You’ve no doubt noticed a “busy” trend with the past few posts, and the active extravaganza that was October continued with the Baltimore Marathon on October 17th. I’m still in the honeymoon phase of our move to the east coast, so having such easy access to so many large metropolitan areas and so many new races is a thrilling novelty. Thus, when the opportunity presented itself to run the Baltimore Marathon, and I realized it was an easy 90 minute drive, I obviously jumped at it.
Stefan was able to reserve an inexpensive hotel room in Baltimore, and I drove down on Friday night after work to meet him and a bigger group of folks from D.C. for a fun morning of running and exploring the city. It was a whirlwind of a trip, and I was gone less than 24 hours, but it still ended up being quite satisfying and I had no regrets! Stefan was able to pick up my packet earlier in the day, along with his own, so we simply relaxed for a bit in the hotel room, got everything ready for the race the next morning, and caught some zzz’s.
The 8AM start time, coupled with our close proximity to the start, meant we didn’t have to leave all that early from the hotel. We ran into some minor traffic, but made our way around and found a relatively close parking space with plenty of time. Everyone else was running the relay, so Stefan and I made our way to the start (he was running the first leg) while the others made their way to their respective checkpoints. I had no expectations for this race, aside from enjoying the course and finishing, and I figured I’d simply run by feel when I got there.
It was a beautiful morning for a race, with temps in the low 40’s, a little breeze, and the sun shining. We made our way a bit closer to the front and ended up around the 7:30 pace mark, which seemed rather fast to me, but it would at least mean we wouldn’t have to bob and weave through as many people to hit our stride. I decided I would simply hit the pace hard from the beginning and see how long I could hang on. I hadn’t raced a marathon since moving to the east coast, and I was curious to see what all of the hill work over the summer had done for my pace and endurance.
The first few miles definitely went by like a blur, but I was feeling good, and Stefan was pushing me enough that I didn’t notice the pace as much. I had my simple hydration bottle with me, filled with Tailwind, so I could avoid most of the water stops and keep pushing through, and that proved to be quite advantageous. My splits for the first 6 miles were pretty consistent and in the 7:35/mile range, which I knew was too fast, but I had already made my mind up to try and push myself. I will say that I “tried” early on to pull the pace back a bit, and both Stefan and I said we needed to do so, but the collective adrenaline meant we never actually slowed down much!
At the first exchange point for the relay, Stefan decided to keep running and simply run the marathon (he had really been planning it all along), so he passed the chip off and continued on with me. We made our way through the Baltimore Zoo and were greeted by several birds of prey and a penguin (with handlers), which made for a welcomed distraction from the pace, not to mention a nice touch for the route itself. Despite our continued attempts to slow down, we still managed a 7:07 9th mile, and I knew I was probably on borrowed time before my body forced me to slow down regardless.
I continued to push and hit the half marathon mark just short of PR time, which was encouraging. However, it was about this time when I realized just how hilly this course really was, and I started to think more about the unrelenting rolling hills. We made our way through Under Armor Headquarters (Baltimore Running Festival sponsor) and continued on past the half-way mark. My pace was holding, even if I was feeling the effects a bit more. Around mile 15, I began to pull away from Stefan a bit but knew I only had one pace in me so I kept moving, and he happily pulled back a bit. I made it through 20 miles before my body left me no choice but to slow down a bit.
My mile splits dropped down to the 8:05 range, but I was still feeling good, and content to continue pushing and tackling the hills. The last 10K was definitely a challenge, and the hills never really quit, but I could taste the PR at that point, and I wanted to know if I really had it in me. The final push past Camden Yards, greeted by a sizable crowd, was considerably energizing and made the stretch to the finish line tolerable and invigorating. It had been a while since I had really left everything out on the course, and it felt great to have truly pushed my body to the limit.
The bottle of water I downed once I crossed the finish line tasted extra-delicious, and the mylar blanket was especially warming. The medal around my neck even felt a bit more hard-earned. Ultimately though, the 3:23:40 was my reward, and a PR I once thought well out of reach was now in my possession. I collected some food in the finish area, made the mistake of trying a Gatorade protein shake (awful!!), and waited a bit until I found Stefan and the others. We hung out for a bit in the finish zone, and ultimately decided to make our way back to the cars and go find some lunch.
Unfortunately, I got stuck in traffic on the way to lunch, so I never made it and decided to just head home. However, despite it being a whirlwind race experience, I couldn’t have been happier with the end result. The Baltimore Running Festival was well-organized, the aid station volunteers were friendly, and the organizers seemed to have a great handle on the race experience as a whole. Even though I had already crossed Maryland off my 50 States list back in August, it still left a smile of accomplishment on my face as I made the brief journey home to enjoy the rest of the beautiful weekend with the epicurean! #chasing42 #chasing42reports #tailwindnutrition