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Celebrating 130 Years of Grit and Glory: The 2024 Around the Bay Road Race in HamiltonIn a year marked by unexpected challenges and heartfelt traditions, the 130th Around the Bay Road Race in Hamilt

In a year marked by unexpected challenges and heartfelt traditions, the 130th Around the Bay Road Race in Hamilton proved once again why it's not only the oldest road race in North America but also one of the most revered. As someone who has now participated in this iconic event for the eleventh time, I'm compelled to share my reflections on what makes this race, particularly this year's edition, a truly humbling and remarkable experience.


A Test of Endurance and Spirit

This year's race, held on March 24, 2024, brought unforeseen adjustments! Traditionally celebrated for its challenging 30-kilometre course, this year's edition saw an extension of an additional 4 kilometres due to a change in the start and finish line locations. However, the surprises didn't stop there. A sinkhole on the course necessitated a 1.5-kilometer detour, elongating the journey even further.

"Switching the start and finish lines to Tim Hortons Field (to sidestep renovations at FirstOntario Centre that were supposed to be underway by now) forced organizers to add another four kilometres to the traditional 30k route as they worked to avoid train tracks. That already made it a new challenge. Then late last week, a sinkhole on North Shore Boulevard in Burlington – a sinkhole, seriously? – required another alteration that tacked on an additional 1.4 kilometres, pushing it over 35."

What was good about this (I suppose) was that we missed a challenging hill at Lasalle Park in Burlington. So there is that! These alterations transformed what many marathoners (like me) often misconceive as a manageable race (yes, it does humble us!) into an even more demanding endeavour.


The Hills: Hamilton's Natural Challenge

The Around the Bay Road Race is infamous for its hills. I decided to count them this year- I counted ten significant inclines (a couple of declines, too ;) , some with grades that would test even the most seasoned runners (and walkers like me!).


Iconic Moments Along the Route (always my favourite!)

Part of the race's charm lies in its longstanding traditions and the iconic sights along the course. Notable among these is the Grim Reaper, looming ominously in front of the Hamilton Cemetery on York Boulevard, a reminder of the race's relentless demands.

The legacy of the woman in her fur coat, playing music on Beach Boulevard, continues to live on through her family, who keeps her spirit alive by placing her coat and chair out with her picture. It's a touching tribute that exemplifies the community spirit surrounding the race.


The Heart of the Race: Spectators and Volunteers (Amazing)

The warmth and encouragement of race spectators are unparalleled. Their cheers, personalized shouts of encouragement, and expressions of pride fuel the runners' spirits, making every step more meaningful. "Way to go, Zoe," "I'm proud of you, Zoe,"—hearing my name among the crowd never fails to inspire and push me forward - especially because I don't really know these people - it is so selfless and kind. I am sometimes feeling emotional. They must realize how much it means. A very special kind of person, indeed.

The volunteers, too, are the backbone of this event. From handing out water to providing first aid and ensuring the safety of the participants, their dedication is the lifeline of the race. Their selfless commitment ensures that every runner feels supported from start to finish.


A Personal Milestone

Running the race alongside my husband, Brad, my steadfast training partner, and our long-time best friend, Sean, added a layer of pure awesomeness to this year's experience. Completing this race for the eleventh time was not just a personal achievement but a shared goal that underscored the power of perseverance and friendship - I feel grateful.


The 2024 Around the Bay Road Race in Hamilton was more than just a race; it was a testament to the resilience of the human spirit, the strength of the community, and the enduring legacy of a cherished tradition. Despite the unexpected hurdles, or perhaps because of them, this year's race has been one of the most memorable. It serves as a reminder of the beauty of embracing challenges, the importance of support and encouragement, and the profound impact of participating in something larger than oneself. Here's to many more years of the Around the Bay Road Race, a true jewel in the crown of Canadian road racing.


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