26! Woo-hoo! Not bad for a long easy pace run. :)
I had registered for this race back in the Fall. This race always sells out so I like to sign up early. I paid $85.32 CAD after taxes for this race.
*Interesting Fact: this was the first year in several years that the ATB 30k race was not sold out. This is possibly due to an extremely cold Winter we had; or that the famous Valley Inn Hill of the ATB route was closed due to construction.
One of the best race expos in terms of logistics. The Copps Coliseum is a big stadium. If you’ve ever been to any stadiums before, you would know that it is a big circle. You enter at the main entrance and walk in a big circle to all the vendors before you get to the race kit pick up area. I love this idea because all the vendors are in a circle [not various isles], therefore you don’t miss any of them.
We were given a bib with timing chip and a race specific long sleeve shirt. I did this race last year and also received a bonus cap since it was the race’s 120th anniversary. Unfortunately, there was no cap this year. :( I like the idea of your bib and timing chip and shirt instead of a bag filled with race flyers that you eventually throw out anyway.
There was no traffic driving into Hamilton and there were plenty of parking lots and parking on the side streets. I ended up parking at a small park about a 15-20 min walk to the starting line. The weather was nice so I didn’t mind walking to the start. It provided a nice warm up run too.
I love race venues with buildings or some sort of shelter you can stay in before the race. The Coliseum is a perfect example as lots of people were meeting up with friends or just staying inside to keep warm. You can use real toilets instead of using the porta potties. It’s also a great place because spectators can sit and wait for their family/friends to finish without having to stand around for hours.
The first 20km of the race is a fairly flat scenic route through Hamilton. The last 10k had rolling hills through North Shore Blvd. The change to the course this year was the removal of Valley Inn Hill due to construction. Instead, we continued on Plains Rd. and turned on York Blvd. The finish inside Copps Coliseum is the best part of the race. It feels nice to finish in a stadium with your friends, family and other spectators cheering you on.
There were water/Gatorade stations approximately every 5km along the course. I wore my CamelBak filled with water for this race so I only had to stop at a few stations along the way to replenish my electrolytes with Gatorade.
There were a lot of volunteers at the water stations along the course and a few paramedics along the route. They were all very friendly and was cheering everyone on.
The areas with the biggest spectator viewing is at the start/finish line and whenever the relay runners change over (10km, 15km, 20km). Other than that, the first 20km is actually quite boring with not a lot of spectator support. When you start heading back towards Copps on York Blvd (after you encounter the Grim Reaper), is where the amount of spectators increase. I was so happy to see my Tribe Fitness family cheering me on and telling me to “catch the pace bunny” in front of me. I did catch her and even PASSED her! It was also nice to see other Toronto run crews out supporting the runners as well – Night Terrors Run Crew and Parkdale Road Runners were all in attendance. Parkdale had a HUGE cheer squad and they definitely pushed me to speed up during that last 500 meters or so. So much support – I love the Toronto running community. #crewlove
As soon as I finished inside the Coliseum, I could see some of my friends sitting in the bleachers. I headed to the finish area where we were given bananas, water, pita bread, etc. and a bag to put it all in. I think every race should give you bags at the end to put all your goodies in; so much easier to carry than carrying everything in your hand. I lined up to take a photo post race and started my way up to the bleachers to meet my friends and the rest of the Tribe. It was nice to finish a race and be inside instead of in the cold and get to sit down. We sat in the bleachers cheering on the rest of the Tribe until everyone finished.
Would I Run It Again:
Absolutely! I would love to come back next year and try for a PB. Hopefully I won’t have a marathon to get ready for so that I can really push myself. I don’t even mind training throughout the winter to get ready. We had a really cold winter, but having a race such as Around the Bay and a marathon in the early Spring is a really good motivator to get out and train in the freezing cold. I am not looking forward to running in extreme cold weather alerts or running with frozen eyelashes again; but I know I will have to if I want to PB this race next year.
Run Brag: March was also the highest mileage month I’ve ever ran. I finished with 207.85 km! I’m surprised at how much I ran and pretty impressed that I was able to get those mileage in and still feel great and not injured. I am definitely thankful to be living a life in which I am able to do things that I love. <3