I was lucky to race in the Pauls Hamilton Marathon Road2Hope in Hamilton, Ontario recently. It’s advertised as a fast, downhill course, and it lives up to the billing.
If you don’t have a convenient Sherpa to drive you, your gear, and any running friends around, you will wind up parking at the finish line prior to the race and taking a shuttle bus up to the race start. The ride is pleasant and quick, with no shortage of buses or major delays when I’d arrived prior to the race. The time switch also provided earlier daylight, allowing you to park, prep, and walk to the shuttles in fairly good natural light – this was actually more seamless than I’d imagined. The park at the top has a nice warm area to wait for the start after hopping off the bus, and a contingent of portajohns outside augment (backup seems like the wrong word!) the real flush toilets inside.
After a few kilometers of road on top of the escarpment and a chance to settle into a rhythm, the course starts to follow the brow of Southern Ontario’s ‘Mountain’, providing a pretty nice view of Stoney Creek and the lake below. This year, turning away from the escarpment and back into agricultural areas meant headwinds! The headwinds kept on hitting until you hit development again and start to run through a commercial strip approaching the Red Hill Valley expressway.
The stretch down the expressway deserves it’s own paragraph! It feels like you’re flying when you’re running down it. The pavement’s smooth though the camber of the pavement is a little steeper than many people are used to. Training on steeply sloping shoulders came in pretty handy here but even with the camber it’s an easy spot to hold pace (or blow it and go too quick!). The sweeping wide turns of an expressway also a lot of choice for picking your line. You could unwittingly add a lot of distance if you follow the lanes here – watch your lines and apex the curves! The wide sweeping curves required for a car blasting along at 120 are overkill when I’m rocketing along at 12 km/hr on foot…
Exiting the expressway was both a relief and a bit of downer. A change in surface and a cooler breeze were refreshing, but a short stretch of porous pavers on a steep little downhill felt much more treacherous on foot than I had expected. The short stretch of dirt/gravel afterwards was much nicer in comparison. A pedestrian bridge over the QEW, some trail, beach boulevard, and more trail rounded out the course nicely. The finish is around a right hand, 180 degree turn – you hear it and run past it before you make the corner and get a chance to see the line. The finishing line, chute, and food area were friendly and open without the sort of cattle drive mentality that sometimes occurs in larger races.
All in all, a great event, a fast crowd, and a good race.