Hamilton Road2Hope marathon draws 5,000 runners

Billed as the No. 1 qualifier for the Boston Marathon, Road2Hope - a two-day marathon event - drew 5,000 runners to Hamilton over the weekend.

Participants encouraged to wear poppies to honour fallen soldiers

Alexandre Boule, from Quebec City, Que., proposes to his girlfriend Marie-Claude Brassard at the finish line of the Road2Hope marathon. The two-day event drew 5,000 runners to Hamilton over the weekend. (Sunnie Huang/CBC)

Alexandre Boule completed the Road2Hope full marathon on Sunday in 2:41:44, a stunning first-place finish in his age group and third place overall. But his race didn't stop at the finish line. 

After pacing around with a gold ring in his hand, the runner from Quebec City proposed to his girlfriend Marie-Claude Brassard, who crossed the finish line 20 minutes later. 

Sunday's race in Hamilton is Boule's fourth full marathon, but it was Brassard's first.

"I feel like it's a good moment," Boule said. The two have been dating for two years.

Billed as the No. 1 qualifier for the Boston Marathon, Road2Hope drew 5,000 runners to Hamilton this year, according to organizers. The two-day event is now in its eighth year. 

Participants this year were also encouraged to wear poppies to honour the two Canadian soldiers killed in last month's attacks.

Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, a Hamilton native, was fatally shot by a gunman while guarding the National War Memorial in Ottawa on Oct. 22. Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent died after a targeted hit-and-run in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., on Oct. 20. 

While runners in the 1K, 5K and 10K races on Saturday braved gusty winds and the city's first snow of the season,  Sunday's half marathon and full marathon races took place under clear, sunny skies. 

The half marathon was briefly stopped after a man collapsed near the finish line. Runners were detoured to make room for the ambulance and the paramedics. Organizers say the man was taken to the hospital and it is unclear what his condition is. 

Taylor Kraayenbrink, a 24-year-old from Sarnia, Ont., is the first full marathoner to cross the finish line at Sunday's race. (Sunnie Huang/CBC)

The full marathon wasn't affected by the incident.

Starting at ArcelorMittal Dofasco Park in Stoney Creek, it takes runners through the back country roads of Hamilton and the edge of the escarpment for the first 15 kilometres. Runners then get on the Red Hill Valley Parkway for a scenic downhill coast before turning onto Beach Boulevard and heading toward Burlington. The last seven kilometres of the race takes runners along the waterfront trail, which leads to the finish line at Confederation Park. 

For 24-year-old Taylor Kraayenbrink, the first full marathoner to cross the finish line, the downhill coast was the toughest part. 

"Those are my slowest kilometres," said Kraayenbrink, from Sarnia, Ont. "It was a three-man race to 36K and I broke away at 36K and ran alone."

Nonetheless, he said he is still satisfied by the result: 2:31:11. The avid runner has completed Road2Hope's 5K and 10K races before, and he came back to Hamilton — where he attended school — this year to complete the full marathon. 

"I love running in Hamilton. It's my second home," he said. 

Proceeds of the race will go to two local two charities, including Hamilton City Kids, a youth advocacy group, and Joy and Hope of Haiti, a volunteer group that helps raise funds to build elementary schools in Haiti. 


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