RR: Bawlmer (Baltimore) Marathon 2009, Hon.
Background: The 2004 Baltimore half-marathon was my first-ever distance beyond 10K. I had a miserable race and crossed the finish line proclaiming to my support crew that I would never run again. I really thought I meant it! This year’s marathon would serve as training for JFK50, with my plan being to run it as a training run (not race), take some pictures and video for this blog and encourage others along the way.
Now I should add: I love Baltimore. A lot. I spent a year living in Baltimore with my best friend, Hannah, while working at the National Institute on Drug Abuse as a post-bac fellow. It was one of the best years of my life and I love so much about the city- the cobblestone streets (created from stones that used to weight the ships that came into Baltimore harbor), the original Washington Monument, Hon culture, the farmer’s market under 83 and crabs. I loved the fries at Brewers Art, the beautiful architecture of the old mansions, gelato from Vaccaro’s and nights out in Canton Square. I am Baltimore’s #1 fan.
Pre-race: At the expo I meet up with my friend from college, Jamie.
Me and Jamie at the Expo
Jamie was one of the first people I met at Maryland and he was always floating around since he was friends with all of my roommates. We got back in touch and are going to do the Columbia triathlon together next May and I won’t let him forget that he pitched Kilimanjaro in 2011. We wandered what I thought was a very good expo and I was thrilled to see that the tech shirt was a women’s specific tech shirt! Good job, Under Armor! I’m sick of “small” race shirts that are longer than my shorts with sleeves down to my elbows. I split up with Jamie to head to my best friend Andy’s place where we spend the night drinking beer and playing the drums. Awesome way to relax pre-race.
Andy’s drum room: Awesome.
Race day: I’m up early and the moment I step out the door, I am stunned by how hot (~65 at 5 am!) and humid it is. The weather stays warm and humid all day. I get to the start and try to find Jamie but instead befriend Sam, a Marine who is about to run his first marathon. I found the start to be very disorganized and there was no partition between the runners and the spectators meaning that some spectators formed a wall that prevented runners from entering the start. One bonus was that there was a confetti canon. Every marathon start should have a confetti canon.
We take off north and the first few miles are uphill but I keep a steady 9:45 pace. We run through the zoo and botanical gardens which I think are beautiful. I find a guy in a Steelers jersey and try to stay near him, deflecting a few comments from Raven’s fans who are not thrilled to see a Steeler on their territory.
I also find two guys decked out as Ravens- beaks, feathers, wings, the whole 9 yards.
We turn south and nostalgia sets in as we run by where my good friend Adrienne used to live, and me and Hannah’s old apartment. I see Oscar, a former co-worker, and run over to him for a quick hug before continuing forward (I have somehow had friends spectating at every marathon I’ve ever run! Even Antarctica. How lucky am I?!). I’ve passed the 4:15 pace group and I know I should slow down but I feel so strong as I head into downtown and my pace drops to around 9:15.
Lobster dog!! I saw him and asked the owners if I could take a picture. The dog was so super sweet, incredibly cute and very happy that one of the runners (me!) came to play with it!
I thought I would love Federal Hill, and while the first mile in and the last mile out were beautiful and had incredible spectator support, there was a three-mile loop that was no-man’s land; it also starts to rain.
The Star Spangled Banner was written after Francis Scott Key witnessed bombings in Baltimore’s Fort Henry (wiki)
On the left is the Visionary Art Museum. It’s facade is a mirror mosaic.
We come back through downtown and head over to Fells Point where I remember playing credit card roulette, drinking bellinis at a gorgeous waterfront bar, and even a very romantic first kiss on the water.
The Harbor from Federal Hill
It gets better as we run by the bakery that fills the air with the smell of fresh bread- one of my favorite things of this part of Baltimore (me and Han used to roll our windows down every time we went by). Right as I am reminiscing about me and Adrienne playing hooky on the first spring day to get our nails done and drink beer on a patio, the 4:15 pace group passes me. Let the mental games begin. We turn towards Canton Square and once we head towards Patterson Park I start to fall apart. This is compounded by the fact that this is where:
- The second half of the hills begin
- The half marathon joins the marathon (the slower marathons were joining with us, so a lot were walking and some lacked the etiquette to move to the side which created lots of people to run around)
- We again head into an area almost devoid of spectators
THIS is where I bonked! Ugh!
I find a gu to snack on, start thinking mantras (“Who’s a runner? Kat’s a runner!” “Thankful. Focused. Calm.” “Breath”) and do anything I can to keep my head in the game, but I start to walk the hills. I check out. It turns from a good run to “just” a training run. My pace get closer to 11 minute miles. Then I get to mile 20 where there is a clock: 3:22. What?!?! I wasn’t watching time, just my pace, and I realize if I have a strong 10K I can PR. What?! I snap into action and just when I think I’m thirsty and could see another gu I see that both are available from Terp volunteers! Awesome! As we leave Lake Montebello one of the more passionate spectators had stopped cheering. “Hey!” I yell at him, “You stopped cheering!” He starts cheering so ferociously that about 5 runners around me start to laugh. I tell them my favorite running secret: If you cheer for spectators, they cheer for you!
I have this insane burst of energy from miles 22-24. Some runners have their names on their backs and as I pass a girl named Julia, I tell her she’s doing great. “OMG! THANK YOU!” she screams loud enough to startle me, “You have no idea how much I needed that!” Yay! I was a race angel! I see an older man standing watching the runners and I wave to him and yell good morning. He perks right up and tells me, “You look great, sweetheart!” I love when people call me sweetheart. As we go up yet another hill, I turn to a guy who seems to be having a tough time. I’m hamming it up and ask “Do the hills ever go down in this city?!” He is too tired to appreciate my humor and sadly shakes his head. I feel bad and immediately shout, “Yes! They go down! Really!!!” A few seconds later a relay runner passes me, saying “You are the friendliest runner I’ve ever seen!” Yay! That’s the best thing someone could ever say to me. The race could stop here and it would be a good one. But the race doesn’t end here, in fact here is the gummy bear station! One group of volunteers bough and distributed 400 POUNDS of gummy bears! I read this in a pre-race e-mail last week while at work and I frantically turned to my office mate: “OMG, Brian!” I pause to see if Brian is working or looking at sports scores. Just sports scores, so I continue: “Brian! There’s going to be a gummy bear man with 400 pounds of gummy bears at my race this weekend! That’s me, you, and Brooke (our boss), in gummy bears!!!!” Brian just shook his head.
This person was there 5 years ago! I never forgot them! So psyched I captured it this time!
We run through sections with amazing spectators and around mile 24 drivers stuck in traffic have gotten out of their cars to cheer for the runners. The final stretch is downhill and we pass my old apartment again, as well as my brother’s old apartment. I come upon a guy I’d been leapfrogging with the whole race. I told him he’d better beat me and he conceded that I could finish first as he dropped back…. Only to sprint ahead a few seconds later! I cheer for him and head to the finish line myself.
The girls on the left were holding hands as they ran towards the finish line.
Finish time: 4:23:47. I missed my PR by 47 seconds. In some ways that hurts- so close! But in other ways, it’s amazing. I ran 30 miles last weekend and an ultra three weekends ago meaning that my legs are anything but fresh and rested. This was a hilly course, I wasn’t going out to race, and I even stopped several times to take pictures and video. And I finished having fun unlike my 4:23:00 PR where the last 6 miles were miserable and I was gutting it out. It may not be reflected in the time, but this race shows me that my fitness is improving, which is great.
Post-Race: This race was only one very small part of a big weekend. I left the race to head to the Chesapeake Bay to surprise my best friend for her birthday. She was surely surprised (“OMG, Kitty! I can’t believe you’re here! I want to keep touching you to make sure you’re real!”) and we spent the rest of the weekend gabbing like only best friends can and eating incredible food courtesy of her wonderful husband. We even went to the beach across the street from the new (five bedroom!) house they’re building.
“Small” nachos. We also had steak, brown rice with almonds, asparagus and onion, and ravioli with sauteed baby eggplant. The man is also a rocket scientist. Seriously.
Breakfast!Sweet potato hash, turkey bacon, eggs and waffles.
Morning walk on the beach
This weekend had it all: I saw old co-workers, my family, two of my best friends, toured one of my favorite cities and running the marathon was the keystone that brought it all together.