Baltimore Marathon a hilly success

I’m in pain today. But it’s the good kind of pain — the type of pain that serves as a reminder that I just ran 26.2 miles.

Here I am outside Abbey Burger Bistro after finishing the 2015 Baltimore Marathon, with my medal. (Michael Piorunski photo)
Here I am outside Abbey Burger Bistro after finishing the 2015 Baltimore Marathon, with my medal. (Michael Piorunski photo)

I made it up the type of hills we don’t have in Salisbury. I made it through coughing fits. I made it through despite a painful toe in the middle of the race.

I ran my fourth marathon, the 2015 Baltimore Marathon, on Saturday in 4 hours, 52 minutes and 36 seconds.

That’s an average pace of 11:11 per mile. I didn’t have a specific time goal, but I would have liked to have been able to finish the race in less than four-and-a-half hours. But with the coughing, and the hills, I am happy with the time. My personal record is actually from my first marathon, the Rehoboth Beach Seashore Marathon, in 2013 — 4:17:45.

My watch — which also logged 26.49 miles; I guess that means I didn’t run the tangents well — logged 965 feet of elevation gain. That’s the most I’ve tracked in a single run since I started using my current watch in May. It’s possible this could be the second-highest elevation gain I’ve ever logged in a single run — first would have to be the Big Sur International Marathon, which I ran in 5:18:04.

I started training for this marathon on July 6. While I didn’t follow a specific plan, I did have a long run schedule and also made sure to put in hill work. Much of the beginning of the course was hilly, but I felt strong on those hills. The hills in the second half of the race, though, were harder.

With the amount of participants in the Baltimore Running Festival, I was a little concerned about parking. But once I arrived early Saturday morning — probably between about 6:20 and 6:30 a.m. for the 8 a.m. start— I was surprised to see an abundance of open parking. It was easy to find a spot in Lot A at Camden Yards, which was close to both the start and finish. I had enough time to use the portable toilets and even take a nap that lasted about 20 minutes or so before making it to the start.

Here's a photo of the Baltimore Marathon map, which I took at the race expo, where I picked up my bib and race shirt. (Vanessa Junkin photo)
Here’s a photo of the Baltimore Marathon map, which I took at the race expo, where I picked up my bib and race shirt. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

The race did have a hilly start (here’s the link to the map and elevation) and although I didn’t want to expend all my energy, I felt relatively strong at this point. According to my watch, I did the first four miles in 10:09, 10:11, 10:17 and 10:03 — relatively consistent. But I did have to use the bathroom, and two early portable toilet stops left me with the next two miles at 13:07 and 13:15.

At the second bathroom stop, I realized that the 4:45 pace group had passed me. I tried to make up some of the lost time for the next two miles, which my watch logged at 9:28 and 9:40, and I did end up passing the pace group.

I was running barely in front of them beginning with somewhere from the Mile 9-11 marker, to the area somewhere around Mile 18, where I ended up taking another bathroom break. Then, I never caught up with them again.

The 4:45 group was an extremely motivating group. I was trying to stay in front of them because I was hoping to finish in under 4:45, but I could tell that the pacers were very energetic. I kept hearing someone blowing a horn, and at the Mile 15 mile marker, I realized that the person was blowing a horn for each completed mile — at the Mile 15 marker, the person blew the horn 15 times, and I could hear this continue at each mile where I was near them. There was also lots of cheering coming from the group.

Plus, having them just behind me encouraged me to run at times when I may have otherwise walked. I did walk when I needed to during the race, including up some hills.

I had started out near the 4:30 pace group and was able to meet up with a Cambridge runner who I had interviewed for a ShoreWoman article. She ended up finishing way ahead of me.

I completed the first half of the race, according to the live ChronoTrack timing, in 2:22:15.

The second half of the race seemed to have more crowd support, which made sense because part of the first half wasn’t really in a residential area — the Maryland Zoo. There was a zoo employee holding a penguin on the course, and if I had my phone with me, I would have stopped to take a picture with the penguin. I let out an “Awwww” when I saw the cute penguin, and continued on my way.

I liked reading all the signs spectators were holding throughout the race, and there were people dressed up, including the tiger I had heard about, and someone dressed as Winnie the Pooh. At one point, I was running near someone dressed up as Bat Girl, and people were cheering for her by that name. A couple people that I didn’t even know cheered for me by bib number — 2121! I also got a bunch of high fives along the course, which was motivating and did help me get back into running if I had been walking, because I’d run through to high five people and then keep running.

If you look at the elevation chart, you’ll see that the middle of the course is relatively flat. At that part, I was thinking along the lines of “Oh, those hills weren’t that bad.” I was wrong. As you can see in this course description, there were some pretty bad hills — particularly around Mile 18 or 19 or so. Mile 17 for me was run in 11:53, Mile 18 was 14:52 (this included the portable toilet stop), Mile 19 was 11:37 and Mile 20 was 12:15.

To use the word mentioned in that description, getting to Lake Montebello was in fact a “relief.” It was great to be able to enjoy some flatter running, and I was very happy that much of the end was downhill. Once I had five miles left, I really felt like I was getting close to the end. I was calculating what I needed to do to finish the course in under five hours, and I had a pretty decent cushion. I heard some other runners talking about that, too, and by the time we had about 2.2 miles left, we still had about a half hour to run that before hitting the 5-hour mark.

Here's my finisher medal and race bib. (Vanessa Junkin photo)
Here’s my finisher medal and race bib. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

I tried to finish strong, with my last miles coming in at 10:37 (Mile 25) and 10:31 (Mile 26). Since my watch logged a little bit over, the last part, 0.49, was run in 4:32. I was thinking I may have a chance to finish in under 4:50, but that didn’t end up happening.

During my first marathon — Rehoboth — I ended up having some pain in the bottom of my toe near the end of the race. That toe pain, which I never get on a regular run, came back in my left-foot toe next to my big toe during this marathon, around the Mile 9 mile marker or so. It continued for several miles, but seemed to fade away. That was not fun, though.

I also suffered through coughing for what seemed like most of the marathon. This is also something that never happens on a regular run, and I’m not sure if it was because I just had a cold about two weeks ago, or what. I just couldn’t seem to stop coughing, and was thankful for the many water stops on the course. There was lots of water, and at one water stop relatively early on, I even took a Munchkin doughnut. I didn’t carry any water with me, but I did carry my Clif Shot Bloks and ate three of those with water approximately every six miles.

It was nice to see my friend Nicole, who I had just done my last long run with, out on the course as well — she was running the half marathon.

Here's a photo of me actually smiling as I near the finish of the Baltimore Marathon. There are other photos in which I look in pain and pretty horrible, at no fault of the photographer. (Paul Renda photo)
Here’s a photo of me actually smiling as I near the finish of the Baltimore Marathon. There are other photos in which I look in pain and pretty horrible, at no fault of the photographer. (Paul Renda photo)

As I finished the course on Eutaw Street through Camden Yards, my mom and stepdad were there supporting me.

Afterward I got some water and my medal and made it over to the food tent, where it was a bit disappointing that there were only bananas, oranges (which I don’t personally like), granola bars and chips. But there was similar food at Big Sur, and I’m thinking I might have gotten a little spoiled for running Rehoboth, a smaller race, for my first two marathons — where there is mac and cheese and pulled pork. I did get a banana and two granola bars, and got to enjoy lunch and dinner out afterward. I didn’t make it over to the celebration village, because by the time I got back to my car, I didn’t really want to move.

I basically couldn’t have asked for better weather, and I was comfortable in my short-sleeve shirt and shorts.

With my birthday coming up, this was my last race in the 20-24 age group, although I was far from placing, which I expected. I actually got 109th out of 139 women 20-24, which hopefully just means there are some super fast people out there. Here are the results.

Despite the pain and coughing, I did enjoy this course and getting to run through so much of Baltimore, some of which I’d already seen and some of which was new to me. Some of it I had actually run before with my boyfriend, and since he’s done this marathon before, he had pointed out areas that were on the course when we ran there, which was a while ago.

I am thinking I might try a flatter course for my next marathon to see what kind of time I can get on that type of course. But as for the rest of 2015? That will be spent running, but not marathoning.


According to Garmin watch, which logged 26.49 miles.

Mile 1: 10:09

Mile 2: 10:11

Mile 3: 10:17

Mile 4: 10:03

Mile 5: 13:07

Mile 6: 13:15

Mile 7: 9:28

Mile 8: 9:40

Mile 9: 10:18

Mile 10: 9:50

Mile 11: 10:31

Mile 12: 10:17

Mile 13: 11:29

Mile 14: 10:33

Mile 15: 11:04

Mile 16: 10:31

Mile 17: 11:53

Mile 18: 14:52

Mile 19: 11:37

Mile 20: 12:15

Mile 21: 10:37

Mile 22: 12:15

Mile 23: 11:58

Mile 24: 11:03

Mile 25: 10:37

Mile 26: 10:31

Last part (watch logged as .49): 4:32

3 thoughts on “Baltimore Marathon a hilly success

  1. Thank you for the writeup about the 4:45 pace group! Those comments are very motivating to continue what we do. I will forward your comments along the chain. Come run with us next year, you can help count the horn blowing.   Sometimes I lose track. The GPS distance coming to 26.49 is due to a few factors. The course is measured on the inside of every turn, which is a biggie on a crowded course. Plus there are small GPS errors which add up over 4+ hours, and it’s worse on cloudy days and in the city with tall buildings. And then there are those bathroom breaks, which is a small addition but you also get some errors inside the potty.


Comments are closed.