One of the most popular fall marathons in Ontario, and a top Boston Marathon qualifier, is set for another exciting edition in November, with a sweet new waterside course and the same dedication to charity and community. Tighten up the laces, and loosen up those hamstrings, the Hamilton Marathon Road2Hope is scheduled for Nov. 5-6.
But, it’s not just a marathon. There is a race for all, from a one-kilometre fun run, a 5 and 10-kilometre family walk/run, as well as a half marathon. For those looking to go even bigger, there are always the "Run the Hammer" or the "Hammer the Hammer" challenges where participants do three races in one weekend.
New this year, the races will take place in the beautiful, safe and lovingly flat confines of Confederation Park right on the Hamilton waterfront. Yes, the massive hill that defined the race for many years is gone for now. But a new waterfront course is in its place.
The change was long overdue for the popular event. The city was encouraging race organizers to find a great new location and another partner with whom the race partnered to house runners on the course at the top of the hill pulled out, so it was time to make a move.
“We decided to change the course away from the Red Hill Valley Parkway. We are now a beautiful double loop course for the full marathon and the half marathon will be a single 21K loop,” says Michelle Greenspoon Pauls, event coordinator for the Hamilton Marathon Road2Hope.
The loop course, as well as the start and finish at Confederation Park, give the Hamilton Marathon a great community feel right away, more spectator friendly, so be sure to invite family and friends. And, of course, there will be aid stations throughout the course, and the race will use a chip that is embedded in the bib.
“The course is flat and scenic and the fact that it's a double-loop course, we see some benefit with spectators and the whole atmosphere of the event,” Greenspoon Pauls says. “The marathon will be a fully certified Boston Qualifier and all other races will be certified through Athletics Canada.”
This year, the race is also the Canadian Masters National 10K Championships.
Nova Scotia runner Paula James ran her first Hamilton Marathon in 2018 and is on the lookout for a fall race this season.
“This year I’ve been searching for a fall marathon that’s flat and fast and I think the new course in Hamilton is one of few that fits that bill perfectly,” she says. “So many fast courses are net downhill and sometimes you just want to see what you can do without the help of a downhill grade. I also think with the way our weather is changing, an early November race day is your best bet to hit ideal racing temperatures. I feel like Hamilton checks a lot of boxes and should definitely be on an eastern Canadian’s fall marathon bucket list.”
Charity and community are bona fide touchstones for the Hamilton Marathon. Back when the race first began in 2007, the original race organizers, Gord and Esther Pauls, were very invested in their community and got involved in the Joy and Hope of Haiti Foundation operating local runs in the Westdale neighbourhood to raise money for the organization.
“My mother-in-law Esther, who’s a big thinker, said she had this dream of hosting a marathon where all the proceeds go to the Joy & Hope of Haiti,” Greenspoon Pauls explains.
The race was a success, to say the least.
“In the inaugural year of 2007, that was the year that the Red Hill Valley Parkway opened,” Greenspoon Pauls says. “We actually ran down the Red Hill Valley Parkway, and then back up the last eight kilometres to finish the marathon.”
But, it was also tough, having that last eight kilometres heading up the escarpment, so over time, the course changed to be a little more scenic, and a lot faster, giving the race its current number one qualifier status for the Boston Marathon.
Not only that, more and more charities began reaching out to try to get involved with the event, so the charity side of the Hamilton Marathon evolved alongside the race itself.
“She (Esther Pauls) wanted to be able to help everybody,” Greenspoon Pauls says. “And so that's where our charity partner program was developed. And it’s become a huge component of our events.”
Now, there is a well-established program where charities can register as a partner with the Hamilton Marathon. Instead of having to organize their own 5K or 10K, they piggyback on the success of the Hamilton Marathon by bringing their participants to the event.
“They bring all of their participants to our event, and they're able to raise money through Race Roster,” Greenspoon Pauls says. “We set them all up and 100% of the funds raised go to them; we don't collect a dime from that.”
“It’s all people doing awesome things in Hamilton and that’s what we love to see,” she adds. “We like to do good in our community. A lot of people just see us as a marathon. But we're more than that. We’re working to help charities within the city.”
The Hamilton Marathon Road2Hope course may have changed, but the event remains an integral part of the local running scene as well as the greater community as a whole with its commitment to charity.
Registration prices for the event go up Sept. 1, so don’t delay. For more information go to the event website.