Around the Bay Race adding new frills to old traditions for 125th anniversary

Around the Bay Race has added new aspects to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the event.
Anna Lewis, race director, speaks to media about new additions to celebrate the 125th anniversary for Around the Bay Race, the oldest race in North America. (Jasmine Kabatay/CBC)

This year marks the 125th anniversary of the Around the Bay Race in Hamilton, marking new beginnings to an old tradition.

The organization announced on Thursday new additions to the race to commemorate this milestone for both spectators and participants.

Around the Bay is an annual event where participants run the 30-km course around, as the name says, around the Burlington Bay. The race starts at York Blvd and loops around the Hamilton Harbour, going through east and north Hamilton into Burlington along North Shore Blvd. back into Hamilton.

They're kind of going the extra mile, no pun intended, to make this a really celebratory year.- Tej Sandhu,  Merit Brewing

In addition to this, there is also a 5km course and relays.

It's also the oldest race in North America, beginning a few years before the Boston Marathon.

Mark Swan will have an exhibit at the Art Gallery of Hamilton of 30 paintings for each km to celebrate the 125th anniversary for Around the Bay Race, the oldest race in North America. (Jasmine Kabatay/CBC)

To really make this year special, race director Anna Lewis has added new elements to create a new and exciting environment for people attending, including a special commemorative craft beer, a gallery exhibit, and live entertainment.

Lewis says they've also teamed up with SuperCrawl this year to provide live entertainment to help for a  "celebratory" experience.

"They really know how to make things even more fun, so they're going to have some entertainment along the course and at the finish line, so we really think that will enhance the runner experience," said Lewis.

Run to live music

Live entertainment will be set up at the start and finish line of the course, along with the second water station on Burlington St. and Ottawa St.

Merit Brewing partnered with the race organizers and will be creating a special beer for runners that will be served at the finish line, as well as packaging it with a commemorative label they'll be able to write their own time on.

(The Around the Bay Road Race/Facebook)

Tej Sandhu of Merit Brewing says when they were approached, the idea of celebrating a historic event was "absolutely" something they wanted to be apart of.

"It's neat to be able to bridge that gap between something historic and something very new and they're doing a lot of new things for this race and they're kind of going the extra mile, no pun intended, to make this a really celebratory year," said Sandhu.

The beer won't just be for runners. Sandhu says if there are people interested in coming before or after the race when they're open, it will be ready on tap.

The Around the Bay road race will take place March 26. (Cory Ruf/CBC)

Dylan Swan will have an art exhibit on display at the Art Gallery of Hamilton from March 9 to May 6, displaying 30 paintings, one for every kilometre of the course.

He says he did the race "a long time ago" and it wasn't for him, but continued to support the runners throughout the years.

One year, he decided to do a painting and it grew from there. Swan originally wanted to do one painting per year, but when he heard the 125th anniversary was coming up he figured he could finish them up and put on a show.

Swan tried to put the show on himself but was told they don't do shows for single artists. He reached out to Lewis, and the rest is history.

"It wasn't going to be a whole series when I did the first one or two but then when I started getting really involved with the community and everything like that, it just seemed like such a rich subject, that I had to keep going," said Swan.

But along with these new additions, the old tradition of community support will continue.

Support along the route

Lewis describes "tin pan alley," residents and neighbourhoods on the beach strip that come out to hit pots and pans with wooden spoons to show their support and a man that dresses as the grim reaper right by the cemetery.

"I think these are all parts of the traditions that have come every year and this is organically formed from the community and the residents, so we're really happy they've chosen to take part in this way," said Lewis.

The Around the Bay Race is on March 31, and registration is still open.