On October 11, I ran the 2008 Baltimore Marathon, which was my final target race of the year. I finished in 41st place (of 3125 finishers) with a time of 2:48:25 and have now completed the Maryland Double (the running of the Frederick Marathon and Baltimore Marathon in the same year). While I ran about six-and-a-half minutes slower than I did at Frederick, I am pleased to have run under two hours and fifty minutes given my many injuries and challenges of the summer. I have suffered through strained calf muscles (which may take up to six more months to fully heal), knee tendonitis, and nerve stress that had prevented me from running consistently and there were multiple times when I questioned if I would be able to run at all, much less run for 26.2 miles. Considering that I was only able to get in a single long training run of 16 miles during the last three months, I was glad that I could run such a competitive race. I believe that I have the best combined times of any of the 233 runners who registered for the Maryland Double in both full marathons!
The course was best described as a bowl made by early hills from the start to mile 2 which then dip back down to a long flat stretch between miles 6 and 16 that is followed by a second set of hills which rises from miles 16-22 and then drops back down to the finish.
Major landmarks of the course include Fort McHenry, the Inner Harbor, Ravens Stadium/Camden Yards, and Lake Montebello. I found the course to be a good challenge but very fair. The hills were long but not too steep and there was plenty of support along the way from spectators, officials, and volunteers.
The race started off from Camden Yards with a gradual uphill climb for the first couple of miles. I tried to go out fairly easy, but as usual my adrenaline made that hard to gauge. I knew that I wasn't in the same shape I was in during the spring, so I tried to make sure I didn't push too hard early on. I had difficulty determining my early pace because I kept missing the mile marks that must have been by the aid stations since at those points I was more focused on grabbing fluids. A few miles into the race I heard rumbling behind me and I'm soon passed by the women's lead pack of about a half dozen elite runners clipping along at a steady pace. The course goes back downhill and I cruise along at decent clip, as I've always been good at running down hills. By this point the runners in my approximate pace range were starting to spread out and I tried to find my own rhythm that would get me through the day. I moved into the 10-mile flat section that makes up the middle of the race and tried to keep a few runners ahead of me in my sights. We passed by the Inner Harbor and then headed out towards Fort McHenry. A bit before the 9-mile mark I saw the leaders already coming back in from the fort and I shouted encouragement at these amazing athletes (they were already approaching ten-and-a-half miles). Then came my favorite stretch of the race: Fort McHenry. I really enjoyed running the loop along the water around this historic landmark and it was very inspiring to see the large U.S. flag and cannons. After leaving Fort McHenry it was my turn to be the one heading back in as I watched the huge crowd flowing out on the course. It was great to spot members of my running club (Frederick Steeplechasers) in the pack and other Brooks runners (especially Dane Rauschenberg, the Charity Chaser) and it was fun to shout-out back and forth to each other. The course then moved along the harbor and passed by the starting point of the half-marathon where I watched the participants gathering to get ready for their race. Near mile 14 there was a short section of cobblestone and the uneven road made me aware of how unsteady my legs were getting and that my feet were getting pounded. I was clearly affected by not being able to put in training runs in the 16-22 mile range. My body simply wasn't used to going long. I knew that there were hills coming up so I tried to run controlled and maintain a smooth stride. A few runners passed by and I let them go. The hills started at mile 16 and Peter Keating, who beat me handily at a 5K back in November, caught up to me as my pace began to slow down. I tried to hang with him and was able to keep contact for a couple of miles before he pulled away. The hills were long and were a steady grind on my legs. I really started feeling my quads on the short downhill sections between the climbs. At mile 20 the course took a break from the hills as it hit a mile-long loop around Lake Montebello. This flat section should have been a nice break from the hills, but the lack of variance seemed to wear down my legs and I really felt the blisters that were forming on the balls of my feet. It was also starting to warm up by this time so I made sure to continue grabbing fluids and bananas at every opportunity. After leaving the lake the course climbed again and by this time I was starting to play mind games to pass the time and block out the pain. I would try to imagine myself on training runs through my neighborhood and I would check my watch at each mile mark and try and calculate if I would be able to break 2:50. At mile 23 I hit the famous gummy bear station and grabbed a handful of the little critters as I prepared for the final descent towards the finish. The last few miles were mainly downhill and I tried to hold my shaking legs together. I attempted to push myself at a pace that would be challenging without being overly risky. I kept checking my watch at the last few miles and when I hit 26 by the stadiums I knew I would break 2:50. As I entered into Camden Yards the large crowd of spectators cheered all the runners and I pumped my fist as I made the final turns. I heard the announcer call out my name as I neared the finish and I cross in 2:48:25. I spend some time congratulating the other finishers around while we grab food and fluids. I picked up my medals (one for Baltimore and another for the Double) and got a massage to start my recovery process. After that I went over to get two bowls of crab soup, a required method of celebration for any Baltimore event. My walking was slow, but I knew it was important to keep moving so I checked out many of the vendor stands and chatted with a few fellow members of the Brooks "Inspire Daily" program that I bumped into and congratulated other Steeplechasers. I even got the opportunity to inform someone that they had qualified for the 2010 Boston Marathon because they would be in a new age group by that year. Overall, it was a very successful race.
Mile 1 - 6:07 (includes 3 seconds to get to starting line)
Mile 2 - missed
Mile 3 - 18:10 (6:01.5 average for miles 2 and 3)
Mile 4 - missed
Mile 5 - 29:36 (5:43 average for miles 4 and 5)
Mile 6 - missed
Mile 7 - missed
Mile 8 - 47:17 (5:54 average for miles 6-8)
Mile 9 - 53:20 (6:03)
Mile 10 - 59:24 (6:03)
Mile 11 - 1:05:35 (6:12)
Mile 12 - missed
Mile 13 - 1:17:58 (6:11.5 average for miles 12 and 13)
Mile 14 - 1:24:18 (6:19)
Mile 15 - 1:30:43 (6:25)
Mile 16 - 1:37:22 (6:39)
Mile 17 - 1:43:57 (6:35)
Mile 18 - 1:50:32 (6:35)
Mile 19 - 1:57:37 (7:04)
Mile 20 - 2:04:39 (7:02)
Mile 21 - 2:11:49 (7:11)
Mile 22 - 2:18:56 (7:07)
Mile 23 - 2:26:08 (7:11)
Mile 24 - 2:33:02 (6:55)
Mile 25 - 2:40:21 (7:19)
Mile 26 - 2:47:07 (6:45)
Mile 26.2 - 2:48:25 (Chip Time 2:48:22)
Overall pace - 6:26
I thought this was an excellent event. The race was well organized with what I think was a wonderful course. Yes, the hills drained me, but I found the hills during the second half of Frederick to be far worse. Besides, marathons are not run because they are easy; a good challenge endured adds to the experience. There were a good number of "sightseeing" opportunities along the course and I enjoyed the Francis Scott Key connection between the two halves of the Maryland Double. The number of participants was good as I never felt crowded and often had someone to run with or at least target. The volunteers did a great job at the many fluid/aid stations and there was good spectator support, especially near the harbor and start/finish. The race shirt was also very nice and I will certainly be wearing it with Maryland pride. I hope to run the Baltimore Marathon again in the future and would gladly recommended it to anyone else who is interested.
I am so pleased that I was able to make a good showing at the Baltimore Marathon as it caps off an amazing year of running for me. When I first signed up for the Maryland Double I had hoped to break three hours in at least one of the races. I could not have imagined that 2:48:25 would be my slow time. While my second place finish at the Frederick Marathon is the pinnacle of my athletic career to date, I am incredible proud of the way I overcame so much physical, mental, and emotional adversity in order to cross the line in Baltimore. Finding ways to keep training while injured (long elliptical sessions, mind-numbing laps in the pool, and many hours on my bike trainer parked in front of a small TV) was tough, but in the end well worthwhile. I achieved all of the major 2008 running goals that I had established for myself early in the year: I ran well in the Frederick Marathon, I won the Frederick Steeplechasers Spring Grand Prix Series, and I completed the full Maryland Double with a Boston Qualifying run at Baltimore. Thus, I set myself up for a 2010 goal to tackle Heartbreak Hill (Im planning to run Frederick again in 2009) when I run the Boston Marathon.
Thanks to all of you who have provided so much support. I truly appreciate all of your kind words and helpful comments. I hope that I am able to return the favor and live up to the Inspire Daily motto.
Ps An extra thanks goes out to my sponsors: Brooks for providing awesome shoes and my race singlet, nuun for providing hydration that was needed on a warm day, and John Kippen, great neighbor and owner of If The Shoe Fits, for seemingly endless help and encouragement.
Baltimore Marathon website: http://www.thebaltimoremarathon.com/Home_Page.htm
Course Map: http://www.thebaltimoremarathon.com/Assets/08BaltMerged+Map.pdf