After last year’s 2:00:31 half marathon at the Hamilton Marathon Road2Hope (my 1/2 marathon PB), I was hoping to break the 2 hour barrier this year.
I spent Friday afternoon volunteering at race kit pick-up, working the 1k and 5k events. I gave out race bibs and bags, and then sent people to get their shirts (nice long-sleeved ones this year, in black, red or pink for women). Last year’s t-shirt was incredibly ugly, but makes a great shirt for biking (it’s bright). I grabbed race kits for Alasdair (running the 10k), Keaghan (running the 5k), and me while I was there.
Saturday morning I was back at the race site before 7 AM, volunteering again at the 5k race kit pick-up. Alasdair arrived later with the kids, with Keaghan’s 5k starting at 10 AM, and the 10k starting at 11 AM. This year (Keaghan’s 3rd time doing the race), he ran with his friend Luke, which was much more fun for him. I ducked out of the registration tent to watch the 5k race.
The boys ran together and sprinted the last 100m to the finish line! Keaghan beat Luke by 1 second, with finishing times of 25:09 and 25:10 respectively (apparently the sprint was because they didn’t want the girl in front of them to beat them!). They were 23 and 24 out of 57 boys aged 10-14. They did great!
I went back into the registration tent to volunteer for a few more minutes, then finished so that I could watch the 10k race. Let’s just say Alasdair was so fast I missed getting pictures of him! He finished in 2nd place out of 25 men aged 40-44 (a shock for all of us and his best recorded 10k)! He’s going to stick to 10k’s for a while…
Last night I made sure all my stuff was ready to go this morning, and even got breakfast things out. I turned the clocks back, set my alarm for 5 AM, and went to sleep. When I got up this morning, got dressed and went down to the kitchen, I was shocked to see that it was after 6 AM. I had planned to leave the house at 5:30 and be at Confederation Park in Hamilton before 6 AM to catch a bus to the start line, but clearly that wasn’t going to happen! Alasdair figured out later that what actually happened is that I rolled my alarm clock back 2 hours instead of 1! In any case, I essentially walked around the house eating my bowl of oatmeal while I finished getting dressed, put on my shoes etc!
I was sitting on the shuttle bus when a woman asked if anyone was sitting beside me. “Just the invisible person!” I said. She laughed and sat down. I arrived at the race start location (ArcellorMittal Park on the Hamilton Mountain) just after 7, and headed for the gym where I hoped to meet Kristi from Ottawa, a blogger who writes Blog for an Average Runner. Despite the gym not being too full, we never did find each other! My multiple trips to the portapotties might have been a factor.
I was dressed in shorts and a t-shirt for the race, since it was 12 degrees Celsius and partly sunny, with a low probability of rain, but others had several more layers than me! Unfortunately, the winds were expected to be 30 km/h SW gusting to 60! I was cold waiting in the portapotty line, but knew I’d be fine when I started running – I was! I heard several people during the race commenting that they were overdressed!
Just before 8 AM, O Canada played and I listened from – you guessed it! – the portapotty lineup. The marathon started at 8, but I missed it because I was still in line. I wanted to see the woman who was running backwards and going for a Guinness record (she got it!). I made it to the start line with about 5 minutes to spare, lining up just behind the 2:00 pace bunny. We had a moment of silence for Rick Greidanus, who died while running the 1/2 marathon last year (you may remember that Ailish and I volunteered with him at race kit pick-up on the Saturday – very nice man!). The countdown began and we were off! It was incredibly crowded at the start, but I kept my eyes on the very little pacer with the red ponytail (hard to see her when she didn’t hold her sign up). I felt good at the start and had no trouble staying with her. Thankfully it didn’t take too long before the runners spread out and it wasn’t so congested. In the first km or so, there were big orange pylons in the middle of the road, where runners (including me) would yell “pylon!” so no one crashed into one. I ended up running a little ahead of the pacer in the first few kilometres, and decided to leave her before the 5k mark. It worried me that she didn’t seem to be running fast enough. I needed to maintain a pace of around 5:35 min/km to finish under 2 hours. I never did see her again. It was also at the 5k mark that I ditched my water bottle (as I had to do last year!). This bottle works fine normally, but I think my faster pace had it constantly jumping out of the holder! I had to keep tightening my belt every minute (no kidding) and pushing the bottle back in. I left it at an aid station and decided I’d just get water from the volunteers!
Running down the Red Hill Parkway for 6+ kilometres is my favourite part of the race. I held a pace of 5:15-5:27 and felt great (the wind may have been a factor). For the first time since I started running this race in 2010 the drummers who normally set up under an overpass weren’t there. It was disappointing! We exited the Red Hill at Barton St. (where I had my gel and some water at the aid station), and continued down a recreational trail, which is nice except for the 2 short steep uphills. When I reached the Waterfront Trail, there were lots of people cheering for the runners.
Did I mention the wind?! Oh my goodness it was tough at certain points, and in particular towards the end as we were running away from the finish line along the Waterfront Trail. At least once during the race I thought my hat was going to blow off my head. When I hit 15k and saw that I had only 30 minutes to run the next 6k to finish in under 2 hours, I knew I couldn’t do it. I don’t run that fast! I was disappointed but determined to run as fast as I could. I was running out of steam.
With about 1k to go, I spotted Alasdair with his trumpet, where he serenaded me by playing “… I will be right here waiting for you…” (Richard Marx). It was the first time he’s been able to play for me while I was racing. For everyone else, he played the theme song from Rocky, Superman, Battle Hymn of the Republic, Chariots of Fire, Hurts so Good, King of Pain and others!
In the end, I finished in 2:03:41 (5:55 pace), which was disappointing, but considering the wind, maybe not surprising. Next time! My time was good enough for a 58/137 placing amongst women aged 40-44, 309/809 women overall, and 752 out of all 1445 runners. This is a great result for me! And for once I had a running race with no side stitches!!
I received my race medal, and then was funnelled into the food tent with all other finishers. Runners were given apples, bananas, cookies, pizza, bars, and soup. I had made a shake to have after the race, which in my haste forgot this morning, but Alasdair brought it for me. We found each other not long after I got my food, and after staying for a few more minutes, we left.
The Hamilton Marathon Road2Hope is phenomenally well organized and is also a fundraiser for various charities (it’s not too late to contribute). We made a donation to the FAB foundation, “helping young girls become strong women”:
- Our passion is helping young girls become strong women.
- Our focus is reaching youth girls in lower income communities.
- Our goal is to inspire youth girls to dream big, live big.
- Our strategy is to build their self confidence and goal setting skills.
- Our vehicle is our FAB Girls 5 KM Challenge.
With 1k, 5k, 10k, 21.1k and 42.2k races, there’s something for almost everyone at the Road2Hope! This year there were food trucks, and even a Timmies truck, where donations were made in exchange for coffee, and all money raised went to the charities for which runners fundraised.
Road2Hope, we’ll be back!