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A month 'til Around the Bay, and there's room for more runners

Hamilton's Around the Bay road race is a month away. And for the first time, it may not sell out. Blame Canadian winters for sapping the will of many.

For the first time, the race may not reach its cap

The starting gun for 2014's 30-km race. (Cory Ruf/CBC)

Hamilton's Around the Bay road race is a month away.

And for the first time, it may not sell out.

For the full 30-kilometre run, there are still almost 2,000 spots open, said Mike Zajczenko, the race director. 

"This year is the first year where we’re probably not going to reach our cap," Zajczenko said.

Zajczenko blamed last year's "brutal winter" for sapping some of the running spirit. In addition to that hangover, a second consecutive harsh winter is a compounding factor. 

"This year’s not helping very much either," Zajczenko said.

Temperatures in Hamilton have so cold as to break decades- and century-old records in February. Temperatures in January 2014 were about –4 degrees Celsius colder than average. Environment Canada meteorologist Peter Kimbell said it's hard to tell why Hamilton's winters have been so frigid the last couple of years, conditions tend to be cyclical, he said.

The 30K race has room for 9,000 runners, and the 5K can hold 2,500. There are fewer than 400 spots left in the 5K.

Even after two tough winters, there's no thought of pushing the race date back in future years, Zajczenko said. The race is timed just right for the Hamilton shipping season. 

"This is just a glitch (in weather)," he said. "Hopefully it won’t be like last year for the next five years."

Even if the race doesn't sell out, Zajczenko said the Around the Bay institution will be fine. But the race also carries a fundraising element — a goal to raise $475,000. "On the charity end I'm sure less runners is going to mean a little bit of an impact," he said.

An iconic hill closed 

CN construction on the rail bridge over Valley Inn Road will detour the Around the Bay Race around the famous hill in March. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)
The infamous hill that makes the race extra-tough won't be part of this year's race, Zajczenko said. CN railroad construction on the bridge over the road last fall threatened to detour the race for its 121st year, and Zajczenko confirmed Friday the runners will skip that hill in favour of the long, gradual climb of Plains Road instead.

He said he recently stopped by the construction on the Valley Inn Road bridge and saw construction crews using a pile-driver on the project. 

"It's a no-go," he said. "Too dangerous."

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