Race Report – Baltimore Half Marathon

On Saturday morning, I ran the Baltimore Half Marathon.  This was sort of a first for me – last year I ran the relay, so I knew the second half of the marathon course.  But the first half was new.

I can’t talk about the expo because Kim’s husband Jon did packet pickup for us because he is a saint.  But I did not hear good things about parking and traffic.  Hoping that is fixed for next year.

One downside to the half marathon is that it started at 9:45 whereas the full started at 8.  That means that to get parking and to not have to deal with traffic, we all had to get there early early.  Of course, we also had to get there early early so that Jon could run the marathon.  So I didn’t mind.  We sent Jon on his way and hung out with a group of friends for a while.  This meant leisurely bag check and the opportunity to watch the 5K.  We all booed when around the 40 minute mark, a bunch of runners got stopped so the relay busses could go through.  It was probably only a 2 to 3 minute stop, but it seemed like forever.  There was a huge cheer when the race started again.

Finally, it was our turn to run.  The start was a bit of a letdown since we didn’t even know the race was starting.  It was crowded and the start was around the corner.  We did get to see Jon run by around his mile 9 though, which was exciting.  He was looking good.

Anyone who knows anything about Baltimore knows that it is hilly.  So don’t run this race expecting a flat course.  But what many people may not realize about Baltimore is that it most certainly has personality, and you see that out on the race course.  The spectators for this race are amazing.  The race runs through various neighborhoods and people are out all over the place.  Lots of cheering, lots of spectators in costumes, tons of fun signs.  It’s an incredible experience.

We set out without a firm time goal.  I have another race next weekend that I want to run strong and Kim was running with new insoles.   A number of people in our group shot off at the start, and we lost Jen just a few miles in.

I was running with a group of four friends, but their natural pace was just slightly off from mine, and I was starting to feel it in my hips.  I don’t know if they were slower or if just walk and run paces were different.  We weren’t running any slower than I naturally do.  Might have just been the run/walk pace breakdown throwing me off.  Either way, it hurt.  Kim and I stopped for an unexpected bathroom break, and when we finally caught back up to our friends, we kept going and ended up just a bit ahead of them.  I felt bad about this, but my hips felt so much better.  It’s strange how just a slight pace change can cause a weird ache.  It also makes me worry about the full in January because I have a group that I plan to run with.  I guess I’ll just go by feel and see what happens.  I don’t want to lose my friends during the race!  But it’s entirely possible that on the day, I will naturally be slower.  Who knows.

I have to admit, I like the hills at Baltimore.  What goes up must come down, so for every hill you power up, you get the benefit of gravity on the way down.  I know some people don’t like running down hills, but I love it.

We finished in a respectable 3:12.  Not my fastest, not my slowest, and without the bathroom break, I think I could have pushed through a sub-3, which is a good feeling.  I have one more half this season, and I think I’m going to do my best to run that one strong.  Not shooting for a PR, because right now it’s about distance, not speed, but I want to take that one and run it for me.  I love running with friends, since I can chat the whole way through the race, but sometimes I just want to run for me.  90% of the time I want to chat through the run though!


Yes, that’s right.  Two medals.  One for today’s race and one for the Maryland Double.  To get the Maryland Double medal, you just need to run the Baltimore Half or Full and the Frederick Half.  And no, I didn’t run in that fleece.  I rocked two runDisney shirts instead.

The Baltimore Medal is awesome.  Obviously, it has a crab on the front and says “What hills don’t kill you make you stronger.”  On the back, it says “thirteen point one freakin’ miles.”  Love it.

My favorite race(s)

When brainstorming for post ideas, Jenny suggested I write about my favorite race.

Good idea, I thought!  Writing about my favorite race.  What a novel idea for a running blog!  I’m going to do it!

And then I realized just how challenging this would be.  I honestly don’t know what my favorite race might be.  So let’s go down the list.

Clearly, runDisney is at the top of this list.  I love all things Disney.  I love Walt Disney World, and though I’ve only been three times (all for races), I love Disneyland as well.  And it was Disney racing that brought me to true distance running in the first place.  I saw videos for the Princess Half Marathon and I wanted to do it.  Of course, I then got sick and missed Princess that year, but managed to still make a Disney race my first half with the Disneyland Half.

It’s a tough call to make, but I think top of the list right now has to go to Disney’s Tinker Bell Half Marathon.  Here’s a link to my recap of the inaugural race.  I’m a WDW nut, so I’m surprised a Disneyland race makes the top of my list, but it does.  Why do I have such fond memories of this race?  Well, it was a runDisney event, so it was well organized and had great entertainment along the course.  Anaheim has awesome weather for running (most of the time).  Disneyland is smaller than WDW, so rather than boarding busses super early to get to the start, we all just walked from our hotel, which meant getting more sleep.  And I genuinely loved the course.  My favorite type of race course is the kind that goes through neighborhoods where people come out on their front porches to cheer (or sometimes stare in bewilderment at the costumed people running past their house).   I loved running through Downtown Disney.  I loved the crowd support (the Red Hat Ladies, the school bands and dance teams, etc.).  It was just a really fun race.

I’m not even going to try to rank the rest, so here are some of my other favorites.  And since I already professed the runDisney love (seriously, just run some of their races), I’m going to branch out.

Another race I loved was the Myrtle Beach Mini.  I don’t seem to have recapped that race (whoops).  Myrtle Beach in late October isn’t the prettiest weather for beachgoing, but it’s great race weather.  The race is point-to-point and the course was absolutely awesome.  Gorgeous scenery, a fast and flat course, and a finish right along the beach.  The medal is pretty great too – GIANT surfboard that can be used as a bottle opener and it even has a magnet on the back to stick it to your fridge.  There is music and fun and it’s just a very party atmosphere.  Definitely fun.

Along the same lines is the Shamrock Half Marathon in Virginia Beach.  I did actually recap that one.  I love St. Patrick’s Day, so this race clearly calls my name.   Cool weather, fast and flat course, finishing on the beach with a giant party.  The spectators were amazing for this race.  There were people all along the course cheering and offering beer to the runners.  I was aiming for a PR when I ran this race, so I did not partake, but I can see doing so in the future.  The finish line party was also excellent.

And to keep this short, I will end with a slightly shorter race, the Army Ten Miler.  Here’s my recap from 2010.  This race is an emotional roller coaster.  There are many people who run in memory of fallen soldiers.  You see a lot of signs and photos.  You also see a lot of soldiers running in their gear and you see Wounded Warriors.   There are also groups of spouses who run “with” their deployed spouse (the race does satellite runs at Army bases all over the world).  It is an inspiring race to be a part of.  The course runs through DC and I wouldn’t call it challenging, but for the slower runner, making the cutoff can be tough because it’s based on clock time, not on how long it took you to get to that point.  If you get a slow start through the corrals, you may have to push.  But it is so worth it.


Half Fanatics

When I first started distance running, I started hearing people talk about Half Fanatics and Marathon Maniacs.  So I started doing some research.  And I came to two conclusions.

  1. These people are CRAZY.
  2. I must join them.

I didn’t start thinking about joining until after my first half marathon.  I already had a second scheduled for the following month, and to qualify for Half Fanatics at the lowest level, I just had to get in a third race within 90 days.  Clearly, I was going to do it.

And I did, and in 2010, I became Half Fanatic #622.   As of this writing, there are over 2800 Half Fanatics and the number is growing every week.

But why would I want to join a group like this?  Camaraderie, for one.  I have met Half Fanatics at races all around the country.  I’ve met others online.  We’re always up for sharing tips about races, discounts for race registrations and hotels, anything we can do to further the sport.

But once you’re in, what next?

Oh, this is the joy of Half Fanatics.  There are 9 levels in Half Fanatics, represented by the number of moons.  Each level has different criteria, and as you can imagine, the more moons, the harder the criteria.  When I started, I only had one moon, so I was on Neptune.  I stayed there for quite some time, then realized that my Winter 2011/Spring 2012 (insane) half marathon schedule was going to get me two moons – Uranus –  because I would be running 6 halfs in 6 months.  From there, I quickly jumped to three moons – Saturn – when I ran 4 halfs in 4 states in under 51 days.

I’m not sure when I will move up again.  Right now, that’s not the goal.  But it’s nice to know that I have the option of that goal in the future.

One thing I love about Half Fanatics is that it’s something that a slow runner like me can accomplish.  The only pace rules that Half Fanatics (and Marathon Maniacs) has is that you have to get an official time in the list of race finishers.  That’s it!  Just finish within the time allotted.

Race Recap – Run for the Dream Patriot’s Challenge (Half and 8k)

Once again this year, I returned to Williamsburg, VA for the Run for the Dream half marathon. This year, they were offering something new – run the 8k on Saturday and the half on Sunday and get the Patriot’s Challenge medal. Considering this is the year of bonus bling, it was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down. I was already planning to go back for the half, so what’s another 5 miles, right?

Well, let’s just say that neither of these races were my finest. But boy, did I have a blast.

On Friday, a group of us headed down to Williamsburg and hit up the race expo. It’s a tiny expo, but they do have a few vendors there, and what they do have is nice. Also, Dana got a free gun lock. She wins for finding the most random race expo swag. As part of our race registration, we got tickets to Colonial Williamsburg (it’s free to walk around outside, but if you want to go into any of the buildings other than the shops, you need a ticket) and a ticket to Busch Gardens with a meal voucher. And nice t-shirts, tech for the half and cotton for the 8k, plus a drawstring backpack. Definitely nice swag!

Late May in Virginia can be hot, but luckily, it was cooler than last year. I decided to take the 8k at a leisurely pace, since we had a half the next day. It was a fun race. Definitely not flat, but the race organizers were completely honest about all of the hills on the course. This race was also a Masters competition, so there were lots of men and women running with their age groups on their backs. Less than two miles in, we saw a woman in the 80-84 age group go down. She hit her head and was bleeding. We stopped until the medics showed up, and then went on our way, hoping that she would be okay.

The race finished in the William and Mary’s stadium, and it was a lot of fun to run the track and cross that finish line and get a fabulous medal! As we headed out of the stadium, who did we see but our 80-something friend, headed to the finish with a friend. Her head was bandaged, but she was smiling, and we all cheered.

Next it was off to the post-race party, where I hoped I would find the same delicious sandwiches that were there last year.  And I did.  What a perfect ending to the race!

Now, here’s where things went a little wrong.  And it was my own fault.  We headed back, showered, and then went back out to explore Colonial Williamsburg.  And let’s just say that we did a bit too much exploring.  I was exhausted, and I still had another race to run the next day.  I definitely ate way too much that afternoon as well.

Sunday came and I wasn’t so sure about the race.  I felt okay, though sluggish.  But I wanted that medal (and another delicious sandwich).  So I just decided that whatever it took, I was going to get across the finish line.

Best part of the morning?  They had a kindergartner sing the National Anthem!  It was amazing!  So many times, especially in the wee hours of the morning, soloists struggle with the song.  But this little girl rocked it!  The anthem should always be sung by kids!

It was muggy and hilly, surprise surprise.  And my race preparations hadn’t been the best.  So my plan to “start slow, then back off,” definitely went into action.  Looking at my times, I really only did the first mile at any sort of a reasonable pace.  The rest was a lot of walking and even some strolling.

But I’m not complaining.  I had a BLAST!  I traversed the course with a great group of friends and made some new friends along the way.  We just decided that we were going to finish and that was that.

Finally, we hit the track and could see the finish.  I joked to Dana when we were half a lap away that I was done.  I was just going to drop out.  She told me she was going to knock me out and drag me across the finish line if that’s what was necessary.  That’s true friendship.

It slowly started to rain as we headed to the post-race party again for more sandwiches and beer.  By this time, we had heard that there was a problem and they had run out of Patriot’s Challenge medals.  We were bummed, but they took our names and promised us medals as soon as possible.  I can’t wait!

I got my sandwich, got my beer, and sat down in the drizzle to eat.  Even though it was slow and a new PW, it was still an amazing finish to my half marathon season.   And there were some good lessons learned.  Rest is good.  Don’t overeat.  And yes, I’m well aware that running 3 halfs in 4 weeks may have had something to do with the sluggishness as well.

All said, I will be back next year.  I haven’t decided if I want to do the Patriot’s Challenge again or not.  (Some of that depends if I ever get my medal, I suppose!)  But I love the race, I love the crowd support, and those sandwiches.  Mmm… sandwiches…