Saturday, September 15, 2018

2018 Charles Street 12 Miler

I was suppose to run the Charles Street 12 Miler race last year and ended up passing based in large part on laziness if I remember correctly.  So, this year I was motivated to get out there and try out this point to point event in Baltimore, MD.  While on 12 miles long, it winds through or by 6 universities in the Baltimore area.  Two of these schools are my alma maters so I knew I was going to enjoy the race from a nostalgia point of view.  The schools include: Goucher, Towson, Notre Dame, Loyola, Johns Hopkins and University of Baltimore.

Most of the race takes place on historic Charles Street which has some beautiful architecture including estate homes, cathedrals and churches.  As with most race events it is really hard to sometimes take in the scenery and at the same time shoot for that PR if that is your goal.  In this case I was somewhere in between.  I haven't been running as fast the last two years, so I managed to take in some of the beauty and still come across the finish line in a reasonable time, if not a great time.

I knew the race was net downhill, but to be honest it seemed to have more ascents than I had expected  But according to Strava on a mile by mile split, there was a total downhill change of 497 feet and only about 141 feet of elevation gain.

Strava Elevation Map of Charles Street 12 Miler

Along with Charm City Run, the races primary sponsor is Under Armour, and in fact the race ends at their headquarters in Tide Point on Baltimore Harbor.  As a point to point race, your entry fee includes $5 for bus transportation from Tide Point to the starting area at the Shops at Kenilworth just north of Towson.

Another great benefit of this race is race day packet pick-up.  Living outside Frederick, MD, none of the packet pick-up locations in the days prior to the race worked for me.  They are all located at Charm City Run stores which puts on the event, but the Frederick store location isn't one of them.  Since I work in Reston, VA my only option is race day.

The "shops" area was also open to race participants so we were able to sit, stretch and relax indoors prior to the race start which was really nice.  Of course the only store that was opened was a coffee shop out in the parking lot area.  As you would expect many racers were taking advantage of a snack and some caffeine.

Strava Map of the Charles Street 12 Miler Run

The route is very straight forward and well marked.  The emergency personal, volunteers and race staff did a great job and stopping traffic and directing runners.  For such a busy area, it never felt dangerous along the route.

After starting out on Kenilworth Ave, you make right turn onto Bosley Ave.  After approaching Towson University, my first alma mater, you turn right onto West Towsontown Blvd.  It was interesting to see that my old dorm building has been totally renovated; it looked great.

Race photo at Washington Monument on Charles Street in Mount Vernon area

The next turn was a left onto Osler Drive which take you through the center of Towson University between the Student Union and the Football Stadium.  At this point you also start up what is arguable the longest ascent in the entire race.  Most of Osler Drive is uphill, followed by a slightly steeper climb after turning right onto Stevenson Lane.  By the time you reach the crest you have been climbing for about 1.2 miles and are 2.8 miles into the race.

Under Armour Headquarters Building

At mile 3.6 you make a left turn onto historic Charles Street and will start to make your way by some really beautiful homes, churches and several additional universities.  Your time on Charles street is pretty much all downhill with a few short climbs from time to time to keep it interesting and give your quads a break.  Your time on Charles Street doesn't end until you reach mile 10.3 and turn left onto Lee Street followed by a quick right onto Key Highway.

Domino Sugar on Key Highway

For the last 1.6 miles or so you remain on Key Highway passing some really great retail shops, coffee shops, apartments, condos and even the Domino Sugar factory before approaching the Under Armour headquarters and cross the finish line.

Finish line under the Under Armour HQ pedestrian bridge

After crossing the finish line you are greeted by volunteers with cooling towels soaked in ice water, bottled water, your finishers medal and snacks.  Your bib contains a pull off tag for a free beer from any one of the several vendors that were participating,  They had a large variety of beers and ciders to choose from.  There were also cold sodas available to participants that didn't want to indulge.  The other tear off ticket on the bib was for BBQ provided by Mission BBQ.  They had both pulled Pork and pulled Chicken along with corn bread, coleslaw, baked beans and mac and cheese.

Charles Street 12 Miler Finishers Medal

Overall this was a really enjoyable event and I would certainly do it again as well as encourage others to also give it a try.  One lesson learned centered on parking.  I have to admit that the pre-race communications were really well done and were very informative.  And the fact that I parked in the "wrong" lot was really my fault.  That being said I want to make sure others understand that parking off Key Highway north of Under Armour will cause you to be stuck until the last runner passes by around 11am.   If you want to be able to head home after completing the event and having a snack you should park in the triangle lots off Hull Street.

Buses start leaving Under Armour at 5:30am with the last bus departing at 6:45am.  This is plenty of time for you to arrive, park and get to the starting area before the 7:30am start.  If you are doing race day packet pick-up, volunteers are equipment with registrant names so they know to allow you on the bus.  After getting your bib and your other race premiums you can take them over to bag drop and then pick everything up again at the finish area.  Again, very will organized.

Another thing to keep in mind if you enjoy race series events is that the Charles Street 12 Miler is part of the Baltimore B3 Race Series.  You can find more information on their website.  The finishers medals are designed to go together which may be why the shape of this single medal may seem odd to folks. I believe this year the medals create the shape of a shoe with this event completing the heel.

Hopefully this entry will inspire others to give this event a try.  This is a great race, mostly down hill, and a great training event for those working on a new half marathon PR.