Since NaNoWriMo started on Saturday … and for some insane reason, I decided to attempt it … I’m glad I wrote this Baltimore Half recap last week! (Still need to do one for the Tower of Terror 10-miler but yeah, that might be a while.)
The quick version: I loved it.
The long, long version: It all began sometime in early spring when I registered for the full marathon.
No, scratch that. It actually started when I first saw the painted finish line on Ravens Walk before a football game. (Sorry, couldn’t grab more than ‘ltimo’ without being crushed by the herd.) I’ve always dreamed of doing a marathon. And finishing between Camden Yards and M&T Stadium? Yeah, that’d be awesome, seeing as how I’m a big O’s/Ravens fan. So on the day when many of my running pals were signing up for the runDisney Dopey Challenge and I was feeling rather mopey and left out, I did it. I signed up for the Baltimore Running Festival Full Marathon.
However. Our summer was stressful. Very stressful. Then training became stressful, making me dread my runs rather than enjoy them. Running has always been my way of coping, so once it became more of a stressor than sanctuary, I made the decision to downgrade to the half. This truly disappointed me, but …
So okay, back to the long story, starting with the Baltimore Running Festival Expo! Bob and I had planned on going at around noon on Thursday, but we didn’t arrive until two, meaning we only had one hour before he had to go back to work. Bummer. Because we were late, we had a ‘whatever’ moment and parked in a garage for a pretty penny–about $20 worth of pretty pennies!–instead of trying to find one of the free parking lots.
I was worried about seeing everything in such little time, but things were smooth sailing once we parked and made it inside. The Expo was held in the Baltimore Convention center that was extremely well-marked so getting my bib and going downstairs to the running shirt area went without a hitch.
Around the corner, Corrigan Sports had a large display of shirts, jackets, magnets, mugs, and other goodies for sale, but I had already bought a “We put the HON in half marathon shirt” (in black) so I kept buried my credit card and kept walking.
That is … until I saw this.
Pre-registration for next year’s King Crab Challenge, which includes the Frederick Running Festival, the Baltimore 10-Miler, and the Baltimore Half or Full Marathon. And look, a DISCOUNT, total fee for all three races was $170.00, what?? So, did I keep walking? Or did my itchy little bling-crazy hand go searching for that buried credit card? More on this later.
(Hint: I totally registered.)
Afterwards, we wandered around a bit, checking out all the many booths and displays. With my credit card simmering from King Crab, I didn’t buy anything other than some Gu gels. So we were in and out in plenty of time for Bob to get back to work in time. (And for me to snag this photo at a red light. Loves ya, Orioles, 2015 is OUR YEAR!)
Fast forward to Friday morning.
I woke up with back pains. Thinking that I might have thrown it out while doing something stuipd, I slapped on a heating pad and went about my day. No biggie, I’d be fine. However. At around 4:30, my lower stomach started aching. Really bad. And it hurt when I … you know, tinkled. Really hurt, enough to tell me I had a urinary tract infection for the very first time.
I felt like bawling. It hurt to walk, let alone running 13.1 miles! And from what a few Google searches had to say, running with a UTI really isn’t the wisest of choice. So Bob picked me up some medicine and I went to bed early with the decision that if I still felt crappy the next morning, I’d back out of the race. For the very first time.
Really felt like bawling.
Thankfully, I felt much better on Saturday morning. Not 100%, but better, enough to get ready. But I must have told Bob the wrong race time in my painful pee delirium the night before, so we left an hour late. My pre-race anxiety is always bad even if we’re on time, so this darn near put me over the edge, knowing I’d only have 20 MINUTES to walk to the start line. To make things worse, we saw traffic warnings of lane closures on the beltway. Anxiety through the roof. Even my cool-and-collected Bob got a bit edgy. Everything worked out, though. We re-routed by taking 83 and when I saw some folks wearing bibs on Pratt Street, I jumped out and followed them. Disaster averted, it was all good, I got to the start line with five minutes to spare.
Those pesky UTI pains came back, but too late, the race soon started with confetti and plenty of cheering. Then came pests of another kind in the form of a few grumpy, f-bomb dropping runners jockeying for position, including a mini-pissing contest between two gentlemen with one of them perturbed over the other for not getting out of his way fast enough and his usage of ear buds. Wow. So not a way to start the race! More on ear buds later. And I’m happy to report that for the rest of the race, the camaraderie between runners was fantastic and grump free!
For the first two miles, I had a really hard time getting into the race. And oh my gosh, was I emotional! Everything made me tear up. Tributes pinned to the back of shirts. A woman wearing a “baby’s first race shirt.” Two guys knuckle tapping after syncing their Garmins. My fear over not finding a bathroom in time. But then somewhere at the two or three-mile mark at Patterson Park … hallelujah, I saw a lone port-o-pot to the left in the middle of a park.
I hit that bad boy and then rejoined the race feeling a thousand times better. So I forced myself to stop worrying, to enjoy the moment, and savor the race rather than let it pass me by. Glad I did this because there were so many awesome things to see! Like:
- Gorgeous artwork on several buildings.
- The awesomely wonderful spectators and high-five-offering kids who showed up to cheer on their friends or just a bunch of strangers.
- A pajama-wearing, coffee-sipping grandmother hanging out on a front stoop with her granddaughter.
- How some spectators brought speakers, blasting music to keep us going.
- The many folks who were giving out gummy bears, candy, orange slices, and beer as motivation. I knew it wouldn’t be smart accepting that shot of Natty Boh beer somewhere along mile … oh, I can’t remember, but I was in Baltimore, hon! Had to do the Boh! (Oh, and I think I told the girl passing out shots that I loved her. No, actually, I’m certain I did.)
- Running around the gorgeous Lake Montebello where a gal was giving out wine shots, (how awesome!) and getting some much-needed Bio Freeze from the medic tent for my sore hamstrings.
- Seeing kids cheer for their parents, holding signs and screaming their names. Wow. That makes me tear up just typing that.
- The couple who were dressed in tiger costumes, standing on the back of a jungle decorated truck, dancing to Eye of the Tiger. You two ROCKED!!
- How at one point, someone was blasting Good Morning, Baltimore from the musical Hairspray. Yeah. That made me cry, too, from the extreme feeling of community pride it gave me!
There were so many other wonderful sights that I had either forgotten or failed to pay attention to because of how crappy I felt, despite my best efforts to live in the moment. By mile 6, I started playing the calculation game. You know, if I make it to 6.55 then I’m halfway there. If I make it to 8, then I’m 61% done and so on and so on. At mile 10, though … my hamstrings were aching and those UTI pains kept nagging, making me worry that I wouldn’t be able to finish.
I’ve never not been able to finish a race.
Still, I motored on, drinking double portions of Gatorade and water at every support stop to stay hydrated, and thinking about how I made it this far, so I might as well keep moving. And have I talked about the course yet? No? Well, it was fantastic. Hilly, yes, but fantastic and diverse.
About those ear buds, though. I do wear mine–in one ear only at a low volume and turned off for the first half mile when races are more congested. But really, they can be so dangerous, as proved by something I saw at around the ten-mile mark. A girl wearing both ear buds was oblivious to the wheelchair racer coming up behind her–downhill–and how he and several other people were calling for her to yield. Wow. They both could have been hurt, so please. Keep this in mind for your next race!
So anyway, lecture over, back to the race! Before I knew it, we were heading down Eutaw Street toward Camden Yards. Oh my gosh, how I loved this part! The cheering spectators were AMAZING and running into Camden Yards, tapping my hand on the #8 and #5 statues honoring Cal Ripken and my hero Brooks Robinson? Wow. Just wow. My heart overflowed with emotion. Tears.
Then I saw the finish line in Ravens Walk.
I wish I could adequately describe crossing that finish line. The Baltimore Half was the first time I’ve ever been truly tested as a runner, so it felt … sigh. Amazing. Just amazing. I was so choked with emotion that I couldn’t breath for a few moments. And getting my medal? Fantastic. Just fantastic. So was looking around at the hundreds and hundreds of other finishers, knowing they, too, had their own story and issues to battle.
After grabbing my post-race goodies, I realized that I did make a big mistake in arranging a spot to meet Bob after the race. It was very noisy and my cell service was bad, but we finally hooked up outside of the runner’s area.
The extrovert in me was screaming to go enjoy the festivities–after all, we earned in, but by that time, I was chilly, sore, tired, and overwhelmed, so my inner introvert begged to go home. It was a cold, cold, windy walk to the car so I was grateful to learn that Bob spent $10.00 for a close parking spot at an after-hours bar!
For the rest of the day, I was sofa bound and sore, having myself a good old watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix and eating horribly fattening food. 🙂 And I realized that it was a good thing I downgraded to the half after all because I would not have been able to do the full.
All in all, despite being sick, I had an amazing time at the Baltimore Running Festival! They truly do put the Hon in Half Marathon. Oh, and speaking of hon … check out the gorgeous HON who greeted the women’s marathon winner, Alex Wang, at the finish line! Next year, I must meet this vision of pink perfection!
Which brings us back to the point that yes, I did register for 2015’s King Crab Challenge, meaning I’ll be doing the Frederick Half Marathon (and Nut Job Challenge since I also registered for the Twilight 5k,) the Baltimore 10-Miler, and … gulp, the FULL marathon next year!
I just had to do it, hon!
And since I’m an optimist with a half full glass of crazy, I know that next year, things won’t be as stressful and I’ll finish the training, no problem, right? Right.
So see you next year, Baltimore! 🙂
My finishing facts:
- Time: 2:24:48
- Place Overall: 5062 out of 8638
- Place in Gender: 2589 out of 5153, not too shabby at all!