Most runners know that Around the Bay—celebrating its 130 birthday this year—is older than the Boston Marathon and is North America’s longest running consecutive road race. But did you know that the second longest road race in Canada is the Boxing Day Road Run, in Hamilton? It almost closed shy of its 102nd birthday, but Tim Forrester and his group in Hamilton resurrected it last week (register here!!). Normally a 10-miler, this year the race is coming in at 4 miles but, most importantly, continuing to run. We asked Tim why this race on December 26 is worth fighting for.
iRun: Talk about some classic competitions at this race, and who you are, and what your ties are to running?
Tim Forrester: In 1989, I was in thirteenth place (I believe 51:48) and in this race were Paul Williams (27:53, 10km), Peter Fonseca (2:11, marathon), Gary Westgate (28:33, 10km), Richard Lee (low 29s), Rick Mannen, (2:19, marathon), Andy Kore (29:20, 10km), Dave Edge, pictured above, and Dave Reid (28:18, 10km). It was minus 30 and we were 5:34 at 1 mile, 27:04 at 5miles and when Dave Reid yelled, “Sprint!,” the leaders went low 4:20s for the sixth mile—uphill!!!
iRun: Runners were racing seriously and, most importantly, having fun!
TF: Fonseca and Westgate tied in 50:23. Other winners have been Roger Martindill, pictured below, Dave Edge, Rob Earl, pictured at the bottom, Bob Moore and Olympian Jerome Drayton, who had the marathon record for 43 years before Cam Levins. I don’t think any other race in Canada can claim this many national champions.
iRun: Why is it important to keep classic 100-year-old races?
TF: It’s the second oldest race in Canada. We can’t let races like this die, especially a December race when it’s the only one around—not to mention the names who have run/won it in the past. The history is endless and it’s important the future is too.
iRun: A race in December in Canada. What importance can that serve for runners, even middle of the pack girls and guys?
TF: It’s a good way to end the year off. Many people are back in this area visiting family, and they come to this race to see many old time running friends from years gone by. Plus, for newer runners, it’s a great way to stay active over the holidays and come out and have fun.
iRun: Why do you think the race had been successful?
TF: Because it has been organized by people who cared about the race. The Hamilton Olympic Club before 1991 and the Hamilton Harriers, especially the late Eddie Hicken—who saved this race in 1991 after a 1 year absence.
iRun: What is it you love about the sport, what drew you first in and what keeps you coming back?
TF: I actually started running in 1979 when I got stuck in traffic watching the Around the Bay race. I was coming home from hockey (and I never played hockey again). I just loved the freedom it brought, and I was lucky because I had early success (34:53, 10km), and sponsorship from John Vicario at New Balance. John was maybe the greatest supporter of distance running Canada has even known and he helped me when I was just 13 years old.
iRun: After you host your event on December 26, what do you hope happens to the Boxing Day 4 Miler?
TF: This is only a stop gap for 1 year, as the Hamilton Harriers are planning on organizing the race in 2024. We just didn’t have enough time this year to come up with a “police friendly” 10 mile course, knowing the late timing in organizing the race, guessing how many runners we might get is nearly impossible.
iRun: Christmas is coming; New Year’s is coming—what do you see up ahead in the running new year?
TF: Since COVID, many small hometown races are way down in participation numbers or have gone away completely. We’re hoping runners come back and support all of these events.
iRun: We’ll be there for sure. How can runners sign up and how can runners preserve this legacy?
Runners can sign up here. We’re hoping to attract as many as possible so our race continues this year and at least breaks even. We’ve had zero time to solicit a major sponsor but we’re all enthusiastically behind this great historic event and we’d like to see it last and improve and grow. We look forward to welcoming as many runners as possible on Boxing Day in Hamilton for another hundred years.