Posts Tagged ‘marathons’

Maryland

I never intended to actually start running a marathon in all 50 states. To be honest, my aunt Ginger put the thought in my head when she told me she was going to do it and now? She has yet to run her first marathon and I have 11 down! Number 9 Baltimore is the one marathon that I may go out of my way to repeat before I conclude all 50 states. Baltimore was my Waterloo so far.

My plans to go to Baltimore were not the best. First, I signed up on a whim. Am I fan of Baltimore? I have never been but when you are home to both the greatest baseball team of all time – The Baltimore Orioles and the greatest TV show of all time – The Wire? It was only a matter of about ten states before I would visit this fair town! I signed up and asked almost every person I knew to go with me – a road trip to Balamer? Who could say no? Who? Um, apparently pretty much everyone.

So I did post on Facebook that I would like someone to go with me and I was lucky enough to have my friend Nani say I should stop by and visit her in Indianapolis? Not a bad idea and cheap! So I talked to my other friends – The Graves – and they said I could stop by on the way down. I knew I could stop by Nani’s on the way back and I was good to go. I got a hotel and it was my first official marathon trip that I had actually planned. And just in case you are wondering? I am not a good marathon planner. Not even close.

I drove 8 hours to Indy, hung with the Graves for a night and then left at 5 in the morn to go to Baltimore and drove into Baltimore around 4 PM. I had a hell of a time finding my hotel and settled into a really nice room. I left immediately to go to the expo and barely got to enjoy the room.

The Baltimore Running Festival not only has a superior name to most marathons but it has a superior expo as well. There were plenty of vendors and lots of Under Armour – have to admit that was a big reason for choosing to go so hastily. It was a sweet UA race shirt – long sleeved (eh, who likes long sleeved running shirts anyway?) and they had plenty of Baltimore running gear as well. It was the closest I have become to breaking down and actually buying a shirt. That sounds cheap but I do get at least one free shirt per run so buying another one seems crazy when I already have 10 running shirts!

And to top it off? City Sports was debuting the UA Charge running shoe less than a mile away! Now that sounds a bit like me selling out but City Sports had it going on! They had 5 treadmills and let you run once you put the shoes on, experts to explain what technology went into the shoe and even a pretty cool T-shirt you got for free just for trying them on (you could even get your name decaled on the back – I mistakenly chose not to – time wasting I figured) and then a free pair of socks too. This may all seem like I am really selling the product? But you know what? A couple years ago there used to be all sorts of free swag at expos and thank you UA for spending a little bit extra to make this side extravaganza worth it. Sometimes a sponsor can make an event just as much as the city.

The race could not come quick enough and the next morning I took off and was sure I could break the mythical 3:10 and make my way to Baltimore! We ran past dozens of row houses, the zoo, and back through downtown again. I was just behind the 3 hour guy! The 3:10 guy was waaaay behind me! I hit the halfway point and I was looking fine but then my leg fell apart and I started to slow way down. I was just waiting for that 3:10 bastard to catch me. He did at mile 17 and it hurt. Even worse? The halfway point is also where the half marathoners started and at Mile 19 they started passing me en force. It was just so devastating to watch yourself get passed by dozens of runners every minute – very deflating.

Around Mile 24 the 3:30 guy passed me and I watched a couple guys run with him – way to go guys. In case you are wondering about who those guys are? People actually run an entire marathon at a certain pace! Some even hold signs to show their pace times – can you imagine how tired your arm would get holding some stick with a number on it (I know most are thinking about my legs but that number would just kill me). Then some people run the entire race with this guy and go along at the same pace! What an inspiration! I only wish I could have the determination to just sit and stay at a pace rather than race forward and fall back.

The race ended and what a fantastic festival at the end! There were thousands of people, games for children like bouncing tents, and quite a bit of free foods and drinks – best selection I have seen in some time! I only wish I could have stuck around but my awesome planning already had me late to leave from my hotel room (they didn’t care). But as soon as I checked out at 1? I had to leave immediately to go to Indy and hit the town at ten at night to hang with Nani. That was actually a ton of fun as well. I just wish I didn’t have to drive ten hours to get there.

I said it before – I will say it again I have to do Baltimore again. I need to visit Camden Yards and have a tour. I need to visit the aquarium. I need to try some local cuisine. But most of all, I owe my dream city a better time than 3:34. It is hard to explain how much I was looking forward to the city to not only not qualify for Boston but to then have one of worst marathons. I suppose dreams don’t always come true.

Oklahoma

I was pretty damn excited to go to Oklahoma. Yes, I am not making that up and yes, it was Tulsa, Oklahoma not even Oklahoma City. Then again, I really damn excited to go to Fargo, North Dakota. As I presupposed to another 50 stater – not only are we crazy as hell for running these damn things and looking forward to putting our bodies through hell? On top of that – we are insane for wanting to go to the most backwater places in the US and we look forward to it! Look forward to it! And to top it off – can you believe Tulsa is less than 10 hours away and it is named after Route 66? I asked another new “runner” to go with me and she said it was too expensive? Those quotation marks are there for a reason folks.

Anyway, Tulsa is a lot better and bigger than you may think. It has its share of skyscrapers and we actually did get lost due to road closures and there are some nice neighbors and bad neighborhoods to boot. There are some beautiful, beautiful buildings downtown and a couple small neighborhoods I would like to visit if I ever go back. The nice thing about places you can drive to in a day is you don’t have to take a day off to run 26.2, the bad part is you don’t get to know them like you wish you could – just run 26.2. The weather was a balmy 75 degrees – beautiful. It was set up for a great run – I may be the only runner on Earth who actually would much rather start the day at 70 than 42 degrees.

The expo was wonderful with lots of great vendors and top notch. A first class event all around. I mean that. If there is one thing I would like to really point out about the Route 66 marathon? They really cater to the running crowd. They give special attention to all the big running clubs – Marathon Maniacs, Half Fanatics and 50 States Marathon Club. They give discounts to us and treat us like royalty giving us our own tent at the finish line where we can booze it up if so desired. They advertise on all the websites and running magazines and invite all the other big middle America events to advertise in their Expo – we are talking Little Rock, Cincinnati and Fort Worth. Believe it or not us runners love these places because they put runners first.

And the runners? They show. There must have been at least 100 marathon maniacs there. You could see that ugly bile yellow color wherever you went (seriously just go to the website and tell me it isn’t ugly). The regulars were all there and probably signing up for Little Rock just like me too. It was nice. You could go anywhere and someone would talk to you about whatever running shirt you had on. You weren’t just in town – everyone there seemed to know about the marathon. There were conversations from grizzled vets to newbies with tips and what race you should run next. It was a pure delight to see it all – to feel like one in a crowd rather than that odd guy at work who chooses to run for a vacation? These people would enjoy nothing more as well.

Race day came and it quickly dropped to 42 degrees with a damp cool air and a bone-chilling breeze – I would say gusts of winds but someone else who ran this race may call me a liar. But it was… how do you say not fun? Seriously my mind was not that negative at first. They had chutes first of all or corrals – where runners start at a staggered pace so that it doesn’t create a bottleneck of runners. Group A starts and then all the way down to D. I got an A start – which is where I usually start and this race was no exception. The half marathoners started with the full marathoners and it is nice to run in that number for a while and then when the halves break off you feel an accomplishment like “I can keep this pace up and keep going twice the distance!” Not that I ever keep the pace up.

Anyway, it was set up perfectly – once again top notch job in Tulsa. And starting in that group? It was warm. As a matter of fact I even considered taking off long sleeves at mile three but it was not to be. My pace was never quite there and my leg hurt even during the first mile. I was able to keep up well until mile 13 when the halves left and then winds caught me and well, I came in around 3:34 and it was not that much fun at all. I did put in a hell of a kick in the final mile and passed a few runners so that was fun but then again, they had all just passed me the mile before. Meh.

Other than that? Fantastic course – you really got to see Tulsa. A nice little showing area, the University of Tulsa and some catholic university I would like to see on my time off running – it was that nice. They had a detour where you could visit the “Center of the Universe” a place with some echo issues – it was quite fun actually. You went through most of downtown and it really showed the town off. I can see why this would be a favorite of marathoners. I feel they probably like it to begin with and Tulsa embraced the whole come enjoy the run feel and made it like a place to be every year for the running crowd. Heck, I am a bit sad I won’t be back next year (just like Fargo actually).

In hindsight, I loved the run and hope to do better next time out no matter how I bitch about the time or how my running went. It just was not my day and 8 days may not be enough rest to put in another 26.2 at the fever pitch I like. In any case make it state 11 for both the 50 states and 50 under 4. I would like to put a bit of perspective on this as a competitive runner. I once read another runner who stated – there are only 2 types of runs your best run and everything else that was not. And unlike Charlotte, this one was not and it just bugs me to no end. Thank you Tulsa for welcoming runners and caring about the events you put together!