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    Around the Bay Road Race — the story of the stones

    Posted with permission from the Hamilton Spectator
    __________________________________________________ ____
    Thousands will run the course, and most won¡¦t notice the three surviving mile markers erected when the race was young
    March 20, 2018
    by Paul Wilson „³
    Hamilton Spectator|

    In Wiltshire, England, there is Stonehenge, a puzzling circle of 83 prehistoric standing stones.

    In Hamilton, Canada, there are the nearly ancient dark-granite standing stones of North America's oldest foot race.

    The Around the Bay Road Race is this Sunday. Thousands will run the course, and most won't notice the three surviving mile markers erected when the race was young.

    On a bitter Christmas Day, 1894, 13 men set out from Billy Carroll's Cigar Store on James Street North, with citizens on bikes, horses and in buggies charging along behind.
    The Hamilton Herald newspaper sponsored the run in the early years. The course is an even 30 kilometres today, but in the beginning it was 19 miles, 168 yards.

    And they measured out the race in rock-solid fashion. Granite markers were produced, about six feet tall, with the Herald name and the mile number engraved on each. They looked like cemetery stones, fashioned to last an eternity.

    But that was not to be. In the mid-1920s, the race disappeared for a decade or so. Maybe it was in those years that the markers fell.

    The Spectator carried a short item in December of 1954:

    "(Hamilton Beach) Police Chief Howard Nickling has recovered many old Herald stones placed to mark the distance across the Beach from the Herald office when the marathon races were run around Hamilton Bay. They have been taken with others to the Beach Commission office to keep as part of the history of the Beach."

    No one has a better handle on Beach Strip history than Scott Howley, and you can find some of what he knows at

    On the site, Howley wonders what happened to those stones that landed at the Beach Commission. But he does know the story of how one race marker on the Beach got liberated.

    It is the five-mile Herald marker. In the beginning, it may have been along Woodward Avenue. But somehow, it ended up as a parking curb in the lot at the Dynes Tavern, a Beach landmark built in 1847.

    The marker got discovered in the late 1980s, and eventually the tavern did the right thing. The stone was mounted out front of the establishment.

    Then a new owner of the Dynes came along and it was clear his plan was to knock the old place down. Tony DePasquale did just that, without a demolition permit, and got charged by the city. Now the property is covered with condos.

    The Herald marker was at risk too. There was talk of that tavern owner taking it off to a cottage somewhere.

    And then, a covert Beach Strip rescue. A decade has passed, so now it can be told. On the evening of July 18, 2007, a band of heritage freedom fighters showed up at the Dynes with a Bobcat and spirited that stone to safety. Howley has a photo of the liberation.

    The marker sat in more than one backyard on the Beach, under tarps, for several years. And in the spring of 2011, the people themselves mounted the stone at the edge of Beach Boulevard, across from Hamilton Beach Convenience.

    And now, in Aldershot, ultra marathoner Les Michalak and others in the Burlington Runners Club plan to showcase the Herald Mile 15 stone in a grander way. It stands on Plains Road West, near the intersection of Spring Gardens Road.

    But it's partly hidden by overgrown vegetation. Through GoFundMe (search 'ATB Historic Marker' on that site), the club has just started to raise money to move the stone closer to the street, and add a bench, a plaque and some public art.

    Word is these markers were used as betting posts. Michalak likes the idea of art that depicts guys with cigars exchanging money, runners flying past.

    And that leaves the final known survivor, the Herald Mile 17 marker, which stands just south of the High Level Bridge. But it's behind a chain-link fence, and needs a plaque to tell its story. How about getting that done for next year, the 125th anniversary of when those first sturdy souls set off to beat the bay?

    Paul Wilson's column appears Tuesdays in the GO section PaulWilson.


    Paul Wilson¡¦s column appears Tuesdays in the GO section PaulWilson.


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