Around the Bay: 5 special moments along the 30-km course

Here are five special moments for the thousands of runners who will take part in the Around the Bay Race Sunday.

Maybe you're about to run your first Around the Bay and are trying to envision how Sunday morning will play out. 

Perhaps you competed years ago, but want to revive the memories — the emotional highs and lows, the literal peaks and valleys — for old time's sake.

Or maybe you're someone who will never don sneakers for a long-distance jaunt, but you want to imagine how it would feel to amble to the starting line among a Lycra-clad crowd of thousands, your favourite pump song blasting in your ears, and thoughts of finish-line hot chocolate buoying your spirits.

Here's a list that will put you in a running state of mind. 

To offer a glimpse into what it's like to participate in Sunday's 120th annual Around the Bay Road Race, CBC Hamilton has compiled a roundup of the most compelling moments in a runner's journey through the 30-km course, with a map at the bottom of the page showing where on the route each milestone is situated. 

Some entries boast the course's standout quirks, while other moments made the grade simply because they tend to be the most emotional points in the race.

So sip some water, wipe your brow and take a look. 

But remember: savouring the journey can be as rewarding as reaching your destination.

You are surrounded by thousands of runners, excited by the crush of people, the energy. But it is also a very personal, retrospective moment: You are thinking about the challenge ahead, but also reflecting on the months of preparation, training and sacrifice, all the lonely miles on the road that got you here.

Along Beach Boulevard, residents bang pots and pans and cheer you on. At this stage of the race, you have as much of the race behind you as you do ahead of you and the cheering on the long straight-a-way helps you keep the pace. And it helps you cross the significant divide between more-than-half-to-go and more-than-half-done.  

You’ve just handled the rolling hills of North Shore Boulevard and you know the big hill is just around the corner. You have to muster your resources for the challenge to come.

Thump-thump-clap. Thump-thump-clap. Over and over, the anthemic Queen song plays on a continuous loop and that song is your encouragement as you prepare to head down into the valley before Valley Inn Road. Stan Wakeman is a regular Bay race fan and he is the one blasting the tune. Race lore says giving Wakeman, a dwarf, a high five is good luck.

You’re suffering, suffering. You’ve just run (walked? shuffled? limped?) your way up the
gruelling500-metre-long and steep grade of the Valley Inn Road hill and now you must decide: Do you have what it takes to carry on running, or will you walk and be defeated in your goals? At the top are two Grim Reapers with signs inviting you to give up and enter the cemetery across the road. It’s where you have to dig very deep to find your answer.

Around the Bay offers up a fine finish. The end is in sight for almost four kilometres as you approach along York Road. But the truly special moment is your entry into the arena itself. It’s celebrity, big-league treatment: You enter to fans in the stands cheering you on. In front of you as you approach the finish line, your picture is larger-than-life on the big scoreboard and your name being called out by the announcer. It’s special.

Around The Bay route map