Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Baltimore Marathon

Travel plans required that I miss the Marine Corps Marathon this year, so I quickly deferred to 2017.  That left me one marathon shy of five which I was shooting for after the Marine Corps Marathon so I could purchase a yellow OSAAT Sport band.  The color of the bands signifies the number of marathons you have run, and I figured getting to five would be a nice place to start for my first band.

The solution to this problem?  A last minute sign up for the Baltimore Marathon.  This event was actually my first official Marathon race ever, and it happened only a one year ago in 2015.  You can read all about it in last years blog post.  My marathon PR was captured here and while I knew the time would still be safe from any threat on my part, the challenging nature and location of the course seemed like an easy choice.

The weather was absultely perfect.  Running weather in the Maryland area becomes exceptional in October, but this was a really great race day.  Cool temperature, no humidity, clear skies and absolutely no wind.

Last year I drove up for the race expo and packet pickup on Friday and then drove up again early Saturday morning for race day.  As you can read in my prior post, traffic and parking was very well managed so it wasn't much of an issue, but this year I decided to stay the night Friday night so that I could sleep in a bit more Saturday morning.  Since my wife was running the half marathon we could both benefit from the extra sleep.

View of 5K/Full Marathon start from hotel (Camden Yards to the left)

I got a fairly good price at the Hilton Baltimore via a link/discount code off of the Baltimore Running Festival website.  While it was higher than normal for Friday night, it was a very convenient location as the starting line for the Marathon (and the 5K) is right in front of the hotel, and the Half Marathon starting line is just down the street.  You finish in the parking lot between Ravens Stadium and Camden Yards, so the walk back is short.

Location Map

This year the Expo was in the Baltimore Convention center which you can see in the map above is just down Pratt Street from the hotel as well which even made that a short walk.  Last year it was in Raven's stadium which was actually a longer walk from the parking lot as you wind up the walkways in the stadium to where the Expo was located.  I think this new location worked better.

Starting line view looking back at the Hilton
The Full Marathon course was largely the same as last year with a few minor exceptions around the Wyman Park area and also by the Under Armour headquarters.  Last year we actually ran around the primary building and then back towards the Half Marathon starting line, but this year we stopped short and did a quick 180 degree turn back to the Half Marathon starting line area.

I am a huge Under Armour fan, and have way to many cloths from them, so not getting to go through the entire campus was a bit of a let down, but they still had the DJ and music blaring which is great as you are approaching mile 11 at that point in the course. [footnote: if anyone from UA reads this and wants to sponsor a old, mediocre runner, I am your guy]

Strava Full Marathon Map

With only minor changes to the course I could determine outlined above, the overall elevation challenges of the course didn't change dramatically either. You can get a detailed description of the course in last years post, but according to Strava the elevation gain this year was right on the money at 960 feet.  Nothing to take lightly for sure; hill training is a must if you plan on doing any of the races in Baltimore, but especially the Full Marathon.

Strava Elevation Chart

Last year I ran the race alone and frankly went out of the gate a little too fast, and while I held good split times until 16, my times continued to degrade after that until the finish.  While I didn't think I could beat my PR this year (I have been running slower as of late), I decided to try and stick with the 3:45 pace group if for no other reason than to have better pace management on the course.

I have to say that running with the pace group was really great.  The lead pacer (Marcie) has done this race about 10 times if I remember correctly so her knowledge of the course and challenges was exceptional.  She was great at reminding us to conserve energy on the long down hill runs even though we may want to pick up our pace (which I did last year).

I was sticking with the group fairly well until about mile 11 when I got hung up at a water stop and I was never really able to catch back up.  After that my times continued to fluctuate through the remainder of the course.  I had some good split times at miles 13 and 15 but overall I was degrading on average.  I had run the Via Marathon the month before and I think that not only was I struggling against my lack of training this year, but also had not recovered fully from that event.

So, while I didn't set any time records Strava did point out that this was my second best Marathon time overall, so not a bad day after all.  I can start focusing on speed again through the winter and try and improve my time next year.

As with last year, race support was great.  Lots of volunteers out there cheering you on and working the water stops.  There are plenty of stops throughout the course and I never felt as thought was was "overdue".  My favorite stop is still the snack stop right around mile 20.5 for the full marathon and 7.5 for the half.  They have the standard water and sports drink but also have potato chips, bananas and other snacks.  While I didn't partake of anything last year, I had several potato chips from the bag and really felt a pick me up.

Full Marathon Medal in Closed Position
While I thought the medal last year was really special, this years medal was really unique.  Since the race is in Maryland they went with a full on crab theme.  The 5k medal was a small crab and both the half marathon and full marathon medals were large 3D looking crabs that open up via a magnetic latch.  The primary difference between the half and the full is the color and the total milage carved into the top of the crab shell.

Full Marathon Medal in Open Position

The only negative I experienced is the food at the finish line.  The variety isn't great and certainly not what I normally eat after a long run.  I know my time wasn't great and the 5k runners, several full marathon runners and half marathon runners had all finished, so perhaps they ate all the stuff I would have wanted.  All that was left was a few bananas, some hot and spicy chips and lots of sugar loaded "protein bars".

Unfortunately my wives experience was a little worse.  Not only was there really no real food left at the finish line for her, she didn't get her event medal.  Apparently runners were either taking extra medals because the volunteers said they could, or they were just stolen, but either way they ran out and the last 150 or so runners didn't get one.  As of the first week in November we are still waiting to get her medal in the mail, but according to the event staff it is in process, they have been very communicative on the issue.

UPDATE (11/10/2016): My wife's half marathon medal arrived safely packed in a bubble envelope.

Overall, this was a good event.  A great time of year in MD for a race and nice scenery and great support overall.  I do recommend this race, but let me reiterate that this is a challenging course all around, for all three races, so please keep that in mind and train well.

No comments:

Post a Comment