The pandemic may have forced the cancellation of the annual the bay run in Hamilton, but it didn’t deter local runners from creating their own local event.
The pandemic may have forced the cancellation of the annual Around the Bay Road Race in Hamilton, but COVID-19 didn’t deter local runners from creating their own event.
Several Oxford County runners met Sunday morning in Tillsonburg for their own version of Around the Bay, affectionately dubbed Around the ‘Burg.
In the wake of the cancellation of Around the Bay, organizers of the storied Hamilton road race challenged runners to hold their own virtual versions of the 30-kilometre run.
An open invitation was made to the Sole Mates Facebook group, so more area runners arrived for Sunday’s 7:30 a.m. start, as well as a photographer from London. That gave organizers enough for two teams, including Rachel Winters, Susan Balazs, Karen Robinson, Sandi Beernaert and Susan McNeil.
Each team member ran a 10-kilometre leg for a total distance of 30 kilometres, the length of the Hamilton race.
“It was the 126th year for the Around the Bay race in Hamilton, which is the oldest race in North America,” said co-organizer Anne Ploss, a member of Sole Mates for the past decade. “That’s why they put on the back of their shirts, ‘Older than Boston.’”
The Hamilton event typically attracts about 10,000 runners, and “people come from all over the world to run (it),” Beernaert said.
The Hamilton run had been scheduled for the end of March and then tentatively delayed until November, but COVID-19 prompted organizers to ultimately cancel until at least 2021.
Given the option of running their virtual event now and receiving 2020 Around the Bay medals or deferring registration fees until next year, they made the decision to run now.
“We opted to get our medals and shirts and do something in Tillsonburg as a group,” said Beernaert.
Local runners made it clear the focus of Sunday’s run in the rain would be fun while completing their relays together in one group, with appropriate distances..
“Because we have not been able to be together for a long time… we’re not congregating, but at least we can see each other – distanced,” said Ploss, who noted the importance of running for physical and mental health during the pandemic.
“It’s still important to find ways to safely get your exercise because it is so good for our physical health and our mental health and our emotional well-being – that’s so important.”