Race Report: Hamilton Marathon Road2Hope

Sunday marked the celebration of my 5th marathon and the crushing of my 2013 goal to run two marathons during one calendar year. The funny thing about that goal is that I will have actually run 3 marathons over a nine month span – but they cross over two years – and by funny, maybe I mean painful yet optimally challenging πŸ˜‰

I originally ran Road2Hope in 2011, at that time it was my fastest marathon and I loved it. With 8km downhill, no wind, and gorgeous sun (even got a sunburn in NOVEMBER), I was happy to tell everyone I met who was even considering running their first marathon that this needed to be it.

Fast forward to this year – FREEZING conditions, a bit of sun, but continuous head winds, especially on the 8km of downhill – yuck!r2h2

As many of you know, i’ve been battling a few ongoing injuries this season including a hamstring that likes to moan while running, my left hip dropping as a result of my gait, a pulled muscle between my ribs because my sister makes me laugh to much, and did I mention a month ago (during the longest runs in my training) I sprained my ankle? Well despite all that, and thanks to my new training crew The RUNWAY, race day support by my friend Kim and the Tribe (Jenna and Emily), lots of chiropractic appointments at The Health Loft, and a few tears, I am happy to share that I did get another personal best (PB), taking a whole 5 minutes off of my race time from this same race in 2011 – and a whole 15min off of my May marathon (The Goodlife) in Toronto.

I also completly rearranged my race plan, moving from 20:1s to simply grabbing fuel quickly at the stations while keeping this to max 30 seconds, and running with as little extra weight as possible which meant ditching the water belt (for the first time in 6 years) and my cell phone. I got myself a RoadID bracelet, stylish and black, so I’m still keeping safe, just without the extra weight. So I will apologize for the lack of pictures – my PB made me do it πŸ˜‰ (Thanks to My Sports Shooter for these race day pics)

Here’s the Run Down:

Participants:

Thumbs Up: It’s a small race which is very convenient. Because of this you can be pretty confident in not having additional race chip time delays resulting from over crowding on the course. You’ll start running across the start line and have a clear path the whole 42km.

Course:

Thumbs Up: Being from Hamilton, I actually love this race course. 20km of gentle rollers on top of the Hamilton escarpment, 8km down along the Red Hill Parkway, and the remaining through trails and along the water front, very pleasant. Waiting inside the Dofasco Center at the start of the race is also nice. It’s heated and there is plenty of room to wait, stretch, do what you’d like.

Thumbs Down: Not enough washrooms for the women and some were broken when we arrived. I know ladies washroom lines are always insane… I waited in line for 20 minutes – when you gotta go, you gotta go!

r2h

Swag:

Thumbs Up: Post race we weren’t provided with tinfoil sheets, but instead cheap disposable jackets – sure you might be thinking “waste” – I’m thinking “great, now I have a throw away for my next cold marathon!” – score!

Thumbs down: The race kit was LAME! It contained a shirt, fine, except it was COVERED in advertising. There was one Clif Builder’s Protein Bar and that was it! I know this is a charity race, but with all the sponsors profiled on the shirt, couldn’t one of these people helped to beef up the bags! Subway was the major sponsor – no coupons for a 6 inch sub? The bag was reusable, so I guess that counts as swag too.

VolunCHEERS:

Thumbs Up: The race course had many volunteers, especially at the fuel stations which meant no lines. Most of them were staffed by high school students and they had tons of spirit and cheer. Along the race route there were many families out supporting all runners and there was even a band playing on the Red Hill which definitely lightened the dark wind tunnel mood.

Thumbs Down: Now only because I put a ton of effort into my sisters IronMan Cheers signs I am even considering writing this, but there were 5 different people with cheer signs that said “Run like you stole it”. Cute, but there were 5 of you! Google something new or get creative! So, here are 35 signs from the NYC marathon to inspire future VolunCHEERS – my favourite: “Worst Parade Ever.”

Finish Line:

Thumbs Up: I love this finish line – not quite NYC – but has a gorgeous flat beachfront 6km stretch which concludes in Confederation Park, just outside the entrance to Wild Water Works. There are always plenty of spectators getting their cheer on along this finish passage and once through the finish a large food tent awaits your arrival. Because the race is small there is virtually no waiting to grab your metal and eat, or if you didn’t want to stay around, the roads are often fairly clear to make an instant quick exit.

r2h3

Conclusion:

A nice small race it continues to be on my suggested list for first time marathoners. The only risk is that it’s in November and the weather can be unpredictable. So, wear your “throw aways” and hit the downhill in Hamilton’s fastest marathon and the number one qualifier for Boston – maybe next year πŸ˜‰

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