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Valley Inn Road construction could detour Around the Bay Road Race

An Around the Bay Race that doesn't include the infamous and gruelling climb up Valley Inn Road is a possibility because of CN construction on the railway bridge over the road.

If race is detoured, runners would skip the notorious Valley Inn Road hill

CN has started construction on the rail bridge over Valley Inn Road and that construction may mean the detouring of the Around the Bay Race around the famous hill in March. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

An Around the Bay Road Race that doesn't include the infamous and gruelling climb up Valley Inn Road is a possibility next spring because of CN construction on the railway bridge over the road. 

Railroad construction beginning Monday over Valley Inn Road could mean a detour around the notorious hill for the 121st running of the historic race in March.

Race organizers won't know until close to the race date whether the road is in good enough shape to allow runners to travel it. If not, the race will be detoured to Plains Road, said Mike Zajczenko, race director. It would mark the first time the 30-kilometre race is run without what has becoming one of its most difficult and defining features. 

"We only need a lane," Zajczenko said. "It'll probably be a week right before race time before we know anything."

Canadian National (CN) Rail is planning construction on its bridge over Valley Inn Road connected to the coming GO train service to the new station on James Street North. 

The city announced the closure of Valley Inn Road from York Boulevard to the pedestrian bridge below the rail bridge, as well as Valley Inn Trail, for approximately one year. 

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      The steep and winding climb comes at about 26 kilometres into the race and for many runners represents its toughest challenge. Runners are traditionally greeted at the top—many forced to a walking pace by the hill—by two costumed Grim Reapers. Zajczenko said the hill acts as the opposite of a deterrent for runners. 

      "I think that's why they run it," he said. He does not think a detour would make the race any less popular.

      But he said he didn't expect to see record-breaking times simply because of the detour, should it happen. 

      "You've still got to run 30 kilometres. Is it going to really make a difference?" he said. "For an elite athlete it might make a difference of a couple of seconds. But it's not like someone's going to run it five, ten minutes faster or something."

      Zajczenko said the race, scheduled for March 29, has attracted about 8,000 registrants so far. 

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