The weather for Saturday would be perfect -- lows in the upper 50's, highs in the low 70's. Dry. Not much more you can ask from the stuff you can't control.
My neighbor Brian was also running the half. This would be his first "major" race. He'd done the Annapolis 10 miler a few times, but this would be his first half marathon. He was already stoked about the expo. We decided to leave at 7 to find parking and watch the start of the full marathon. As we headed in town, his enthusiasm and excitement was obvious. It felt kinda strange being the "expert" for a change.
The starts to the Baltimore events are staggered. The marathon kicks off at 8, then a 5k at 8:30, then the half at 9:45. The full course runs adjacent to the half at the start, then split for three miles, then the two merge at mile 3/16 through the finish. The delayed start is so that the leaders of the full have an opportunity to pass before there is a merge.
We arrived by 7:30 and headed to the start of the marathon. The place was all abuzz with tons of spectators. The Mayor of Baltimore gave a speech followed by one of the Under Armor commercial guys. Finally, Georgia Cleland, daughter of the founder of Team In Training and subject of the initial fundraising activities, along with her dad Bruce counted down. As the runners headed out, I got chills knowing what they were all in for. I can certainly appreciate their efforts, especially those in the back of the pack, now that I have completed one.
Once they were off, the 5k runners toed the line and they were off. On our way to the half starting area, we stopped by the finish line to watch the 5k runners finish. 13:53 later. WOW, amazing how fast these guys are.
Off we were, with a quick stop at the bathroom we headed over to Light Street where the start of the half would be. What was cool about the location is on the southbound side of the road, there were marathoners at about mile 7. Cordoned off from the half route on the northbound side of the street were runners at mile 13. Lots of spectators and cheering all around.
Brian and I hung around for a bit, and then I headed back to wave 3 to look for some of my running friends. I quickly found Katie and Tawanda, the other members of the Blue Crab Running Club. Then I ran into the TNT group, including Ann Marie who I met and ran with when we were training for our spring marathon's. We chatted for a couple of minutes, wished each other well and I headed back to start with Katie, Tawanda and their friends from disneyrunning.com.
FINALLY, the start was here, but not for us. Us wave 3'ers wouldn't cross the starting line for 15 minutes. I must say, by this point in nearly any other event, we'd be looking for the finish line. Frederick's 6:30 start would have us on our second beer by now (at least for the half!) At this point by the time we've started, I've been at the event site for more than 3 hours, my throw away sweatshirt is long gone and the place is heating up. Let's go already!
At about 10:00, we were officially off. The word on the street was that the course was "challenging." After Frederick's nastiness, I decided once again to ignore the elevation maps and just enjoy the run. It didn't take long to hit the first of the hills followed by what seemed to be a constant barrage of hills -- more ups than flat or down. Good news for me was that despite the hills, I was feeling pretty good. No foot or ankle pain. Plantar fascia in check. All good.
After about 2 miles, the hills got the better of Katie and I kept on going. Quickly, though, I realized that 2:30 wasn't going to happen and a PR was well in doubt. With 12 minute running miles, I'd need to go non-stop to the finish. Never one to say never, I was pretty sure it wasn't to be on this day. At 4 miles, I took my first walk break as one more hill was one more too many. Still, though, I was enjoying the sights of the city, and what sights there were.
There was the chicken guy. Yes, a guy dressed up in a chicken suit. Kinda reminds me of this guy:
(This isSteve Stenzel, one of the funniest bloggers out there. I've shamelessly stolen this picture of him right off his blog. Steve wore this costume during the Twin Cities Marathon a few weeks ago. I'm using this picture without permission just to give you an idea what a guy in a chicken suit might look like. In fact the guy in Baltimore wore a white suit and his face was not covered, so just close your eyes and imagine Steve and a costume like that.)
I much appreciated the Baltimore Department of Public Works leaving all of the roadkill in place. I counted two on my part of the course. Only explanation I can think of is that some of those super elite runners weren't paying attention and squashed some poor unsuspecting predators. Damn them!
The street people were great. NO, I don't mean people hanging out on the street. It was awesome that all of Baltimore's finest street people came out to watch and cheer us on. Seriously. I'm sure that provided hours and hours of entertainment that was more than the norm.
From mile four, plenty more uphill to about mile 7, where we went down hill to Lake Montebello. This is by far the most scenic part of the run. Nice, wide open paved running path with tons of spectators. It's where I realized that sunglasses and sunscreen would have been a good idea.
I was able to run the lake and out 33rd street past the senior housing development on the site of the former Memorial Stadium. More walking and running on some more hills until I came upon Ann Marie again. I was quite surprised to see her, but it was a welcome sight to see a familiar face. Soon, we were on the slow downhill portion of the course as we pushed each other running, then short walking spurts. At one point, with Oriole Park in view, Ann Marie dropped back and I ran the rest of the way.
There is something to be said about running into the chute with lots of cheering people. I got chills as I cleared the desolate Eutaw Street promenade of Oriole Park and went into the wide open area leading the way to Ravens Stadium. As I finished, I turned to see Ann Marie just 100 yards behind.
Official time: 2:49:24.
Considering that I ran less than 25 miles in the four months leading up to the race, about 10% of any training plan worth it's weight, this is pretty good. Considering the hills and the hills on the hills, my goals would have bee a stretch even if I had trained properly. Considering the starting temp at about 68 and finishing at 72, that's the hottest I've run this distance. Considering the couple of miles of walking we did before the run and the three hours from home to the start line, it was a long day. All things considered, I'm thrilled with my time and my finish.
After the race I hooked up with Brian sporting a big smile to go with his 1:55 time. Then it was time to find the Maryland Double award. This is the award for completing either the half or full at both Frederick and Baltimore. With 39 miles in the books, I wasn't leaving without it, despite the 20 minute wait in line.
The Corrigan Sports promoters do a great job and having Under Armor as the lead sponsor, there are no cheapie premiums. Back of the shirt and the two medals are below.
Looks like next year's Baltimore is out -- I'll be trading the flat Seagull Century ride for the Baltimore hills on the same day.
Thanks to all of my friends and Deb who encouraged me to stick this one out. It was well worth it.