Recap of the 2019 Baltimore Running Festival

Last weekend, I participated in the Baltimore Running Festival for the fourth year in a row, running the half marathon.

Originally, I had planned to run this half as a training run for my goal race, the Philadelphia Half Marathon. But my training has been going really well and I’ve been crushing my weekly speed workouts, so I decided to just see what I could do. I wasn’t necessarily expecting to go sub-1:40, especially because the Baltimore Half is notoriously hilly. But you never know! And the weather was looking pretty darn perfect — no wind and low 50s at the start!

I ended up finishing in 1:42:11, a pace of 7:48 per mile. I’m proud of it, but I know I could have done better in a less crowded race. I wasted a lot of time and energy weaving in and around slower runners, and actually ended up with an extra 0.2 on my watch at the end of the race. If I’m calculating things correctly, I would have PRed with a 1:40:30 had I run a true 13.1. But I guess it wasn’t meant to be.

The race started promptly at 9:45 am. Why so late? The Baltimore Running Festival is comprised of three different races — a 5K, a half marathon and a full marathon — and so all the start times are staggered. The 5K begins at 7:30, followed by the marathon at 8 and the half at 9:45. The half begins at the 13th mile of the marathon, and the two races then go off in two different directions before merging at the 3rd mile of the half and the 16th mile of the full.

Kree and Matt were running the full marathon (Matt signed up for it the day before — who does that?) and Tammi and Cindy were also doing the half. It was Cindy’s first half marathon! We drove up early so we could see them start their race, then had plenty of time to kill before our race started. We decided to hang out at mile 9 of the marathon and cheer for Kree and Matt.

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I was assigned to wave 1, based on my expected finish time that I registered with (I can’t actually remember what that was.) But I was a bit late getting into the start corral because we were spectating, so I went off with wave 2. Almost immediately, I realized it was going to be hard to get into the rhythm I wanted because it was so packed. It was annoying, but there wasn’t much I could do about it. I could either slow way down or I could add distance onto my race by going around people. I chose the latter option, but neither were ideal.

As I mentioned earlier, this is a hilly half marathon and the hills pretty much start immediately. (None are really that steep or that long — there are just a lot of them!) I ran miles 1 and 2 in 7:53 and 7:58, respectively. Then mile 3 has a nice downhill, so I logged a 7:28. However, at that point the roads get even more clogged since we were now running alongside the marathoners. But I was able to get into more of a groove then and my next two miles were both 7:39. Yay for some consistency!

Miles 5-10 are probably the hilliest part of the race, but there are also a ton of spectators out cheering the runners on, so that’s good motivation. I heard one local resident yell out “Wow, that’s a hell of a lot of runners!” or something like that, which made me laugh. Mile 6 is a long, steady climb, and I logged an 8:01, my slowest mile of the race. Then mile 7 is around Lake Montebello, which is super flat but also daunting because you can see allllllll the way around it and it looks like you have so far to run. When Tammi and I ran the full marathon last year, she said this was her least favorite part.

My watch was not syncing up with the mile markers at all — it was beeping nearly a quarter of a mile before each marker. That’s exactly what happened to me last year in the full marathon, so I should have known to expect it. But again, what could I do? I ran mile 7 in 7:46.

Miles 8 through 10 are rough. After you exit Lake Montebello, you run up a long hill, then down, then up again. Then there are more rolling hills through the Waverly neighborhood before the course (mostly) flattens out as you run back toward the Inner Harbor. Still, these are fun miles to run. The November Project is out around mile 9 cheering all the runners on extremely loudly, and so is the charity group Back On My Feet. There’s also a guy dressed up in a tiger suit who blares Eye of the Tiger on his boombox every year. This year, there was a group of African dancers, too.

Mile 8: 7:37
Mile 9: 7:40
Mile 10: 7:51

My last couple miles were truly awesome. I was tired, but I was so determined to keep pushing even though I knew sub -1:40 wasn’t happening. At this point in the race, you also get some nice downhills (which sucks in the full marathon because your quads are shot by then, but in a half it isn’t so bad!) There was apparently a church group giving out “holy water” around mile 12 or so, but I was so in the zone that I didn’t even notice. There is one last steep incline in the 11th mile, but it’s very short.

Mile 11: 7:37
Mile 12: 7:36

After I passed the 12th mile marker (again, after my watch had already told me I’d run 12 miles!) I knew there was just one more left turn and then I’d see the finish line. When I turned onto Pratt Street, crowds were lining both sides of the street and the finish line looked like it was so far away. I don’t have the last-minute kick in races that Tammi does, but I did my best to leave it all out there and finish strong.

Mile 13: 7:31
Last 0.3: 1:58

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It was a beautiful day to run a half marathon!

I was the first one of my friends to finish, so I waited to see everyone cross the finish line (although I somehow missed Tammi, who finished about 10 minutes after me.)

Overall, I’m really pleased with my performance, especially with how I was able to stay strong and consistent late in the race. I finished 6th out of 527 women in my age group, and 69th out of 3,725 women total. Super proud of those stats!

I think sub-1:40 next month in the Philadelphia Half Marathon is very possible, though that’s also a big half and I wonder if I’ll get hindered by the crowds then, too. Well, there’s always the Rehoboth Half Marathon on Dec. 7, which is a smaller race as well as a flat, fast one!

One annoying thing: I apparently didn’t show up in any race photos! I always look forward to the free photos from this race because I usually look completely absurd. But I keep checking and there are no photos of me. Weird. At least I show up in the results!

The 2017 Baltimore Running Festival: Two races, 16.2 miles

I almost changed my registration for the Baltimore Running Festival to the full marathon at the last minute.

It was tempting. I’m certainly in physical shape to run a full right now — I did one of my 20-milers last weekend, and a 19-miler before that as part of my Rehoboth Marathon training. But your body does need adequate time to taper and rest for the 26.2-mile distance in order to run your best, and I was afraid that pushing it too soon by jumping into an unplanned marathon would derail my overall training goals. So, I went with my original plan and ran the Baltimoronathon.

What’s that, you ask? It was actually two races — the 5K race at 7:30 a.m., followed by the Baltimore Half Marathon at 9:45 a.m.

And I am so glad I did! I ran better than I ever expected– second in my age group in the 5K, and third overall female in the Moronathon. The Baltimore Running Festival is a huge race and I never thought I would place in any of the races. I believe I have at least one award coming in the mail!

Runners most definitely got a nice boost from the weather today. It’s been so unseasonably warm here lately, and today was in the 70s. But for the 5K and at least part of the half, the temps hovered in the 60s, which, in my opinion, is perfect running weather. And I can’t complain about running in shorts and a singlet on Oct. 21.

The 5K and the half started in the same place at the Inner Harbor, but followed different routes. 5K runners ran down Key Highway and toward Port Covington, then turned back toward the Inner Harbor for a finish on Pratt Street. It was a flat and fast race (very much unlike the full and half marathons!) I clocked 21:55, fast enough for 2nd place among women in the 35-39 age group. I was really ecstatic over my splits, which according to my watch were almost perfect: 7:07, 7:04, 7:01. That never happens. Maybe I’m not so terrible at pacing myself during 5Ks after all.

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The only annoying thing about the race was the crush of runners at the start. I felt like I was dodging a lot of people for maybe the first quarter of a mile or so. But that’s typical for most big city races.

I finished the race before 8 and then had tons of time to kill before the half started, so I pretty much just walked around the Inner Harbor and tried to hydrate.

And didn’t that come back to bite me in the ass! About 10 minutes before the gun went off for the half, I realized I had to pee, and didn’t have time to hit the port-a-potties. So I tried to tell myself it was just nerves. NOPE! Had to stop around mile 3 to relieve myself. I hate stopping during a race, but I reasoned I’d be able to run faster if my bladder wasn’t screaming at me. This is always my struggle — I try to drink a lot of water, but then I have to pee constantly. Sigh.

I ran the Baltimore Half last year, and the course was like I remembered — HILLY. Especially miles 3-6 (which I believe correspond to miles 16-19 of the full marathon). It’s just one hill after another. It’s tough, but there’s a lot of downhill on the last few miles of the race. Still kinda brutal on the quads, but I try to look on the bright side!

There are two things I love about this race. One is the amazing crowd participation. Baltimore really gets into the Running Festival and so many people line the streets of each neighborhood the race goes through, holding up funny signs, ringing cow bells and handing out water, oranges and in some cases, beer. It really motivates me to keep running when I feel tired.

The other thing I really like is the loop around Lake Montebello at mile 7-8. It’s flat after several miles of hills, and it’s scenic — and you know you’re more than halfway done at that point and are heading toward the finish!

Speaking of the finish — all runners finished at the Inner Harbor, which was a much-hyped change from previous years. Before, the finish line was at Camden Yards. I ran into one of my Rip It friends afterwards, and we both agreed we preferred the finish at Camden Yards. If I remember correctly, the celebration village (AKA BEER TENT) was pretty close to the old finish line — not so much the case today. I mean, who wants to walk that far for post-race beer after 13.1 or 26.2 miles? (Of course I still did!)

To accommodate the new finish, there was a slight change to the course at the last mile and a half that involved a fairly steep, albeit short, hill. I’m pretty sure I yelled out “WHAT THE &%$%$ IS THIS HILL?” to another runner, who echoed my thoughts.

In the end, I finished in 1:45 and some change. It was about three minutes slower than last year, but then again, last year, I didn’t run a fast 5K first! Because I did the Baltimoronathon, my half marathon time wasn’t recorded as part of the results for that race. (UPDATE: I lied! My time was recorded after all. I finished in 1:45:29, 16th in my age group.) BUT I was very surprised to see that I was the Moronathon’s third overall female finisher! Total time was 2:07:25 for both races.

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I felt pretty good after finishing the half and obviously high-tailed it to the aforementioned beer tent. Runners got two drink tickets and I used mine to get two Dogfish Head Seaquench Ales, a favorite beer of mine. It’s probably more of a summer beer, but whatever, it still felt very summer-like out there.

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My friend Staci says I should see if a brewery will sponsor me, much like Nike or Wheaties sponsors Olympians. If any brewery owner is reading this, and is interested, contact me!

After hanging out for a little bit, I hopped in my car and headed home — and it was then that I realized I’d made a crucial mistake by paying a few extra bucks for parking near the Inner Harbor. Traffic was so bad after the race that I’m pretty sure I spent as much time sitting in my car as I did running. Had I opted for the free parking near the stadiums, I would have had a much longer walk to my car, but I think I could have jumped right on the highway. Oh well. Lesson learned.

Did anyone else do the Baltimore Running Festival this year? What did you think of the finish line changes?