Combine running a marathon last weekend with getting sick/dealing with post-marathon depression and being super busy with work and grad school projects, and voila: a one-week overdue blog post on the Baltimore Marathon.
As the picture to my left indicates, I– the (formerly) shaggy haired lad– finished the 2012 Baltimore Marathon.
My aunt (left) and mom, as well as some friends, were there to root me on at the finish line, and as you’ll soon understand, I needed every bit of cheering to finish. But let’s start at the beginning.
My alarm rang at 5:50 a.m. on Saturday morning, but i had been tossing and turning on my friend’s sofa for 30 minutes prior due to the excitement and anticipation of the race. Fortunately, I went to sleep at around 10 or 10:30 the night before, so I was adequately rested.
After a quick-but-refreshing shower, I suited up in the wardrobe that, one night prior, I had painstakingly assembled:
-Vibram FiveFinger Bikila LS shoes
-Injinji toe socks
-Running shorts with race number
-Sleeveless Under Armour-ish shirt
-Long sleeve shirt
I walked over past Camden Yards and through M&T Bank Stadium to stay warm before the race began. After 45 minutes of stadium pacing, I composed myself and walked over to the starting line. From there, I had to position myself within the ever-important pace groups.
For those who aren’t familiar, pace groups are predetermined running packs with specific finish times set in place. Basically, if you want to run a 4:00 marathon, stick with the 4:00 pace group, and you’ll hit your goal. Being a lone wolf-kind-of-guy and someone who wasn’t exactly sure where– if ever– he’d end up finishing, I avoided the groups, but did set myself in between the 4:15 and 4:30 groups, based off of earlier long run paces.
After some nice remarks from the Mayor of Baltimore and some other very important people, the race started. I threw off my long sleeve shirt, onto the side of the road and into the eventual arms of some lucky Baltimore resident. Confetti exploded from cannons on both sides of the starting line and the wheelchair racers and elite runners were off. Soon enough, the herd of runners in front of me began moving and we too were literally off and running.
The following notes are based off memory. Maybe next time I run a marathon, I will keep a journal by my side.
The beginning of the race was electric. There were plenty of Baltimore residents and visitors cheering us on as we ran up Paca Street. Even after leaving the starting area and entering the first set of neighborhoods, we still had lots of supporters hooting and hollering for us.
Around the first mile-marker, I cued up my full marathon playlist. I knew it wouldn’t be long enough to last the entire race, so I wanted to soak up the atmosphere audibles for as long as I could before indulging in the music that I had carefully gathered for my journey.
With ‘In the Air Tonight’ peacefully getting me super amped, I crossed Mile No. 2. We ran past a lot of police officers who were monitoring intersections. I tried to visibly thank them via head nod.
Miles 3, 4
Running through the Maryland Zoo was not quite as exciting as I thought it would be. While we were greeted by an assortment of animals, including a raven and penguin– who was weebling and wobbling with delight– we never actually ran through the zoo exhibits, rather trails and facility back roads. This was fine, but I was kind of looking forward to running past the polar bears and groundhogs, most notably. At some point in the zoo I chucked off my gloves. Even though the temperature was still in the upper 40s/lower 50s, I was pretty warm.
A little before this mile marker, I attempted my first Gatorade. In what would be a sign of things to come, I spilled all over myself, proving I cannot simultaneously run and sip.
Miles 7, 8, 9
Don’t remember much from this part. Maybe I was too in the zone. More likely, however, there was nothing particularly memorable. I did, though, get another Gatorade, I think.
Running down through the Harbor, I realized I was with the 3:40 pace group. I don’t really know how this happened, but I knew it was not good. I guess my music and the atmosphere had me too pumped up. My biggest fear heading in to the race was starting off too strong, so I immediately slowed my pace, let the 3:40 group pass me, and prayed that I hadn’t exhausted too much energy already.
Mile 11, 12
Went up the courtyard of the Under Armour office and then looped back around, running back up past the art museum. I remember a lot of cheering sections– including what seemed like half of an entire high school faculty– somewhere around here. Having looped back, it was also nice to pass people going behind us. Always encouraging to know just how many people were behind you. Not quite as encouraging to know how many would soon pass me.
This part kind of sucked. I was already getting tired at Miles 11 and 12, and it didn’t help that we were now passing the half marathon mark. Crossing over the 13.1 distance wire, I saw my time– which was somewhere within the 1:40s, aka way too fast. The bottoms of my feet were hurting a little bit more than normal. Also, I realized I had too much Gatorade splashing around within me.
Stopped for about 35 seconds at a port-o-potty. Was really hoping that I wouldn’t have to stop during the race. Looking back, I don’t know how that would have been possible. Four hours is a long time. Doesn’t help that I had/and would continue to take in a lot of liquids to stay hydrated.
Not a fun leg of the marathon. Not much to report other than some fatigue. I was refreshed from my previous bathroom break, though.
We merged with the half marathon group here. I chucked off my sleeveless shirt. I was now just wearing my shoes and shorts, a sight for all spectators, I’m sure.
Mile 17, 18
No recollection of anything here. Did I black out?
Can’t really remember much from the Clifton Park portion.
Mile 20, 21
We entered and began running around Lake Montebello, a ginormous lake that looked like it went on for miles. Crossed the 20-mile mark and got my time, around 2:56 or so, helping me realize that a sub-4:00 finish was actually within reach. Somewhere along the lake I grabbed half a banana, a Larabar, and some more Gatorade.
Mile 22, 23
This was where things got fun. Realizing I had just 4 miles to go, I started taking in the sights of the marathon. In Waverly, a neighborhood u off 33rd Street, the residents were handing out refreshments. Instead of bananas and protein bars, however, they had pans and pans of candy corn and gummy bears. Naturally, I grabbed two handful of gummy bears, popped a few in my mouth and the rest in my pocket. I like gummy bears a lot. I learned I like them even more whilst running for three hours. Somewhere along 33rd, there was a couple in tiger costumes on top of a car. They were dancing to ‘Eye of the Tiger’ which was blasting from their speakers. Funny and oddly motivating.
As we ran over the bridge which crossed I-83, the road I take every day to work, I knew we were close. But here I ran into the day’s latest problem– one I had never encountered during my training: I cramped up. I knew it was coming a little bit before it happened, but it was too late. My left leg seized and its muscles quickly contracted, forcing me into a walker’s pace momentarily. Maybe it was for a second. Maybe 10. Either way, I was pissed and disappointed, but it was out of my hands. Had I eaten an extra banana half or allowed less of the Gatorade to spill on my chest, maybe I would have avoided it, but alas I was cramping and not sure what to do. Knowing I had just two miles to go, I pushed on. For a second, I thought the cramp would return, but it didn’t. Not sure if drowning it out was the best strategy, but it worked. It didn’t come back again.
My playlist, which had helped me so much throughout the run, died. This wasn’t the worst thing in the world, though, because we were heading back toward downtown Baltimore, with all of its spectators again cheering us on.
We ran past Eutaw Street and back into Camden Yards. Not sure if it was my emotions or something else, but my chest closed up and I thought I couldn’t breathe for a second. Eventually got a hold of myself as I crossed the Babe Ruth statue and entrance into Oriole Park. I didn’t cry or anything, but I certainly understand why peole might. It is incredibly overwhelming. I saw my mom and my aunt to my left and, before I knew it, I was at the finish line.
I finished in 3:55:59 and was thrilled. I had secretly set a goal of sub four hours and was stoked that I had hit my time. After crossing the line, I entered the corral to receive my beautiful finisher’s medal and heat foil, which I don’t think did much of anything. My stiffness almost immediately set in and I met up with my personal cheering section– my family and friends who had faced the early wake up and cold temperatures to root me on. I am forever grateful for their presence. If any of them ever decided to run, I promise to be there cheering them on.
After some stiff stumbling around and photos, I got in the car and returned home. Of course, we stopped off for some Italian ice. When we got home, I ate some rainbow cake (my favorite, take note), a big bagel, and then passed out for a few hours. I did it. Enter, post-marathon depression, a syndrome we’ll discuss another time, on another day.