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.

image0 (1)

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

BaltimoreRunningFestival

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!

I finished my 6th full marathon! Recapping the 2018 Baltimore Marathon

3:53.

I had a weird premonition last week that my time in the Baltimore Marathon would be 3:53.

And — it came true! I finished my 6th marathon in 3:53:21. It may have been the toughest course I’ve run.

It’s way off last December’s PR and BQ, but that’s fine. I didn’t train anywhere near as hard for this race as I did for that one, and PRing in Baltimore wasn’t my goal. My goals were to have fun, and more importantly, run with my friend Tammi as she conquered her first marathon — and hopefully help her accomplish her goal of a sub-4 marathon!

And she did it! We crossed the finish line at the same time (actually, she was a few seconds ahead of me!) Honestly, knowing what a great runner she is, I had no doubt she could and would run a sub-4 marathon. I am so proud of her!

The morning of the race was a bit of a cluster, but that was entirely my fault. Micah and I got up to Baltimore around 6:45 am, plenty of time to park and use the bathroom before the 8 am race start. I merely skimmed the runner’s handbook and all of the other bazillion emails that the Baltimore Running Festival organizers sent out, so I dragged us several blocks away from the marathon start line and toward the start line of the half marathon and 5K. When we realized my mistake, Micah, who was not running and was there to cheer me on and support me, was understandably annoyed.

“Why can’t you read directions?” he asked.

“I don’t know! Why did you bring that huge camping chair here?” I snapped.

(True story. He said standing for several hours to watch me run a marathon would be too hard — um, harder than RUNNING IT?! — so he brought a camping chair to sit in. I was nervous for the race and it pissed me off more than it should have, especially when I realized my mistake. My husband is really kind of a saint for putting up with me. But I digress.)

Anyway, after a bathroom stop at Starbucks, I finally got my shit together and we headed back to Camden Yards, where the marathon began. I got in line around 7:45 am and Tammi found me a couple minutes later. I told her we should start out with the 4-hour pace group and then see how we felt later on in the race. I thought we could stay with them for maybe the first half or so and then surge ahead in the second half to go sub-4.

Uh, yeah, best laid plans and all that. I think we moved ahead of the pace group by mile 4.

The thing about the Baltimore Marathon course is, the first half is kind of a breeze. It’s mostly flat with some big downhills, and that makes it tough to hold back. My favorite part of the race was running through the Maryland Zoo, where zoo workers stand along the course with animals, including a penguin and a rabbit. So fun. We ran miles 6 and 7 in the low 8s, but we also knew that the back half of the course was really hilly, so maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea to bank some time where we could. (Yes, I know the strategy of “banking time in the marathon” isn’t usually the best, but I don’t regret it with this course.)

We hit the Inner Harbor at mile 9 and saw Tammi’s family, including her sister, her husband and little boy (who was holding a sign that said “My mommy is faster than your mommy!”) and her parents. Her sister was running her first half marathon, and she and their mom and dad flew in from Texas to watch. (I did not see Micah and his camping chair then, but I’ll let that one slide ;)) Mile 9 was actually our fastest of the day– we ran that one in just under eight minutes.

At that point, the course cruises down Key Highway and through Locust Point with a turnaround at the Under Armour headquarters, and then back through the Inner Harbor, so Tammi got to see her family twice! We also ran past the start line of the half marathon just as we were hitting the halfway point in the full marathon.

We also started to notice that our Garmin watches were not matching up with the mile markers, and we were hitting our mile splits about a third of a mile before we actually saw a mile marker sign. I realized that we probably added extra distance onto our race by weaving in and around other runners earlier. Whoops.

I was still feeling really good, though I was not thrilled to hit the Harbor East neighborhood and step onto those big cobblestones. Oof. Tammi and I jumped up on the sidewalk to run on a more forgiving surface, and fortunately, the road evened out soon after.

Around mile 15, Tammi told me she was starting to feel negative. “We’re more than halfway there,” I told her. “You can do this.”

Mile 16 is where the infamous merge of the half marathon and full marathon takes place at Patterson Park. I’ve heard a lot of runners complain about it, and for good reason. If you’re running the full, you’re cruising along at your pace and all of a sudden hundreds of half marathoners pour into the street and it really clogs things up. I ran the half in 2016 and 2017, so I remembered the merging of the races, but I definitely noticed it a lot more running the full. I definitely almost crashed into another runner and we added another tenth of a mile onto our race by trying to maneuver around slower runners.

Because I had run the half before, I knew we were in for some hills. (I’ve heard people compare this course to the Boston Marathon and its hills through miles 16-20, so I hope the Baltimore Marathon was good practice!) The course was hilly from about mile 16.5 until we hit Lake Montebello at mile 20 — then we had more hills from miles 21-22. By now, my feet were really starting to wear out, but we hit mile 22 at around the three hour, 14 minute mark — so I knew sub-4 was happening unless one of us got sick or injured. And we were tired, but determined.

This is where the Baltimore Marathon really reminded me a lot of the Pittsburgh Marathon, which was my first full marathon back in 2015. In that race, I remember hitting a steep decline at mile 24 and my quads just screamed at me. The Baltimore Marathon had a similar downhill at a similar time in the race. Downhills feel great in the first few miles of the marathon — they feel terrible in the last few miles, at least to me! (And again, I hear Boston is the same way, so now I know what to expect!)

Tammi told me she was starting to cramp up, and I encouraged her to keep pushing. We hit one last steep (but short) hill at mile 25 and my stomach started to churn. I drank Gatorade at just about every aid station and I may have overdone it — usually I alternate water with Gatorade.

“Let’s finish strong and sprint when we see the finish line,” Tammi said.

“I don’t know if I can,” I said (more like whined).

At mile 26 (our watches already showed 26.2x by then!), we turned onto Pratt Street and saw Kree and Matt yelling and cheering for us. Then I saw Micah smiling and waving. Tammi and I sprinted as fast as we could — my watch shows we did the last few tenths of a mile at a 7:05 pace! — and crossed the finish line.

She cried, I cried, we hugged, and then I promptly vomited into a grate in the road. My first finish line puke! I’m so proud! A medic came over and asked if I needed to go to the medical tent, but I was really OK. I just OD’d on Gatorade.

My final stats (Tammi was 13th in our age group, so she beat me by at least a second!)

baltimoremarathon

Finishing a marathon in ANY time is quite an accomplishment, but going sub-4 for your first marathon is really something to be proud of, so HUGE congrats to Tammi! And by the way, she had some annoying stomach troubles early in the race and wasn’t feeling great, but she still pushed through and finished well under her goal!

TammiandAllison

If you’re looking for a fun fall race to do, I highly recommend the Baltimore Running Festival. In addition to the full and half marathons, there is a 5K as well as a relay option. You can also do the Baltimoron-a-thon, and run both the 5K and the half. I did that last year and it was a blast! The crowd support is great, and you’ve gotta love the crab-shaped medals (which open up to reveal a picture of the city!)

Just know that your quads are likely to hurt the next day. 🙂

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.

BaltRunFest2

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.

BaltRunFest3

 

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.

BaltRunFest.jpeg

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?