Why did several local runners meet Sunday morning outside Spa Marché in Tillsonburg to run the ATB – a virtual run to take the place of 2020 Around the Bay?
“Because we can,” smiled Sandi Beernaert. “Because this year it’s ‘Around the Burg.’”
“Today we are going to be running the 30k Around the Bay Relay,” said Anne Ploss, who has been a member of the local runners’ Sole Mates Facebook group for the last 10 years, but a couple years ago moved to Tweed. “Three of us are each going to run the 10 km for a total of 30 km.”
An open invitation was made to the Sole Mates group and more local runners arrived for Sunday’s 7:30 a.m. run – as well as a photographer from London to give them two teams, including Rachel Winters, Susan Balazs, Karen Robinson and Susan McNeil.
“It was the 126th year for the Around the Bay Race in Hamilton, which is the oldest race in North America,” said Ploss. “That’s why they put on the back of their shirts, ‘Older than Boston.’”
“People come from all over the world to run that,” said Beernaert. “There are usually 10,000 runners.”
“It usually happens at the end of March, but because of COVID it was delayed,” said Ploss. “They set a date in November (in Hamilton), but of course that also didn’t happen, so now it’s a virtual run.”
Beernaert came with ATB (Around the ‘Burg) props for pre-race photos, which they planned to send to the race director. One sign read, ‘Where’s the other 10,000 runners? Guess we’re winning.’
Given the option of running a virtual event now and receiving 2020 ATB medals, or deferring registration fees until next year, they made the decision to run now.
“We opted to get our medals and shirts and do something in Tillsonburg as a group,” said Beernaert.
ATB is a race, and they did plan to race. But the local runners made it clear the focus of Sunday’s run in the rain would be fun as they did their relays together in one group – safely social distanced.
“Because we have not been able to be together for a long time… we’re not congregating, but at least we can see each other – distanced,” said Ploss, who noted the importance of running for physical and mental health during the pandemic.
“It’s still important to find ways to safely get your exercise, because it is so good for our physical health and our mental health and our emotional well-being – that’s so important,” said Ploss.
At Hamilton’s Around The Bay race, relay participants would get bussed to their start points.
“It’s quite exciting,” said Ploss. “You have to be ready for your runner, you have to be ready to get the (relay) tag.
“This would have been my third Around the Bay. I’ve done the 30k alone, not the relay.”
“This would have been twice for me, I think,” said Winters. “I’ve never done the relay.”