The Under Armour Baltimore Marathon
Saturday, October 11, 2008 at 8:00 am
Finish Time: 4:07:55
After 6 months of training, the time had finally come. The 8th annual Under Armour Baltimore Marathon course traveled through various parts of Baltimore City such as the Inner Harbor, Fort McHenry, the beautiful Lake Montebello, and a memorable finish through Camden Yards. Because I wanted to run the marathon in sub-4:00, I signed up to run with the four hour pacing group. The pacing group consisted of the lead pacer, Scott, and four other pacers. The pace was a 9:10 minute/mile and I thought I could handle that. We had to wear a bib on our backs with "4:00" and our name written on it. We also had to wear a "FULL" sticker so we could be identified through the crowd of half marathoners that we would merge with at mile 16.
Me and my parents arrived at the start line at approximately 7:30 am and met with the pacing group. The weather for the day was picture perfect - sunny and high of 74 degrees. I spoke to a few friends, my boss, took a few pictures, and ran a warm-up jog. At approximately 7:50 am, the street was packed with runners. While I was waiting for the start, I was not nervous. For the first time in a race, I was going to run with my hydration belt, which holds four 8 oz. water bottles. I had gotten used to running with it during training, so I wanted to take it on my "4 hour journey through Baltimore."
Mile 1 - 9:32
At 8:00 am, the gun goes off, confetti fills the air, and the runners take off! For some reason as I am writing this, I have no recollection of the first mile (must have been all of the excitement), but I recorded the split time. The pacers crossed the start line a few seconds ahead of me, so I was not worried about the time.
Mile 2 - 8:53
Everyone is bunched together, chatting. We approached a grassy hill with trees on the right-hand side. I noticed a lot of runners running up the hill. When I passed the hill, I realized that the runners where peeing. I saw some women squatting in a staircase near a building. I have never seen that in a race, but I know that it happens.
Mile 3 - 8:47
"How are my 4's?!" yells Scott. "Woo-hoo!" yells the 4-hour group. So far, so good. Just a nice easy run and we have passed the 5k mark. I missed the 4 mile marker which was at the beginning of the 3-mile stretch down Saint Paul Street. "Water stop on your left!" yelled Scott. Because I had my hydration belt, I did not have to stop at the water stop. Thank goodness because it was crowded. I set my watch so I could drink every 30 minutes.
Mile 4 and 5 - 18:05
"Let's hear it for the runners!" yelled Scott to the spectators. My co-worker lives on St. Paul Street and he said he might be out here looking for me. Where's George? There he is. "George, George!" I yelled as I waved. "Hey Crystal!" he yelled as he threw up his hands. Awww, that's so sweet that my co-worker came out to support me. That made me feel good and gave me a burst of energy.
I missed the mile 6 marker, also. We are already at mile 6, wow! "Photo op near the Inner Harbor! When we go under the bridge, raise your hands!" instructed Scott. That was really fun, I love this pacing group!
Mile 6 and 7 - 18:26
I remembered this part of the course from the training run. I had never been to this part of the city and it was beautiful. We ran passed beautiful, expensive, waterfront condominiums.
Mile 8 - 9:13
We began to see the leaders of the marathon. "Let's hear it for the leaders!" yelled Scott. Everyone clapped and cheered and shouted "good job." Wow, they are fast. "Crystal!" yelled my friend Remus. "Hey!" I yelled. "Under 4 hours!" he yelled. I bet him that I could run the marathon in under 4 hours. At this point in the race, I thought I could do that. "Hey, the first woman!" yelled a runner. Everyone started clapping and cheering.
Mile 9 - 8:55
"We are going to form a wall around Fort McHenry. You can save 40% of your energy," instructed Scott. We went through the gate and approached the Forth McHenry loop. It was a scenic loop with a view of the Chesapeake Bay. The sun looked pretty glistening off the water. The paved trail was narrow so we had to tighten up. During the training run, I ran the loop clockwise, but we are running counterclockwise. I don't remember this loop being this long during the training run. Scott was correct because it was windy running the loop.
Mile 10 - 8:52
"Is there a bathroom around here?" asked a runner behind me to a police officer. "Right over there," said the police officer. I used that bathroom during the training run. At this water stop I did not stop, and this is point when I left the pacers. I was feeling good and I had developed a comfortable pace. "Marty, Marty!" I yelled to a friend who was a 4:45 pacer. He did not hear me. We were running back to the Inner Harbor so we were able to see the runners that were behind us.
Mile 11 - 8:55
One of the spectators was handing out tissues. Oh, tissues. "Thank you," I said. I really needed one because my nose was running. I turned around to see how far I was in front of the pacers. I was not too far ahead because I could still hear Scott yelling. Where's Latraill, I don't see her.
Mile 12 - 8:50
The crowd of runners had started to thin out. Time to eat something. I reached in my tank top and pulled out my gel. Thank goodness for pockets. Great that helped. We passed a restaurant as we turned the corner to the Inner Harbor. Yum, that food smells good, but the restaurant is not open.
Mile 13 - 8:55
We approached the halfway mark in the race and the start line for the half marathon. I saw the last wave of runners crossing the start line. Wow, they are just starting and I have already run a half marathon! "Crystal!" I hear my dad yell. I look over to my left and see my parents and wave. Uh oh, my feet are starting to hurt. We ran passed a large crowd of spectators but they weren't yelling. "Come on, clap for the runners!" yelled a runner. "These spectators aren't good," he said. I agreed. Ouch this cobblestone hurts. A man on a bicycle was riding beside a runner and trying to take her picture. I had never seen that before, either.
Mile 14 - 8:50
This is the furthest distance I have ever run in a race. I am still ahead of the pacers and now I do not hear them. I am still feeling great. "Go Crystal!" yelled a lady I met earlier today. I could not think of her name, so I made a sound and waved.
Mile 15 - 8:50
"I assume we passed mile 15," asked a runner. "Yep, it was back there," I replied. "Thanks," he said. There were tons of spectators at this point and they were wonderful. We made a left turn on Linwood Avenue and I remembered this part of the course from last year's half marathon. Ok, here we go, you know this part.
Mile 16 - 9:12
This is the second half of the course and this is where the hills begin. We merge with the half marathoners. "Oh my goodness,!" I yelled as I looked at the sea of thousands of runners ahead of me. We're not alone anymore. It was a breathtaking sight to see nothing but runners filling the streets - picture perfect. This is why I love running. I welcomed the chatter and the excitement that the half marathoners brought because it gave me a boost of energy. There were plenty of spectators here, also. They were cheering loudly, giving out food, giving us high fives. I felt like a celebrity. "Hey, you were pacing me, I was part of the 4 hour group, too" yelled a runner to me. "Well, now you can pace me" I said as she passed me.
Mile 17 - 9:22
So far, so good with the hills. I overhead two half marathoners behind me say, "Wow, 4 hours. I can't imagine running that long." I used to feel that way one year ago, but here I was at mile 17 with 9.2 miles to go. Wow, so people are exhausted and they are only on mile 4 and I am on mile 17!
Mile 18 and 19 - 19:37
At mile 18, I hear a familiar voice - it's Scott. They caught up to me?! I was happy to be able to slow down because the balls of my feet were killing me, especially my left foot. After the water stop, I got back in pace with the pacing group. We ran up the next set of hills but they did not slow me down like last year. I think the pacing group helped to keep my mind off the hills. During mile 19, we approached Lake Montebello, which is a flat loop around the lake. This will give us a break from the hills.
Mile 20 - 9:11
Only a 10k to go! In the beginning of the race, Scott told us that he describes a marathon as a 20-mile warm-up for a 10k. I guess that is one way you can describe it. I prefer to realize that I have only 6.2 miles to go. "Go Crystal!" yells the manager of the Fleet Feet Running Store as I approached the loop. During this race, I could not remember some peoples' name, so I would wave both of my arms and yell hoping that they would see me. Oh my gosh, this is the longest loop! I do not remember this loop being this long last year! (Now, I know it is a 1.5 mile loop). The pacers stop at the water stop but I kept running. It did not take them long to catch up with me. It seemed like they were running at a faster pace, but I am sure it was because I was running at a slower pace. They all appeared to have a more serious look on their faces.
Mile 21 - 9:29
We are almost done with this loop. In front of me was a 4 hour group runner named "Lea." I was trying to stay in pace with her. At this point in the race, the mind and body battle begun. My mind wanted to walk but my body did not. My mind won and I walked for a few seconds. I reached into my pocket and ate some gummi bears and then started running. I saw the pacers get further and further away from me. For a moment, I was saddened to see the red shirts go off into the distance but I could no longer keep up. As they passed me, we approached the last major hill on 33rd Street.
Mile 22 and 23 - 22:47
Four more miles to go! At this point, I drank all of the water and Gatorade on my hydration belt, so I had to rely on the water stops. I stopped at the water stop and drank some Gatorade. This is the best Gatorade! I realized that I was not going to finish in under 4hours, so I decided to walk up the entire hill to give my feet a break. This probably added about 3 minutes to my time, but that did not matter to me. When I reached the top of the hill, I mustered up enough energy to run to the finish. Where's Howard Street? Oh, this is Guildford Road.
At this point in the race, my only concern was finishing the race so I stopped recording my mile splits. We approached 28th Street, which also had a wonderful group of spectators. They were playing music, giving out bananas, and giving out high fives. This was the infamous gummi bear stop. I grabbed a few gummi bears and a banana. These gummi bears are hard. This was my third banana of the morning. It was not ripe enough so I ate three bites and threw it away. Howard Street! This is it to the finish! There's the dealership on the right and here comes North Avenue! I knew this road led to the finish, so I started to get emotional because I realized that I am going to finish the marathon.
There was a line of cars that were stopped because the traffic was blocked. They were cheering and yelling too, which was wonderful. "Do it sister!" yelled one guy in a car. "I am!" I replied. We approached the Howard Street bridge which is the last hill in the course and the hill I think that a lot of runners forget about. Last year, this was the point where I gave up because I was frustrated with all of the hills. "Not this year, Howard Street, not this year." I said aloud as I ran up the hill. I saw quite of few people walking and I said words of encouragement to help them up the hill. It can be real frustrating at that point because you are so close to the finish but you are so tired.
Now, I realize that Eutaw Street is the street that leads to the finish and not Howard Street. As we approached Eutaw Street, the course was a downhill. We ran past Lexington Market which is always congested. "Good job, Crystal" a runner said to me. "Thanks" I replied. "Come on, Crystal, I was in the 4-hour group, too. We are going to run in together" said another runner in a yellow shirt. "Ok, we can have our own 4-hour group" I replied. "Ten more miles to go!" yelled a spectator to the runners. "Ten more miles, kiss my ass!" I replied. That is a cruel thing to say to someone who has just ran 24 miles and has only 2.2 more miles to go. Some spectators are so rude.
I saw another 4-hour runner named, Linda, and I told her to join our group. She smiled and kept running. "Looks like we are on a 4:08 pace. Last year I ran it in 4:15." said the man in the yellow shirt. "What is your name?" I asked. "Charlie," he said. "This is my first marathon," I told him. "Good for you. People have a lot of respect for you when you tell them you have run a marathon," said Charlie.
"Yeah, last mile!" I yelled. "Now, watch out for the pipes," said Charlie. What pipes is he talking about? These last two miles seemed like an eternity but Charlie helped me to forget about my aching feet. As we are running down Eutaw Street, I can see Camden Yards. I got a burst of energy because I knew the finish line was close. "Oh my God, oh my God, we are almost there!" I yelled. At that moment, I started to get emotional again because I realized that I ran a marathon. "Calm down," Charlie said. We get closer and I see nothing but spectators on the sides of the gates. "Go Crystal, Go Crystal! That's my cousin!" yelled my crazy cousins on my right as they run toward the gate. I raised my arms and smiled. "Here's the pipes," Charlie said. "Oh," I said. The pipes were concrete cylinders at the entrance to Camden Yards.
Mile 26 and 0.2
We enter the stadium and it is filled with people cheering and music. I heard someone else yell my name. I looked to the right and it was Mark, a person I did speedwork with last year. He was a pacer for the 3:10 group. I am not that fast, yet. At few more steps and I heard my boss's trainer yell my name. Where are my parents? A few more steps and I heard my dad yell my name. I yelled, "Yeah!" I looked straight ahead and I saw the finish line. As I crossed the finish line, I yelled, "Yeah, I did it!" I did not see Charlie there, but once again God sent me an angel to help me across the finish line.
I'm a marathoner!!!