Race Report: Baltimore Marathon

One thing I’ve realized over the past few months is that when you are simultaneously working full time, going to grad school full time, and training for endurance running, things start falling by the wayside. Case in point: this blog. So much has happened in my life since I last posted, most importantly of which was a 30 MINUTE PR AT THE BALTIMORE MARATHON!

This, my friends, is quite possibly my greatest running achievement to-date. Why haven’t I posted about it yet? Well, right after my race I had a combination of a mid-term, 20-minute climate presentation, research report, launch prep for a website at work, comment letter for a piece of climate legislation (that would set us back decades in terms of clean energy solutions) and seeing my wonderful boyfriend every so often. Now, that’s not why you’re on this blog, but I felt the need to explain my lack of attention lately!

On to the race report!

On October 17th, I laced up my running shoes with one goal in mind: break 4 hours on my marathon. Back in March, I ran my first marathon in probably the worst manner possible. I had been injured, it was pouring rain, it was 30 degrees at the start line, and I hadn’t run more than 11 miles at one time in over 6 weeks. Still, I finished in 4:24 with tears in my eyes and pain in my knees knowing that ‘hey, I just did something that some people dream of doing their whole lives’. Well, this race just wasn’t good enough for me. I was embarrassed by my time, disappointed in my training (due to silly training practices that led to my own demise. Editors note: never ramp up training from 0 miles per month due to international travel in the Himalaya’s to 140 miles per month. Something will go wrong).

Anyways, this time I was smart about training, listened to my body, and was out for some blood in this race. I scheduled my summer race calendar in anticipation of this marathon, and successfully completed 20-miles at an 8:40ish pace, giving me the confidence boost I needed to push through Baltimore.

Baltimore, however, is a beast of its own. Mountainous it is not, BUT there are some serious hills in this race that could cripple a runner who had not adequately trained. I knew going in that there was 3-miles uphill right from the start, and that miles 16-20 were often compared to Heartbreak Hill in Boston. My weekly long runs therefore made sure to incorporate significant hills usually towards the end of my run to get my legs used to the fatigue. Again, this paid off.

I started the race with the 4 hour pace group, concerned with the rookie mistake of going out too fast and ruining the second half. I stayed slightly behind them the first 2 miles as we pushed up the hill towards the zoo. Around mile 3, I started to make a move, catching the pace group and then, once we crested at the zoo and began our 2 miles of rolling hills in the zoo, I passed them. I have always been a strong downhill runner, which makes up for my lackluster uphill climbing. I zipped past runners, feeling energized by the morning sun, our penguin friends that came to great us, and the beautiful vista overlooking the lake.

I knew Chris and my mom were going to be around mile 7 or 8, so I kept this pace up. Having motivation and knowing that I would have support at very specific points along the course kept my spirits high. When you know you will have a cheerleader, that little voice in your head really pushes you to achieve greater results.

Mile 8 came and went. I high-fived my mom, laughed at Chris as he struggled to get the camera ready, and zipped passed my loved ones with a sense of strength and determination. The next 5-miles were flat as we ran around the inner harbor. At mile 11, fear crept in as my ankle started having searing pain shooting up the tendon from my foot to my knee. What was going on, I still do not know. I slowed my pace, connected with a fellow pace group member about the pain, and agreed with him that I should adjust pace, shake it out, and save my ankle for the coming miles.

At mile 13, the pain started to subside. I pushed through cautiously, maintaining a steady pace, and hitting my goal time marks still. I had an old college roommate (hi Katie!) come out for mile 15 or 16, but I had no idea where she would be, so I was running faster, watching the crowds with excitement, and when I finally saw her, it was the perfect point in the race: just as the hills started. She high fived me, and I kicked it up the start of mile 16.

The hills were actually not as bad as I thought they would be! My training paid off, as I thought I would be facing massive uphill climbs with steep incline and knee busting distances. Much to my surprise, these hills were nothing like my training runs, and for the most part, the only factor that came in to play was that there were 4 miles of them. I kicked it up the hill, zipped around the lake, and headed for home.

As I crossed the finish line, I cried, but not in pain this time, in happiness. I crushed my goal and crossed the finish line in 3:54, a full 30-minutes ahead of my previous race and a sub-9 minute pace! Hard word, determination, and a little bit of guts got me to where I am, and I am so excited to see what comes next.

Maybe a Boston Qualifier :)