My race season was supposed to end after the Chicago Marathon, but considering the warm conditions at that race and the result which I was not really happy with, I decided to give this marathon thing one more try for 2017. I wanted to give myself enough time to recover, but not too much time that any of my fitness from the Chicago training cycle would be lost. The Hamilton Marathon Road2Hope was an obvious choice considering it was exactly four weeks after the the Chicago Marathon.
The Hamilton Marathon is also ranked Canada’s #1 Boston Qualifier (thanks to the wicked downhill around the 20km mark and then flat 12km to finish the race.
I didn’t tell many people I was registered for the race because I wanted to keep it quiet (my first race without a flatrunner photo!) The goal was to improve my buffer for Boston 2019. I was sitting on a 1:59 buffer from my BQ in Chicago and we all know sub-2:00 buffers are a thing of the past!
Sadly I didn’t post a race report from the Chicago Marathon mainly because the race was a blur for me. I was in great shape, but it was too warm for me and I don’t do well in warm weather. I stopped quite a few times, used the port-o-potty for the first time in 25+ races, and I really was not in the right state of mind the entire race. As a result, I could barely remember key moments of the race that would have been helpful in a race report!
My Chicago training plan was created by Coach Colin from High Park Rogue Runners (the second plan he created for me). I PRd and BQd at the Mississauga Marathon thanks to the really great plan that had me running six days a week with speed work on two of those days. The Chicago plan was a bit harder, but mostly the same.
With four weeks between the Chicago Marathon and Hamilton Marathon, my plan was to stay loose and not do anything that would hinder my recovery. I didn’t do any prescribed speed work in those four weeks, but did pepper in some tempo runs and fartleks to keep the legs moving and turning over. I also added in a 27km long run two weeks prior to the Hamilton Marathon and a 16km run one week prior to ensure the legs could keep moving.
I drove out to Hamilton on the Friday before the race to pick-up my race kit as well as my friend Heather’s race kit. The expo was larger than I thought it would be, but I still zipped through fairly quickly. It took an hour to get to the expo and I was going to be driving with traffic on the way home, so I didn’t want to stick around.
I carb loaded just like I would in the days leading up to a race and got to bed early Saturday night. It was daylight savings time, so even though I had to be up at 4:20am Sunday morning, I wasn’t concerned about being tired thanks to the extra hour of sleep!
I was weather stalking for a few days leading up to the race mainly because there was a chance of thunderstorms at the start. While the chance was low, the chance of rain was almost 100%. The race hadn’t started yet and it was already feeling like Goodlife 2.0. The Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon was my first BQ and the conditions were absolutely miserable! It rained the entire time, but the worse part was the nasty headwinds the final 7km or so of the race.
Most runners parked at the finish line and took a shuttle to the start line. I arrived just after 6am and found parking pretty close to the shuttle. It drizzled the entire drive out to Hamilton and it was still drizzling when I walked to the shuttle. It was a tad chilly at 9 degrees; ideal racing temps! If the rain was just a slight drizzle, that wouldn’t be an issue at all!
The start line is located at ArcelorMittal Dofasco Park (about 15-20m away from the finish line. I waited inside the rec centre for Heather and bumped into a few running friends who were surprised to see me wearing a bib! Finally, someone spotted me and alerted me to the fact Heather was waiting outside!
I gave Heather her bib, chatted with her husband for a bit, then decided to take a bit of a warm-up outside.
The marathon started at 7:45am and the half marathon started 15 minutes later and followed a different path to start. I liked this because it meant less people darting in and out at the start; something that really annoys me in large marathons or races where the half and full starts together.
A few minutes later, we jumped in line at the start of the race and with a minute to go before we started, the rain picked-up and it was absolutely pouring out! I’ll admit I looked back at the rec centre and wondered if it was really worth it. For a brief moment, I truly did not care if I walked away with a DNS (did not start).
Aside from the downpour, I was somewhat preoccupied with my earbuds. The only time I ran with music was my first marathon. In all of the races before that race and leading up to the Hamilton Marathon, I never listened to music. Heather convinced me there will be long stretches when we are alone and the music will keep me going. I shutoff the earbuds on the drive over to Hamilton to conserve the battery and sure enough, I was having trouble syncing them to my phone as we were about to start. To make matters worse, my phone was soaked and Touch ID was not working and I couldn’t type in my password with all the rain!
This was going to be a long day.
Before I move on to the race, I did have a plan that I was going to stick to for this race! The plan was to hold 4:30 for the first 10km (rolling hills), 4:20ish for 10km (relatively flat), ride the downhill from 20km to 30km, then hold on for the final 12km. If you’ve read any of my previous race reports, you’ll know having a plan and sticking to it are two different things!
First 5km splits: 4:24, 4:25, 4:23, 4:22, 4:26
I ran a few hundred meters with my phone in my hand willing it to allow me to authenticate and connect my earbuds. Thankfully it did and I was rocking and rolling! Actually, it was more popping and hip-hopping!
Runners exit the parking lot of the rec centre and make a quick right onto First Rd E. From there it’s 2 kilometers downhill before making a right turn onto Ridge Rd. Ridge Rd. hugs the Iroquoia section of the Bruce Trail and offers a really cool view of Hamilton. Just before the 5km mark, runners turn right onto Third Rd E.
My splits were a tad fast to start, but well within range. I’m usually much faster at the start than this, so that was a good sign.
Thankfully the downpour subsided fairly quickly after the start, but it was still raining pretty good.
Second 5km splits: 4:26, 4:22, 4:28, 4:15, 4:31
At the 6km mark of the race, the rolling hills start coming on. They’re not too bad, but enough to keep runners honest.
Just prior to the 7km mark, runners make a left turn onto Green Mountain Rd E. We’re pretty much running through farm land at this point and there are no spectators around except for the 1-2 spectators (or volunteers) at the kilometer markers. Runners make a left turn onto Tapleytown Rd just before the 8km mark and back onto Ridge Rd at the 9km mark.
At the 10km mark, runners turn right onto 5th Rd E, one of the longest straightaways in the race.
The turns weren’t bothering me at all and I knew pretty soon there would be a couple of big straightaways.
There was one moment where my speed started to pick up (likely due to a downhill section of a hill), but I got it in check really quickly.
I popped my first gel at the 9km mark.
Third 5km splits: 4:22, 4:25, 4:36, 4:50, 4:25
Around the 13km mark, I was starting to feel a little winded. I slowed down for a split second to relax my breath and then again a few hundred meters later. This caused one of my splits to jump to 4:50/km. I was a little concerned I was starting to have issues so early in the race and just kept thinking I needed to hold on for another 7 kilometers until the downhill section started.
At the 14km mark, runners turn right onto Highland Rd E, the longest straightaway on the course (7-8 kilometers!)
16km – 21km: 4:25, 4:25, 4:21, 4:47, 4:31, 4:38
The rest of Highland Rd E is fairly uneventful with a few spectators spread out. At every major intersection there was a police officer directing traffic and a few spectators holding signs. For the small amount of spectators, they were really supportive!
I should also add with my earbuds in, I really couldn’t hear what anyone was saying at the water stations. I was trying to read lips to determine if they were saying water or Nuun and at one point, I was just grabbing whatever they had. There were blue Nuun cups for Nuun and white cups for water, but I don’t think that was always the case because I was grabbing white cups filled with Nuun at certain points of the race!
At the 18km mark, I took my first rest of the race. I full on stopped close to the marker to catch my breath again. Nothing was really bothering me and I felt OK; I just didn’t feel as if I was getting enough oxygen when I ran!
Once this occurred, I knew it was going to be a battle the rest of the way. I slowed down again at 20km and again at the halfway point (21.1km). Sometimes I slowed down to a walk and other times I just tried to slow down to a jog so I was still moving.
I should have taken my second gel at the 18km mark, but got distracted and ended up taking it at the 20km mark.
22km – 30km: 4:50, 4:26, 4:38, 4:24, 4:40, 5:07, 4:40, 4:50, 4:59
This next segment of the course saved the race for me. At the 22km mark, runners make a right turn and start the coolest part of the race. For the next 10 kilometers, we got to run on a parkway! Parts of the Red Hill Valley Parkway were closed to runners. The course plunges from about 475 meters to 365 meters over the course of the next 10 kilometers. Thank goodness for this downhill because I was not feeling very fast at this point of the race and yet the downhill made up for it. I did stop at the 27km mark to stretch both legs which really felt good!
At the end of the parkway, runners exit the parkway at Barton Street, left on Barton Street and then right onto Red Hill Trail. The trail is a dirt trail and thankfully not too muddy by the time we ran on it!
I popped by third (and final) gel at the 30km mark.
31km – 42.2km: 5:00, 5:29, 5:07, 5:00, 5:22, 5:03, 5:32, 4:58, 5:12, 5:22, 5:16, 4:58, 4:38
The remainder of the race reminded me a bit of Goodlife where runners run out for a few kilometers and then make a u-turn and head back towards the finish line. Around the 33km mark, runners exit the trail and run on Beach Boulevard and run about 3.5 kilometers before making the u-turn and then head back towards the finish on the waterfront trail.
By this point of the race, the crowds pick-up and I started spotting quite a few friends along the sides of the course. Even though I was pretty much ready for this to be over, it was really awesome seeing the look on everyone’s face when they realized I was participating! That’s the fun part of not telling anyone ahead of time you’re participating.
I high-fived quite a few people in the last stretch of the race and really focused on trying not to walk so much. By this point, I probably stopped or walked 14-15 times and I was still on track to BQ! The goal was to improve my BQ time and so far I was managing to at least do that!
My pace at this point of the race was somewhere between a crawl and a jog and the headwinds at the turn-around point were absolutely brutal; just like Goodlife!
I made the final turn into Confederation Park and did my best to keep moving towards the finish. I heard the announcer say congratulations Jonathan when the runner 100 meters in front of me finished, then he said, “no, this is Jonathan” when I actually approached the finish line. That made me laugh; a little.
I looked up at the clock and noticed I crossed the finish line just over 3:20. Mission accomplished.
I crossed the finish line in 3:20:14 which is my third fastest time in the eight marathons I’ve run. I also “earned” a BQ of 4 minutes 46 seconds for Boston 2019. I’d say that buffer guarantees me a spot, but considering it was 3:23 for the 2018 race, nothing is guaranteed anymore!
The gamble to increase my BQ buffer from Chicago paid off. I didn’t run a good race, but I ran enough of it at a good pace. In hindsight, I’d absolutely do it again. I probably could have done a little better without the nasty headwinds at certain points of the race, but it doesn’t matter now.
The Road2Hope is truly a great race, with awesome volunteers, great course marshals, and an awesome vibe! I would absolutely run it again one day as I feel I can really do well!
Here are the details of my results:
- Overall Place: 74 out of 799
- Gender Place: 63 out of 510
- Category Place (ages 40-49): 18 out of 85
As soon as I crossed the finish line, I grabbed my medal and headed into the tent. I grabbed a bottle of water and tried to find somewhere to sit. I don’t typically sit after a race, but I really wanted to get off my feet which were really bothering me by the end of the race. My socks were soaked and I knew I was probably going to have a few blisters. I was also really cold and the space blanket I received wasn’t do much to stop the shivering.
After about 10 minutes, I got up, grabbed some soup and an apple and headed towards my car. Fortunately I didn’t park too far away and cranked up the seat warmers, steering wheel warmer, and the heat in my car so I could warm-up!
I’m taking two weeks off from running and will slowly start my build for the 2018 Boston Marathon. I had another really great year and I’m not sure what 2018 will bring (other than Boston obviously!). I may set my goals pretty high for next year and see how close to the 3-hour mark I can get, but that may require some serious discipline in my training. I guess it all comes down to how bad I want it!