Two weeks after running Jersey, Scot and I ran the Baltimore Marathon. It was his third time at this race and my first. I spectated for him in 2013 when he ran, but I did not run. This year we registered late. We were not initially planning on running Baltimore, but we changed our minds when we learned that two of our friends would be celebrating marathon milestones. Drew was going to check off his 100th marathon, and Sid was going to finish his 200th marathon. We decided to be there to show our support.
|Silliness in the car after Baltimore|
I drove up to Baltimore on Thursday night to pick up our packets because it would be less crowded than waiting until Friday, and traffic wouldn't be as bad. That was the idea, anyway, but in truth, traffic between DC and Baltimore can be heavy anytime except in the middle of the night. It took me a while to get there and back home, but it was good to get it done.
Then on Saturday morning Scot and I drove up for the marathon bright and early. Traffic was easy going in the wee hours of Saturday morning and we got a good parking space by M&T Bank Stadium, very near the finish. We took care of our pre-race stuff and headed to the location for the Marathon Maniacs group photo. We were a couple minutes late for the first photo, but there were still Maniacs in the vicinity, so we took another one.
|Maniacs at the Babe Ruth statue at Camden Yards|
|With Jody, Gwen and Linda|
We didn't see Drew before the race, but we found Sid in the start corral. Scot's plan was to stick with Sid the entire way. Letty was also one of Sid's pacers, and he had several others. The Baltimore Running Festival was ready to take care of Sid, making sure he had lots of support and could finish the course with no worries about time cutoffs.
My plan was to run my own pace and listen to my body. I was pretty sure I was going to have foot pain as I did in Berlin and Jersey, and I knew I was feeling tired. I was going to do my run/walk and see how it went.
This race starts with at least three miles of uphill. It was like a replay of the elevation chart in Jersey. Ugh. I hate long uphills, especially at the start of the race. I never seem to recover from them. I've learned that I need to start out feeling strong and running fast-ish (for me) in order to have a good race. That's why Berlin was good - it was flat. Not so, Baltimore. Good news is that I saw Drew in the early part of the race. He was celebrating his 100th marathon by running in a suit!
|Drew's all dressed up for his 100th marathon|
After the first long stretch up uphill road, we entered the zoo and got so see some penguins. This was a relief, as we also got to runs some downhill. And then we wound through Druid Hill Park, the location of my favorite 5 Miler, the Celtic Solstice, which takes place in December. I was familiar with part of the course here, so that was nice. The sun was out and the temperature was good for running, I saw several friends on the course: Linda, Gwen, Rhonda, Jenn and others. During this stretch we were treated to Dunkin Donuts Munchkins, and they had my favorite flavor: chocolate cake! It was my first time eating a donut during a race and it tasted so good.
|With a penguin named Tails|
After the park, we ran our way back downtown. The half marathon was starting. I fell into step with another runner named Stephanie, and we stuck to together for several miles. Stephanie is from Southern California and is also a Maniac, though she was not wearing the gear, so this only came out in conversation, I was in awe of some of the international marathons she had run, such as the Inca Trail. She will soon be qualified to join Marathon Globetrotters. While I was running with Stephanie, I came across several friends on an out & back section. I also saw Scot, with Sid and his entourage.
|Gwen and Linda|
|Sid and his crew|
I was crashing after the halfway point. I just didn't have a ton of energy, and I knew I needed to slow down or I could make myself sick. I encouraged Stephanie to run ahead, because I didn't want to slow her down She needed to finish Baltimore and then drive to Atlantic City. I did a lot of walking in the second half of the race. Partly, I did it because I knew I could. It didn't matter how slow I was, because as long as I was in front of Sid and his group, I would finish.
|Pretty fountain in the sunlight|
I ran into Frank, my buddy from the 2012 George Washington Birthday Marathon. He and I were the last finishers of that race in the miserable cold. The race crew kept threatening to sweep us, but we refused to let that happen We stuck together and finished that race. I saw Frank when I spectated at Baltimore 2013, so this must be a race he does every year, or at least frequently. I was touched that Frank remembered my name, because we're not connected on Facebook or anything like that.
|I was too tired and with sore feet, so I didn't walk closer to get a good view of the Inner Harbor|
Late in the race I was amazed that there STILL seemed to be very few downhill portions of the course. How can ALL the roads go uphill? Spectators and volunteers kept saying that each hill was the last, but I know not to ever believe that. There were a few downhill sections, but they just weren't long enough, and there was always another uphill. The course also went through some run-down neighborhoods. It's such a shame to see these areas that were once vibrant, but now had many boarded-up houses. What I can say is: we did get a taste of the real Baltimore.
|At Lake Montebello|
|A welcome sight in the final miles|
One of the last things I remember about the course was a loop around Lake Montebello. I was thinking: isn't it over YET? I can't remember ever wanting a marathon to end sooner. This was not a great race for me. Mentally and physically, I was just not into it. I was glad I went, because I wanted to try this marathon one year, and this was the year. But that doesn't mean I had to love it.
At about mile 25.5 a spectator gave me a full, cold, unopened can of National Bohemian. That perked me up. I didn't open it, but I ran into the finish with it. I was way toward the back of the pack and I assumed the finish festival beer would be gone, so this was to be my celebratory beer. I ran past all the photographers displaying my beer, and got some attention from it. I made sure to show the cops I passed that it was not open! The cop at the finish line joked with me, turning away and saying "I didn't see anything." I was finally done!
I made my way through the finish chute and collected my medal and what was left of the finish food. I knew there were only a handful of runners left so I took enough food for both myself and Scot. Then I sat down and cracked open my Natty Boh. I sat there drinking it as the wind picked up. The mylar blankets were defective, so as you would enroll and tear one from the sheet, it would tear into shreds. I did the best I could to shield myself from the wind as I sat there enjoying the fact that I had a cold beer in my hand, I was off my feet, and the sun was shining. My feet hurt too much for the 5 minute walk to the car to retrieve my sweatshirt; it probably would have been a 10 minute walk, or actually 20 minutes roundtrip. Ain't nobody got time for that, as they say.
|Ah, yes...beer and off my feet!|
I waited until I thought it would be about time for Sid and his crew to come in, then I headed back to the finish. There were so many of us waiting there just to cheer in Sid. Not only was the finish line packed with friends of Sid's from the running community, but the family of TSGT Brian Theobald, whom Sid was honoring with his run, was there too. Sid's caravan started with a team of Baltimore police officers on motorcycles. They had been escorting Sid for the last few miles, and now they rode ahead to line the finish chute. And then Sid's running entourage was getting close. The runners bearing flags ran ahead and also lined the chute. And finally, Sid was visible. He ran it in to complete his 200th marathon amidst thunderous cheers, respectful salutes, and flags borne just for his finish. It was a very emotional finish, and much deserved. Sid has been running to honor fallen service members for years. Each race, he wears the photo of one of these young men or women on his back, running in their memory, and then presenting his finisher medal to the family. This time, the family was in Baltimore, and presented Sid with the medal for his 200th marathon. There were few dry eyes in the finish area.
|Sid's finish line|
|Celebrating Sid's finish|