So this year, I decided to finish my racing season with a triple challenge: a sprint triathlon where I would need a lot of speed in the 3 sports, an 8 hour mountain bike race on my own which would test my biking endurance and a half marathon to see if my running speed could keep up on longer distances. I picked the Road to Hope half marathon which conveniently took place 5 weeks after my 8 hour mountain bike ride (link here) so I will would have enough time to get some long runs in but be sure that my speed from the tri season was still there.
The Road to Hope race includes a 1k, 5k and 10km on Saturday and a half and full marathon on Sunday. It is always the first weekend of November so Sunday runners get an extra hour of sleep. The race goes from point A to B, not a loop (which makes it a bit tricky for the spectators). It is mostly flat or downhill which makes it a very fast course and #1 Boston qualifier in Canada.
It was my first time competing in that event and the I was impressed whole weekend. From the website which was user friendly, clear and informative, to the emails which were not coming too often so you didn’t want to start ignoring them, to the race kit pick up which was well organised and efficient. But the best was the race day itself: free parking lot at the finish line, bunch of volunteers guiding you and telling you where to park. From that point you would get in a school bus, which brought back some memories and made you feel little again, you would ride for about 20 minutes with other runners, until you get to the starting line at Dofasco Park. There you are welcomed at the community centre where you can drop off your bag which will be driven back to the finish line. Racers stay in the gym while warming up and waiting for the start of the race.
The full marathon starts at 8:00 am and 15 minutes later, the gun goes off for the the half. There is plenty of space to warm up outside, you even have access to a track is close by. As soon as the marathon runners left, we all lined up and the gun went off shortly after.
We started running for about 5 km on some country road one section of which had a very strong head wind. Then we entered Red Hill Parkway for about 7 km which is all downhill/ After we got off the highway, we had to run on a small dirt path to go get the pedestrian bridge crossing the QEW highway.
Up to that point there were very few spectators, but once we crossed the bridge a lot of people were waiting for us and cheering quite loudly, giving us energy to pick it up for last part of the race. At the 14 km we entered the Waterfront Trail which is again flat and follows the shore of lake Ontario. We ran for about 3 km before hitting the turnaround point and heading on the same trail but now towards the finish line. In the last 4 km the crowd was loud and very encouraging which helped many people not to give up until the finish line.
At the finish line we received the medal, a bottle of water and a cheap, but very useful, vest instead of a blanket which I liked because I didn’t have to hold it while staying warm and comfortable. There was also some good food with nice options for everyone and free massage. As the runners were coming in, and finish area was getting busier, the band started playing making it even more fun place to be at.
My goal was to run the race between 1h30 and 1h35 (secretly I was hoping to go under 1h30). Everything went quite nice: I had my gels at the right time, didn’t miss an aid station (one every 3 km) and kept my pace steady through the whole race. If it would not be for the wind I strongly believe I would have finished the race under 1h30 but … oh well, we are all in the same boat, and everyone had same wind in their face. I’m quite happy with my race since I finished 4 out of 44 and 60 out of 1446 finishers overall, I don’t think I could of ran a better race.
For anyone looking to test their end of season fitness on a very fast course, I would definitely recommend this race. It is well organized and runners are well taken care of.