Sunday, October 18, 2015

2015 Baltimore Marathon Race Recap

Five years ago, I decided to run the Atlantic City Marathon as a training run for the Philadelphia Marathon five weeks later.  It ended up being a great decision as the weather was near perfect, it was a great way to knock out a long run, and an overall confidence booster for Philly.

Two years ago I decided to do the same thing except run the Baltimore Marathon instead.  I registered for the race and booked a hotel room and everything, only to back out at the last minute due to shin splints.  It was my first and only DNS.  I'm happy to report that I finally got my chance to run Baltimore yesterday morning, once again as a training run for Philly five weeks from now.

I drove down to Baltimore on Friday afternoon shortly after school ended.  Got stuck in some traffic on I-95 but otherwise made it to the M&T Bank Stadium (home of the Baltimore Ravens) without incident.  Parked in one of the lots just outside of the stadium and followed the massive stream of people going inside.

The Expo

Because the marathon was on a Saturday, the expo was open until 9pm Friday night to give people like me time to get there after work.  Runners had to walk up several ramps to one of the VIP sections of the stadium where the usual assortment of running related companies had set up shop.  The entrance was in the middle with bib pick up and shirt pickup cleverly placed at either end to ensure runners passed by every company.  Once I picked up my bib and shirt, I headed back out to my car.

Friday Night

I stayed in my favorite hotel in Baltimore; it's very small and called my car.  Not very spacious and few amenities, but the proximity to the starting line (1/2 mile) and the price simply can't be beat.  I was asleep by 9pm, lulled by the whoosh of cars on I-395 overhead, and at 6am I slowly woke up and began to get ready as hundreds of cars jockeyed for parking spaces around me.  Alleviating worry over race day parking was definitely a perk.

The Start

The stadium was once again open with full use of its bathrooms; being able to use flush toilets is a huge plus before a race of any size.  Security poked through my bag on the way to the start, and I wandered around for a bit debating whether to wear a long sleeved shirt during the race or not.  I eventually settled on just the short sleeved shirt.

At around 7:30 I finally checked my bag at gear check (after a moment of panic that they weren't going to let me check it because it wasn't a clear plastic bag) and headed over to the starting line next to Camden Yards.

There were no official corrals at the starting line, just a few signs of estimated finish times interspersed along the crowd.  I tried to place myself as best I could.

One of the highlights of the start of this race was listening to the Star Spangled Banner being sung and realizing those words were written just a few miles from where we stood.

The Course

The course loops all around Baltimore before finishing back by the football and baseball stadiums.  One of the highlights was passing through the Baltimore Zoo.  Zookeepers stood at the entrance holding live ravens on their arms.  A few more zookeepers with various squawking birds were posted along the route, and before long we shot back out into the park.

The course took in various neighborhoods, the center of town, and several parks and bodies of water. I would estimate only about half the course had a decent amount of spectators.

The first half of the course was mostly flat, but the second half picked up some rolling hills. Nothing outrageous, but not exactly welcome in the back nine of a marathon.

This race was notable in that the half marathoners had a completely different start time and starting line from the full marathoners.  This seemed like a great idea until the half marathoners joined us at mile 16 and the course suddenly became extremely congested as I weaved my way through runners going at vastly different paces from me.  Negative points, Baltimore.

Aid Stations

The aid stations were perfect.  They were well spaced out, well stocked and well manned. Each one featured water and Gatorade.  Several aid stations also had food, including Gu, bananas, chips, and even mini Dunkin Donuts.  I hadn't eaten a large dinner the night before, and I never eat breakfast the morning of a race due to nerves/GI issues, so I was worried about fueling for this race.  All the food options on the course were extremely helpful.

Post Race

All relay runners, half and full marathoners finished together, and I had to make sure I was given the right medal before collecting my bag of chips, banana, water and Gatorade chocolate protein drink.  Runners then exited into "Celebration Village" where they could meet up with friends and family, ring the PR bell, grab their bags and get changed, pay $4 for a Michelob Ultra, listen to a live band, and buy food from a number of food trucks set up.

After taking in the festivities and reveling in my accomplishment for a bit, I walked back to my car and drove the two hours home to South Jersey and changed from weekend warrior right back into my role as suburban dad.

The Takeaway

So glad I got another shot at this race after being left behind two years ago.

I took it slowly during this race, enjoying the crowds and scenery, telling myself to not be a hero as today was not a record setting day.  Today was all about getting some miles on my legs and celebrating racing.

My goal was to start slowly and start picking up the pace in the last few miles, which I did.  In the last half mile, I fell into a dead sprint, soaring across the finish line feeling like all I want to do for the rest of my life is run marathons.  That is the feeling that was lacking from Boston last spring.  I was only three minutes behind my time from Boston, but how I felt in the last half mile of each race was a world of difference.  I felt so alive yesterday, like I finally get the reason behind the second running boom.  You don't always have to push yourself to a PR and/or the brink of exhaustion to enjoy the high of running a marathon, and I can see why there are people who run so many a year.  Yesterday's race reminded me how much I love racing, and how, if money were no object, I would be out there as often as my wife's patience allows, racing my damn heart out as often as possible.

I would definitely recommend this race to anyone.  It has a very similar vibe to my beloved Philly Marathon - a mid sized race with great organization and decent crowd support and a fast and scenic course.  At the end of the day, the Charm City puts on - dare I say it - one charming race.  Thanks for a great time, Baltimore.  Hope to be back someday.


  1. Great job, Scott! Sounds like you ran an excellent race!

    1. Thanks, it was definitely a great race!

  2. Glad you enjoyed yourself! My friend JP ran the half. If you come to my party next month you guys can talk shop :)

  3. I've been toying with this one for a while. Next year, maybe. Training that hard through a NE summer can be brutal though, especially if it's as humid as it's been the last few years. I ain't getting any younger and complaining about humidity seems to be my MO in recent years :-)

    1. I know what you mean. That August humidity here in NJ is awful and I never shut up about it, but it certainly makes October running so much better.


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