The Baltimore Marathon is coming up this weekend, so I thought I’d be super timely and post my recap from 2012 now. Good luck, runners!
Running a marathon is hard. Whether it’s hard during training, when you slog through hundreds of miles to condition your body, or hard during the race because you didn’t train properly and counted on past experience to carry you through (cough cough), covering 26.2 miles in a minimal amount of time is really, actually, kind of hard. At least for me. I continue to hear stories about people who breeze through a marathon without any training (including one recent story in Runner’s World Magazine [2014 ed – I searched but could not find the article I referenced here]), but those people are not me, and also I hate them.
For all my fears before this race (mostly about my feet becoming bloody stumps since I recently developed a problem with blood blisters on the bottom of my feet, yum!), it actually wasn’t the hardest on my body, but on my mind. At mile 15, I just wanted it to be over. I was tired, but mostly irritated.
I was irritated much of the race, first by the endless miles of concrete which battered my body in a way even asphalt does not, and then by the endless miles of walking half marathoners (and even walking relay racers – don’t get me started on those people who sign up to relay a marathon and yet can’t even run 6 miles) and even irritated by the terrible food I had eaten the day before in Baltimore (how you make a club sandwich unappealing is beyond me, but not beyond Dempsey’s Brew Pub and Restaurant) not to mention the little aches and pains my body was throwing at me, and all the while I was foolishly hoping to beat five hours, and when I realized I wasn’t going to, I was irritated all the more.
To top off the irritation sundae, something got in my eye and stuck to my contact lens, so everything was cloudy through my left eye after mile 20 – a new race irritant I did not see coming (no pun intended, unless you’re my sister, in which case, pun!).
But all-in-all it was a beautiful day (there was frost in the morning but it warmed up to about 50 with clear, sunny skies – perfect running weather), I had a 26-mile tour of a new city, and I finished with a surprisingly small amount of toll on my body (I’m sore, but not devastated, and no bloody stumps). I’m very glad I did not skip this race as I thought I would a couple weeks ago. It also renewed my fitness goals, and I’d love to shave 30 minutes off my time for my next race in January, if only so I don’t have to run an extra 30 minutes [2014 ed – I totally didn’t, and I’ve only gotten slower since then].
Lest you think I did not prepare at all for this race, I did watch 8 episodes of The Wire in the days and nights before the race, hoping to recognize the various locations as I ran through Baltimore (“where them low-rises at? Orlando’s? Any of the cops on the course McNulty?!”). Unfortunately, I didn’t recognize anything. But when I started up the episode I was watching from the night before, I immediately recognized the Domino Sugar sign I ran past near the waterfront, and I’m pretty sure I’ll run into McNulty tomorrow. Mos def.
Also, I finally ate the first truly delicious food in this city after the race – a dark chocolate molten lava cake with vanilla ice cream, a shockingly good rendition of the dessert from the same hotel restaurant that so disappointed me with greasy gnocchi the night before. Plus, I got a nice, heavy medal and can cross Maryland off my list. Seven down, 43 to go!
Time – Over 5 hours, at about a 12 minute-per-mile pace. That’s a really long time to be running, or doing anything really, besides sleeping. To put in perspective just how long that is, I heard Gangnam Style twice during the race and it was completely new, fresh, and exciting both times. Yes, I even did the horse dance on the course. Don’t judge me.
Did you know?
- Baltimore residents shout “O!” during the National Anthem at “O say does that…” to show their support of the letter “O.”
- Baltimore paints its fire hydrants Oriole orange.
Addendum – Sunday was sunny in the 70s, and I thoroughly enjoyed strolling along the inner harbor, getting splashed by dolphins at the National Aquarium, and stuffing my face at the Cheesecake Factory, so I’m leaving the city on a positive note for sure.
Thinking of running Baltimore?
Don’t. Ok, it wasn’t that bad, but it wasn’t all that well-organized (the packet pick up was a zoo) and I really disliked how the course was laid out with the 20,000 half marathoners joining in at mile 16, two hours after the race began – weaving in and out of walkers is exhausting not just because of the weaving but also because their lack of energy brings yours down. The best part about the race was the free stuff at the expo (free ice pack! free rubber watch!) and the proximity of the hotels to the start/finish (running through Camden Yards was pretty okay, too). The shirt is nice but an unfortunate shade of green [Update 2014 – I actually love the shirt and wear it quite often. Under Armour was a sponsor and they made the shirt.]. Also, they ran out of Blue Moon beer after the race and I had to settle for Miller Light. Curse my slow legs! We lucked out on weather, and the mile by the harbor was beautiful, but otherwise the course was an aesthetic disappointment (the section through the zoo was pretty but you couldn’t see any of the animals save for a few birds the handlers trotted out) and too hilly for the distinct lack of scenery (while I didn’t recognize any specific locations from The Wire, we ran past enough ramshackle housing it could have easily doubled). I don’t know if Maryland has a superior race for the none of you who hope to run the 50 States, but Baltimore was just okay.
All categories on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best. Also note that unlike the recap above, these ratings were written in April 2014, so I had to rely on my spotty memory for the below.
- Getting There (Transportation & Walkability) – 9/10 – From NYC, it was very easy to take Amtrak down to Baltimore, and the hotel was incredibly close to the start and finish, plus decently close to Inner Harbor for sightseeing the next day.
- Staying There – 8/10 – The hotel was fine, but the restaurants in and around the hotel were not so great (think of typical places next to football and baseball stadiums and you’ll get the idea).
- Cost & Registration – 7/10 – I can’t remember any difficulties registering, and you do get a very wearable tech shirt by sponsor Under Armour, so that’s nice.
- Organization – 6/10 – Expo had a cool location (inside the Raven’s football stadium) but it was a zoo otherwise, with shirts and packets at opposite ends and nobody seeming to know what was going on.
- Course – 6/10 – You get to see Baltimore in all its unscenic glory, I guess. I’ve never seen so many crushed rats during a marathon before. I jumped over more crushed rats than I thought would be possible in my wildest crushed rats dreams. Crushed rats.
- Crowd – 5/10 – I don’t remember the crowds except for the actual runners/half marathoners, who were annoying because they did everything short of linking arms and walking 5 abreast.
- Other Factors – 6/10 – Is there a better race to do in Maryland? Yeah, so, 6, I guess.
- Overall Rating – 6/10 – If you run one marathon in your life, don’t make it Baltimore. If you must run one marathon in Maryland, might as well do Baltimore.
Have you run Baltimore? Do you think I judged it too harshly? Share in the comments!