A Half Marathon Under the Belt

16 Oct

Ben and I before the race

Yesterday was a busy one, awaking in darkness at 6 am and getting ready to head in to Baltimore with my friend Ben and his girlfriend Mackenzie. Because the Baltimore Marathon was starting ahead of the Half Marathon, parking in the city wasn’t really an option for us, so instead we drove to the closest train station to park and take the public transportation right to the center. For us, it was all starting and ending down by Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium. We got in early which was good, because we had enough time to check out the starting line, stretch and do a little pre-jog to get the blood flowing. The sun was starting to heat things up, and we were fortunate enough to have perfect weather for the race.

As time got closer, the racers began to line up in their appropriate waves, and so Ben and I took our place at the front of the line. Even though I’ve run in Ecuador and Argentina, this was my first race in the United States. Things seemed very organized, and our excitement was high as we were cheered on by local politicians and the National Anthem before beginning. We were hoping to complete the 13.1 mile (21 kilometer) race in about 1 hour, 50 minutes, but we hadn’t been training to extensively in the last few weeks. We are, after all, students with busy lives.

The race began downtown and moved quickly to northern neighborhoods of Baltimore. The first five miles were uphill and downhill, wearing a toll on many participants, but we kept on as well as we could, while our aches and pains from months of running and building up were drowned out by determination to finish. The race was nice because we basically got a city tour of Baltimore, and I got to see parts of the city I otherwise never would have. It seemed like we took some sketchy turns at places, and passed through parts of the city where the HBO show “The Wire” might be filmed. Boarded up doors and knocked out windows lined the low-rise houses as lone cops guarded the traffic at intersections and locals supported us as we ran by.

I have to say–the residents of Baltimore were pretty entertaining as we ran by, banging on cowbells, holding up funny and ironic signs, and even dressing in costumes like animals and zombies while dancing on top of cars. The Baltimore Running Festival has grown in size every year since its inception 11 years ago, and this year was another sell out for all of the categories. By the 58th minute we had reached a small but pretty lake and began to turn back to see the thousands of people behind us. Anytime you’re running a race, you get excited to see the mass of people in front of you. But even more exhilarating is seeing the thousands more who are behind you, telling you that you’re doing okay.

After the race, beer and donuts in hand

Helicopters flew overhead and local bands played 80s tunes as we continued down through the city and back towards downtown. We crossed a bridge and were just almost there as the crowds continued to grow. Every two miles we were resupplied with water and Gatorade, and I kept falling in a trap whereby I’d use the water to clean off the Gatorade on my hands, then get Gatorade and spill it on my hands while running, spending the next two miles trying to lick it off until I got water again. This was the first time I ate an energy bar during a race, and I feel like it really helped in the later miles.

To end it all we ran through Camden Yards, which was my first experience in the ball park, and then crossed the finish line in the parking lot at M&T Bank Stadium, where the Ravens play. I thought we were going to end on the field, but I guess they have a game there today. Our official time was 1 hour, 51 minutes, 55 seconds. We guessed pretty well what we would get. In the staging area we were given medals and heat sheets, food, water, and vouchers for beer which we gladly accepted. I still love my traditional celebratory beer post-race. There was even a free photo booth and to cap it off, we ate some donuts before heading back to Washington.

So now I’ve got a half marathon under my belt, and if you think I’m going to tackle a full marathon next, you’re crazy. As thrilling as it was to complete it and even though at the time I felt like I could keep going, I don’t think I have it in me for 26.2 mile run. My body isn’t hurting as badly as it could, but I don’t know if it can handle that much exertion. For now I’m going to cut back and go back to running 10 kilometer runs just like in Argentina and Ecuador. That’ll do, pig.

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