It must be a challenge to design a 42.2 kilometre race course. Runners are a rather picky bunch with preferences about terrain, elevation, scenery, and about a thousand other possible variables. Personally, I thought the Road2Hope Hamilton Marathon had a pretty good course, despite the re-routing to avoid construction.
I do a lot of my training on country roads, so the first half of the course was like home to me. Starting in Stoney Creek, we ran around the outside of the city through some beautiful areas. Some highlights for me included:
- A giant statue of the laughing Buddha, arms raised over his head – he seriously looked like he was cheering for us
- Some beautiful countryside including fields, trees, and lovely homes
- An out-and-back section; call me crazy, but as a back-of-packer, I like the chance to actually see the pack!
After exiting the parkway we came to a rather questionable part of the course – a road that was under construction with slightly treacherous terrain, not to mention a train-crossing that saw several runners waiting for the train. I was fortunate not be delayed at that spot, and I think I would be annoyed if that was me if for no other reason than I would probably cramp up and fall off pace for the rest of the race!
Then we headed off along a residential street that looked familiar somehow, and I realized why when I saw the 14K marker for Around the Bay. This stretch was lovely, but it felt so much longer as the 32-36K point in a marathon than it ever did as the 14K mark of ATB! Honestly, it seemed like forever before we turned toward the lake and joined the waterfront trail.
The trail was also lovely, and we were very fortunate weather-wise – I could see this stretch being a heck of a challenge on a windy day. Then I came to the point of the course that was the only point that made me say “you’ve got to be [expletive deleted] kidding me.” Right where we were to cross the park to make the final turn around toward the finish, there was a gravel path. No big deal, right? I am not talking trail-friendly pea gravel here. I am talking big, chunky back-road gravel. The kind that challenges your stabilizing muscles with every step when you’re 41.5K into a marathon, and pokes into your feet enough that it would have hurt at the start of the race – so by the end it was like hot coals. Even though it was a short stretch, it was too long for me. To add insult to injury, as soon as I got back on nice, even paved trail, I looked up and saw a hill. It’s not the steepest you’ll ever run, and it’s not that long, but again, it made some colourful words float through my fog-filled brain. But given that they saved all of the good stuff for last, at least it couldn’t mess up much of my race plan. Sure, it shot my final kick all to heck, but I don’t really know how much of a kick I really had left anyway!
Reflections on the course
Reflections on teamwork
Reflections on a race well run