Around the Bay Road Race History
The Hamilton Herald Newspaper and cigar store owner "Billy" Carroll, originated and sponsored the first "Around the Bay Road Race", run on Christmas Day, 1894. It is now the oldest road race in North America, older than the Boston Marathon which was born three years after the Around the Bay Road Race. The race tested the abilities of the finest long distance runners, but was also an avenue to lay down some bets.
The Around the Bay Road Race established Hamilton as a running mecca for long distance runners, and it was not uncommon for thousands of spectators to line the route to watch their local favourites start the race from the front of the Herald Newspaper Offices at 17 King Street West Hamilton.
In the early 1900's, Jack Caffery and William Sherring battled it out and won two "Bay" races each. Caffery went on to stun the Americans by winning the Boston Marathon in 1900.
To add insult to injury, Hamilton's William Sherring and Fred Hughson placed second and third, behind Caffery, making it a Canadian sweep. Caffery rubbed it in even further by coming back the next year 1901, to win Boston again.
Not to be outdone by Caffery, William Sherring went on to win the 1906 Olympic Marathon in Athens, Greece, making him a Canadian hero.
That same year, Tommy Longboat, an Onondaga from Six Nations near Caledonia, won the "Bay" race and the next year in 1907, surprised everyone by winning the Boston Marathon. Hamilton's James Duffy also went on to win the 1914 Boston Marathon, after two Consecutive Bay wins.
The Americans gave the Bay race an International flavour when Sam Mellor and Mike Spring from New York each won the Bay race and then Boston in the same year. Frank Zuna, from New Jersey also won Boston in 1921 and then conquered the Bay in 1922 and 1923.
The Canadians arrived back in the spotlight when Gerald Cote, a Quebec soldier, won the Bay and Boston in 1943, and Jerome Drayton won the Bay in 1973, 1974 and then Boston in 1977.
Scotty Rankine holds the distinguished honour of seven wins, established in the late thirties and early forties, while Peter Maher won his fifth Bay race in 1996, tying the record of local Gord Dickson, who had five wins in the late fifties.
In 1997, the Bay race saw the closest finish ever, as Paul Mbugua of Kenya crossed the finish line in a time of 1:35:35, beating two other runners by a footstep.
In 2006 the Bay Race finish was moved indoors to the 15,000 seat FirstOntario Centre. Runners, family and friends are now able to view the finish in comfort. The Men's record was broken in 2010, by Alene Reta 1:32:22 who shaved 28 seconds off Simon Njorje's time. Lanni Marchant of London, ON broke the women's course record in 2013 with a time of 1:44:40 by trimming 1 minute 35 seconds off Lioudmila Kortchaguina's previous record of 1:46:15.
The Around the Bay Road Race continues to be full of tradition and excitement, and this year will be no exception.