Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Good News

As Christians, we all know the good news; the four gospels of Mark, John, Matthew, and Luke and the rest of the new testament, the coming of the Kingdom of God, Jesus' death on the cross and the resurrection to restore people's relationship with God. The Old Testament foretells what was and is going to happen. Jesus and our salvation therein is the good news. There are 44 mentions of good news in the bible (NIV). 
Light in a messenger’s eyes brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones. Proverbs 15:30
We all love good news. I also believe that the bible is the handbook for life and that anything we can understand or gleam from the bible to apply to our own lives should so be done. That has not always been the case for me and I have asked God and the Lord Jesus for forgiveness of my sins.  I also believe in the purity of the bible, the doctrine as written and the significance of such.  Applying the Word is what brings us into alignment with God through Jesus.

So, as this blog is about running, I shall tell you my good news and the gift God has given me. I have been humbled by His grace on my mind and body. Over the last 15-20 years, I have run nearly 25,000 miles give or take a few thousand, in essence, the circumference of the Earth, hundreds of organized races, nearly 100 marathons & beyond and through it all have stayed healthy (maybe because of it.)  Since September and the challenges of Kaua'i, I have been experiencing pain and fatigue in both knees along with some hip pain.  I have felt downright dogged.  I have kept running my weekly miles, another marathon and two half-marathons but they have all been struggles.
but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31
 I finally decided to have my knees and hip checked by a Doctor who focuses on non-surgical treatments for joint issues and who has traveled with the Duke University football and basketball teams as one of their Doctor's.  It takes a lot for me to see a Doctor but at the very least he could tell me if any damage has been done from all the running over the years.  In my entire life, besides the dentist, I think I have only had x-rays taken once and that turned out to be a problem with new running shoes.  I have always been a very active person, played football and ran track in high school and still never had an x-ray.  We also know the naysayers of running that we will destroy our knees and bodies by the impact. Obviously, sometimes this happens so I guess it was time to determine if it happened to me.

The good news is... The Doctor said that he saw no signs of wear and tear on my knees or hip, no fluid, nothing floating, maybe a little arthritis under one kneecap but nothing of concern. Likely, it is overuse and runners knee with some inflammation around the kneecap and maybe a little tracking issue.  I was relieved.  It put a big smile on my face and I said, that is good news! I can deal with basic running issues and overuse.  I believe underuse causes more problems than overuse.  So, I have started a little physical therapy to learn some proper stretching techniques and some ways to help build core muscles and strength around the hips and knees.

Overuse? Hah! I laugh in the face of overuse, in a humble way of course as I know that God is in control and He will determine my path.
This is what the Lord says— he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:16, 18-19
 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11 
I know many folks will feel it is trivial to apply such powerful verses in the context of running. Running is me and without it, life and I would not be the same. Wherever I find my strength it is important that I do. Truly, that is what the bible is for, to find our strength in today's life and eternal life. On every run I talk with God, first thanking him, then praying for others and our world, and then a little chit-chatting.

This week, I also had a very humbling experience volunteering at the Shepherd's Table Soup Kitchen in Raleigh helping prepare and serve lunch to over 250 homeless, working poor and frankly anyone who needed a hot meal. As a work group from the company I work for, we volunteered our time and the company was gracious to give us that time off.  There is a running quote that says " If you want to run, run a mile, if you want to experience a different life, run a marathon." Emil Zopatek.  I now believe the same can be said for volunteering. "If you want to donate, donate, but if you want to experience a different life, volunteer."  Although I have donated to many charities throughout the years, this was my first volunteering experience. It humbled me and those receiving were very gracious and thankful.
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:10 
if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. Romans 12:8

It's the good news that we all want to hear, but even when we don't (because it will happen), the bible is still our source for the true good news.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

2015 - The Pinnacle

The year 2015 was not without sadness and challenges but it was also ripe with the accomplishment of a long-time goal started over two decades ago.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; Proverbs 3:5

The one thing that stands out above all else in 2015 was the death of my nephew Todd Curtis Doub on April 5, 2015 at age 49.  It is with a heavy heart that I even write that sentence - a heavy heart for his wife Sharon, Mother and my sister Susie, Father Gary and siblings Shawn and Traci. Todd died from a brain aneurism while, ironically, running with his family. I truly did not know how much this man meant to his friends, church, family and community until his celebration of life which lasted nearly three hours. I suspect God needed him more in heaven to do His will.

We cannot understand why something like this happens to a man of this character who was so young and vibrant.  As Proverbs 3:5 states above, it is not of our own understanding, trust in the Lord.  Faith, trust, and love helps us get through moments like these.  I will see you someday again Todd as my life has been given to God and the Lord, our savior.  We will run more miles in heaven than we could ever here on Earth.

Todd Curtis Doub

Entering 2015, I had two more states to run marathons in to complete my 50 state quest - Montana and Hawaii.  My first marathon was the NYC marathon in 1994 but my second was Baltimore in 2001 so really, I completed the 50 state quest in 14 years.  I have other blog posts related to these the Montana and Hawaii  marathons along with the other marathons ran in 2015 so I won't repeat myself here.  Certainly, completing this quest in Hawaii was the highlight of the year but it did not come easy and without its own challenges, specifically during the marathon.  I barely made it to the finish.  However, I think this was the way it was supposed to be, to have the toughest test be the final test to have to put it all on the line both mentally and physically.  Unfortunately Cindy, with all her worry and patience, had to endure this with me.  She waited the entire 7 hours not knowing where I was or if something had happened. That shows her trust, faith and love for me.  The marathon was tough but the our vacation was phenomenal. Kaua'i is such a lovely island.  You can read about the entire adventure by clicking here.

Before Kauai Marathon

The other state needed was Montana and Missoula is the marathon to run in Montana.  Missoula is a small funky little college town and fun place to visit.  Being close to Glacier National Park allowed us to turn this marathon into a full-blown vacation.  The scenery on the marathon course itself was not great but the overall  event was well done.  Cindy and I ran the 5K the day prior to the marathon and she did fantastic breaking 40 minutes.  In the marathon, I decided to run with the 4:30 pace group lead by Rachel Toor, professor, writer and runner.  We had nice conversations throughout  and she really kept the pace group motivated.  I finished not far behind in 4:30 and some change.  Truly, the highlight of this trip was watching a Grizzly female and her cubs from afar in Glacier National Park.  You can read about Missoula here.

Mama Grizzly and her cubs

I started the year with 3 consecutive months (February - March) of marathons.  A few years ago the Myrtle beach marathon was cancelled the night before the event due to a small amount of snow.  All the runners were already there and at 10:45 PM it was cancelled.  This was my only DNS for a marathon.  I decided that we would make a Valentine's weekend out of it and stay at a beach hotel, have a nice dinner, take in a Legends show and run the marathon.  I had battled some soreness in my hamstring in January so I needed to take it easy.  Ironically, it was my best time of 2015.  I'm not sure what that says about the rest of the year.  You can read about Myrtle Beach here.

Since I was completing the 50 states this year, I decided to make it all 50 states and DC.  There is only one marathon run entirely in Washington DC and unfortunately it is a Rock n Roll event. I'm not a big fan of Competitor's events primarily based on the horrid logistics of start/finish areas.  Not all events are like this but in Washington the starting line and finish area were far enough away requiring your "fans", i.e. Cindy in this case, to take the metro to be at the finish line.  It is similar in New Orleans and others of their events as well. Anyway, that aside, I woke up on marathon morning to a cold rain and the forecast for the marathon was to be the same.  I truly didn't want to run but I am not a fair weather runner and have always said, you get what you get on marathon morning and that is why you train in all weather. Dressed appropriately, it wasn't such a bad jaunt around Washington.  However, the highlight was seeing a show at Ford's theater (yes, the same one) and doing a CSI crime investigation workshop at the Crime museum. We visited the Lincoln memorial and the White House, which I had never seen from the front gates.  It is much smaller than Versailles. Here is the link for more detail about this marathon weekend.

Ford's Theatre and where Lincoln was shot

As I mentioned previously, my nephew had died on April 5.  His celebration of life was April 10.  I was already scheduled to run the Rock n Roll Raleigh marathon on April 12, which ironically, is the anniversary of my father's death in 1981, 34 years ago, quite unbelievable. During the same week a high school friend had passed from a heart attack, the second friend in the last 4 years who had died of a heart attack. I dedicated this marathon to these people who where had passed at such a young age. My Dad was 60, Todd 49, Rich 50 and Barry, 53. In many marathons people put their name on their shirts so that words of encouragement can be called out to them.  I decided to run as Todd, to honor him and be with him throughout.  On my bib I also put the names Dad, Rich and Barry to honor them.  I wore Todd's memorial card on the back of my shirt.  It was surreal as people called out his name as I ran. You can read about the whole experience here.

Finishing Raleigh

I decided to do a few other distances in 2015 as well.  I ran 4 half-marathons, an 8K and a 10 miler.  The 8K and 10 miler are premiere triangle area races.  The 8K was Running with the Bulls in downtown Durham and the 10 miler was the Tar Hill 10 miler run from the campus of UNC throughout Chapel Hill.  Both races are well done.  I felt really good in both and loved racing distances other than the marathon and half-marathon. The half-marathons were local, three of which are from the RACE 13.1 series; Raleigh Spring, Raleigh Fall and Durham.  The other half-marathon was the inaugural Not So Normal Half in Carrboro which was a very odd course and supposedly short.

Certainly not normal

The remaining two marathons completed were staples; Cincinnati Flying Pig and Baltimore. This was my second Flying Pig and I must say, this event is a good time for the entire family.  This year we ran with the all three grandchildren; Bree, Jaxon and Korrey. I ran with Bree again and Becky and Cindy went with Jaxon and Korrey for their 15 yard introduction to racing and running. I had Bree run farther this and she did great! You can read about the Flying Pig here.




It was my 15th consecutive year running the Baltimore Marathon and CSE treated the 29 of us well.  I had a bit of a rough day running with my slowest time but it never dampens my spirit of being in Baltimore. I did a nice write-up that CSE posted after the marathon.

Baltimore mile 13

As for racing (and although I use that term loosely since I am only racing myself), I ran 6 marathons, 4 half-marathons, an 8K and 1 10 miler. This was one of my more active running years.

Cindy participated in the Fleet Feet running program and completed a 4 miler in Carrboro.  I was so proud of her when she finished because it was a hot day and I know she was struggling but she never gives up, just like she didn't give up when she did the 5K in Missoula and ran sub-40 minutes.  Her next 5K is in Knoxville, TN April 2 and then Flying Pig 5K with Becky.

Cindy's finish in Missoula

Cindy running NOBO 4 miler

As for the rest of the year, we seem to have mimicked 2014.  We got yet another dog, Gabby Noelle, on Christmas eve.  She is a nice addition to the family and Casey seems to have perked up a bit by having a friend.  Gabby has much more energy at the moment and Casey is so laid back. The size difference is substantial but he seems to be treating her well and welcomed her from day one.

We visited Calvin and Jenn in Asheville during their country-wide trip, Becky and the family in Cincinnati including a baby-sitting weekend, went to Wrightsville Beach for Cindy's birthday, with heavy hearts had the Shilling family reunion at Todd and Sharon's house, Shilling Christmas dinner at Susie's, Thanksgiving in Asheville, welcomed Shawn and family to our house, and welcomed two great, great nieces to our family from Taylor and Justine.

In 2014, Cindy and I visited Paris for her work.  In 2015, we visited London as we both had to go to Nottingham for work.  It was a quick trip to London but we packed a lot of sightseeing into a weekend before heading up to the midlands.  I must say, it is nicer traveling to the UK with her than alone.

Big Ben

So, for the usual stats:
  • Ran 229 of 365 days (80 days less than 2014)
  • Ran 1,421 miles (247 miles less than 2014)
  • Avg. per running day: 6.2 miles (1.1 miles more per running day than 2014)
  • Avg. over 365 days: 3.9 miles (.6 miles less per day over 365 days than 2014)
  • Number of marathons: 6 (2 less than 2014)
  • Avg. marathon finish time: 4:57:24 (Cincinnati best 4:25.34 and Kauai worst 7:04:24) This is 33 minutes worse than 2014 although the outlier of Kauai skewed this (see post above.) Without Kauai, average time was 4:36:14 (12 minutes slower than 2014)
  • Avg. age-graded time: 4:20 (3:52:35 best) (4:02 without Kauai)
  • Number of states: 5 + DC
  • Number of new states: 2
  • Total number of states: 50
  • Total marathons: 89
  • Total marathons/ultras: 97
  • Number of races at other distances: 6 ( 4 half-marathons 2:01:45 age-graded 1:45:45); 8K and 10 miler
  • Number of blog entries: 15 (119 less than 2014) I really want to write more in 2016!
  • Number of meals donated to Durham Rescue Mission: 1,073
  • Ran over 100 miles in all months but one in 2015 85-147 miles
  • Avg. 118 miles per month (21 miles less per month than 2014)
  • Avg. 27 miles per week (5 less per week than 2014)
I've kept this focused primarily on running but the year was adventuresome in so many ways.  As always, I thank God who has afforded me
the health and means to do the things I have done and who has also put Cindy into my life.  Without her support and our relationship, these moments would have been hollow.
I also know 2016 is going to be a challenging year for running but I still vow to do the best I can at the age I am. I still believe that it is better to wear out than fade away. I am convinced that we wear out faster when doing nothing than by being overly active. So, get out there, be active and I'll see you on the road or trail.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Going the Distance

I've run them all - distances that range from 100 meters to 50 miles.  I was a high school champion in the 100 and 200 meter dashes.  Ahh, that was so long ago and so many miles ago.  There is not much calling for 100 meter, 55 year old sprinters any more. Over the last 15 years, I have been focused on marathons with a few half-marathons and ultras thrown in for good measure.  I have averaged 6 marathons a year over 15 years.  After 8 years, I reached my peak and PR and then a steady decline set in. And now, it is a struggle to get through any distance. But I am still out there trying, figuring out how to get through training runs and race day distances.  I am no longer racing (maybe I never was) but now just running.  I best describe myself as a marathoner because it has been my focus for so long, completing the 50 states and at a peak running 14 marathons in one year. I still have a goal to reach 101 marathons. As I try to go the distance at least 12 more times, I know that my days are numbered to where all enjoyment of running 26.2 miles diminishes to dread.  What I must not let this do is diminish my joy of running and how it has helped my life.  I have written this before, "running is a friend that has always been there, good times and bad, sad times and happy, without persecution and judgment, with a well-defined path of moving forward one step at a time."  If my days are numbered for going the distance that I love, what shall I do?  I shall go the distance that I can and not be embarrassed by it or for my times that have suffered so greatly over the last few years and particularly over the last 6 months. I cannot let it be about time now, although I strive to continue to do my best. I know that I will never qualify for Boston in the marathon, run a sub-20 5K or a sub-1:30 half.  With my sprinter body-type and fast twitch muscles I was never able to accomplish those goals anyway. I don't mean to make this a boo-hoo post.  My intent is to say that there are other distances to enjoy, it doesn't always have to be a marathon which has become more laborious these days.  I still love going the distance and my mind says I can and will but my body has been rebelling.  I would not trade my 89 marathon experiences in for a Boston BQ.  I have seen this country by running. I don't need fast times to justify my running existence. I'm a runner. I'm going the distance - whatever that distance may be.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Wherever You Are, There Is No Fog

Cindy has wanted to take a canoe ride on our lake while the fog was emanating from the warm water on a cold, fresh day. This past Saturday, we awoke to a cool, crisp day with the lake looking like something you would see in an eerie movie about a swamp monster wrecking havoc on a community from the depths of a lake.  Ahhh, the perfect time to canoe! Fog had enveloped the lake and the sun was just about to break the horizon. A brilliant splotch of light peaking through the trees to energize the fog and eventually disseminate it from the lake.

Casey, our dog has taken to riding in our canoe with us.  No small feat with him being a long, tall dog of 65 pounds.  He does stay still for the most part, follows the birds and geese and stays on the lookout for the swamp monster. with me in the back, I just make slight adjustments to my balance at times to accommodate his excitement.

We boarded the canoe and started our journey.  Cindy wanted to be in the middle of the fog to get the feeling of trolling through a Louisiana swamp in the silence of first daylight.  Only dueling banjos would have brought it to life even more.  Once we started canoeing, it seemed like wherever we were there was no fog, like it dissipated with the stroke of our oars and our radiant bodies.  She said, "I want to be in the fog."  I said, "wherever you are, there is no fog." Frankly, I had no idea if this was true or not but our initial venture to the lower end of the lake did seem to prove this. As the sun rose, the rest of the canoe ride was filled with brilliance, not in our mind brilliance, but in the physicality of nature and being in the middle of it, swamp monster and all.

After these pictures, I'll write about how this relates to running.  It is, after all, a running blog.

Sun peeking through at sunrise

On our way

The back of our house on the left

Two lone ducks amidst the fog
The foggy cove
Off the bow

Momma and dog

Casey boy enjoying the morning

Heading home


So after our foggy bottom journey, I went for an 11 mile run on the American Tobacco Trail, a fine trail that stretches 22 miles from Durham to Apex.  We live near the middle of the trail.  As I was running I thought about what I said to Cindy, "wherever you are there is no fog."  This is the essence of running.  Removing the fogginess from your brain to give you clarity in life.  In a run, "wherever I am there is no fog" only clarity.  I become a different person while running, more social, more engaged, a better problem solver.  The fog of the world lifts. In my mind I've created new businesses while running, solved complex work problems, volunteered for those in need or want, contemplated the bible, prayed with God and Jesus.  It is like the Johnny Nash song I Can See Clearly Now:

I can see clearly now the rain is gone.
I can see all obstacles in my way.
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind.
It's gonna be a bright (bright)
bright (bright) sunshiny day.
It's gonna be a bright (bright)
bright (bright) sunshiny day.

Oh, yes I can make it now the pain is gone.
All of the bad feelings have disappeared.
Here is that rainbow I've been praying for.
It's gonna be a bright (bright)
bright (bright) sunshiny day.

(ooh...) Look all around, there's nothing but blue skies.

Look straight ahead, there's nothing but blue skies.

This is what the day was like when I was on my run, a bright, bright sunshiny day, nothing but blue skies. Each step dissipated the foggy, noisy way of the world.  Quiet among the tall North Carolina pines, the pattering of footsteps on the trail and an occasional smile and good morning from other runners while their fog lifts.  Wherever they are there is no fog.

But, my biggest challenge is to bring that clarity back into a foggy, noisy world, a world where zero visibility is the norm while being constantly connected. In some case I have been able to meet the challenge, in others, not so much but will continue to try.  It is ironic that as connected as we are, we are ever further from reality and clarity.  Running is the one time of day that I can at least contemplate reality, truth, be a visionary, address my own deficiencies and sins and see the world as a bright sunshiny day. Running is not the only way to lift the fog but I will argue that some form of exercise outdoors lifts the fog from the valley. If you can't run (or hate it) then walk, hike, canoe, just something so that you are not a foggy bottom boy (or girl).

Wherever you are there is no fog.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2 NIV

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

City of Unrest at Rest - Baltimore Marathon in Charm City

In April, Baltimore was a city of unrest due to the Freddy Gray incident.  I'll never understand, even in tragedy and unfortunate circumstances, why the people of a city destroy their own neighborhoods with fires, looting, violence, etc.  I even find it rather ridiculous that people do the same when their sports teams win the big title.  Who are these people with such anger, even in the wake of celebration, that results in communities being destroyed?  They are not the same people I saw lining the streets during the Baltimore Running Festival.  Or, maybe they are but the running festival brings out a different demeanor.  With the vivid exception of the 2013 Boston Marathon where violence from terrorism brought the pinnacle of marathons to its knees in prayer on Patriots day, marathons are joyous, harmonized events that bring people of all classes, religions, races, nationalities, political views, sexual orientations, etc. together as one unique symphony - united we stand (and run). Recently, Afghanistan held its first marathon and a woman (who are largely confined to the indoors) defied danger and went the distance. It was held in the safest area of the country but shows what marathons and running in general can do for a community, individuals, and equality.  In the good ol' USA, we take it for granted that the majority of runners, marathoners, half-marathoners are women.  My point to all of this is that running makes the world a better place.  It makes individuals happier people.  It harmonizes diverse groups. It brings peaceful attention to our concerns. It honors, in life and death, our loved ones. There is no other sport quite like it.  I am convinced that the world would be a better place if everybody ran.  I've posted this infographic before.  Granted, it is from a shoe manufacturer, but imagine if...everybody ran...

The Baltimore Marathon

With the unrest in April, Corrigan Sports Enterprises, the producer of the Baltimore Running Festival, and the City of Baltimore wanted to showcase that the city seen splattered all over the news in April was not the same city depicted in those violent images. Baltimore is nicknamed Charm City which was a promotional effort in 1975 (pre-harbor place, -aquarium, -science center) by then mayor William Schafer to change Baltimore's image.  Is it truly Charm City?

Being born and raised in Hagerstown, MD in the 1960's and 70's, Baltimore was not a place to venture to except to catch an Orioles game at the classic 33rd street memorial stadium.  Riots were everywhere during that time period of civil unrest, Hagerstown included, and care was taken when venturing into big cities.  My dad was born in Baltimore in 1919 in an area where lower income projects are now located.  The picture below shows the harbor in 1919. I suspect runners would have had to side-step horse manure along the course making it more of an urban trail run.

No, there was no Baltimore marathon in 1919.  The first Maryland Marathon was in 1973 and Bill Rodgers won the event in 1976. Dave Cooley ran 3 Maryland Marathons but more impressively produced and directed over 600 events in the Baltimore area.  He was tapped by Lee Corrigan of CSE to direct the inaugural Baltimore Marathon in 2001, just 30 days after the 9/11 attacks.  The inaugural Baltimore Marathon was just that, a marathon.  There was no other event that year.  It was going to be my second marathon and first since NYC in 1994.  However, it wasn't my first choice. I should say it wasn't our first first because my nephew, Shawn Doub (whose PR is on the Baltimore Marathon course at 3:36 in 2003), and I wanted to run the Marine Corp Marathon. It was sold out and the overflow of runners came to the Baltimore Marathon as we did.  To this date, the 2001 marathon has had the most number of finishers - 4,829.  It was also the hardest course presented and the drop-off of runners in 2002 by over half reflected this.  Little did I know that I would be running the marathon year after year for 15 consecutive years.

The Baltimore Running Festival

The BRF now  has an event for everyone - kids run, 5K, half-marathon, relay, marathon and in 2015, the .05 with 20,000 - 25,000 participants.  For a few years UnderArmour was the title sponsor and they still give unmatched technical shirts to the runners.  I still wear my inaugural shirt to the expo each year in support of the longevity of the event, the longevity of me running it and in memory of those lost on that tragic day - 9/11/2001-  as the shirt has a simple remembrance on the front.  As streakers (those of us who have run any event year after year), CSE has recognized us every 5 years and on the 10th anniversary, we were given the name of MoVeRs or Most Valuable Runners.  This year, on the 15th anniversary, was no exception.  There are now about 69 MoVeRs and 29 who have streaked the marathon.  CSE along with UnderArmour provided us a goodie bag likely worth around $300. But, it was the person who presented it to us at the expo that made it special.  Dave Cooley, the famed Baltimore race director mentioned above, who directed the event from 2001-2005 was there to chat with, sign autographs, and give us our goodies.  I wore my inaugural shirt and brought my 2001 bib for him to sign. He is 83 and I hope that I am that spry when I'm 83.

Dave (green shirt), me and another MoVeR
The goodies included an UnderArmour jacket with 15th anniversary logo, hat, $15 discount on merchandise, 2 free entries to the 2016 BRF, and VIP tent access at the finish.  Thank you CSE for recognizing us and our participation over the years.


The Expo is held either at the Baltimore Ravens stadium on the club level or the convention center.  The stadium provides for a unique experience but is getting more crowded.  The convention center allows for more room but takes the uniqueness away.  The stadium needed better guidance this year as the line to pick up half marathon bibs was extremely long but there was no guidance as to what the line was for.  I figured that it couldn't be for the marathon so I kept walking past it.  Sure enough, when I found the marathon line, I was the second runner in it. When the expo is at the stadium, I enjoy walking through Camden Yards and seeing all of the Orioles "stuff."  Growing up with the Orioles, it brings back some fond memories.  The walk down Eutaw street through the finish line lets you visualize and feel the line that needs to be crossed in the morning.

The UnderArmour sponsored race shirts were quite nice this year being their soft technical material with a brushed red finish.  The course runs in and around Underarmour's world headquarters at mile 11.

Pratt Street Ale House

It has now become tradition to have lunch at the Pratt Street Ale House and drink one of their cask ales.  It is difficult to find cask ales here in America and what better way to celebrate a marathon than with a cask ale.  The food here is also good.

Pratt Street Ale House
USS Constitution at Harborplace
Bromo Seltzer Tower - when you see it the finish is near
The Harbor
Brooks Robinson outside Camden Yards
Race Day

There are many things to like about this running festival.  I am big on smart logistics and the BRF has them.  The inner harbor is a wonderful place to visit even without a running festival.  There are plenty of hotels within walking distance of the inner harbor and the stadiums where the Ravens and Orioles play.  CSE has made sure that these areas remain the center of activity for the festival and takes advantages of the close proximity of area hotels.  When you arrive in Baltimore either by plane or car, there is no need to use a car after you get into downtown.  Everything, including the festival activities like the expo, start/finish lines, celebration village is all there.  I have stayed in 5 different hotels over 15 years and never had more than half mile to go to anything.  My biggest pet peeve with marathon logistics when determining which marathon to run relates to how conducive they are for convenience to me as a runner and ALSO to the person who cheers me on.  I have said this before but I cannot stand a course that starts at one place and ends like 5-8 miles away with the exception of point to point courses that take advantage of course highlights, topography, etc.  The Rock n Roll courses tend to be logistical nightmares for participants and spectators, like DC, New Orleans to name a couple.  Charleston, although not a Rock n Roll course is another non-nonsensical course.  The Baltimore marathon course is not a pure loop but a serpentine course that allows spectators to see their people at the start, mile 8, mile 13 and the finish. It highlights the good and the bad of the city, starting at Camden Yards, runs through the zoo, Druid Hill, around the harbor, through Underarmour, Federal hill, 33rd street, Lake Montebello, Johns Hopkins, near Little Italy and Fells Point to name a few and finishes in between Camden yards and Ravens Stadium.  It is not an easy course but a fair one.

Although I was looking forward to the marathon, I was unsure how the day would go.  I really had not run well since Montana in July and had some severe issues in Kauai for my 50th state in September.  I just kept the faith that I could get through the marathon.  I felt decent through the first 9 miles being right on a 4:20 pace which was also faster than what I had planned. The course then sent runners out 2 miles to UA Headquarters and back to the harbor for the half-way point.  Cindy was waiting between miles 8 and 9 and then at the half.  When I got to the half, I was starting to feel a little drained, again, not good for a marathon to be feeling like that so early.  I had her walk with me a bit, which was kind of an added touch, while I ate a banana.  I ran the half in 2:10 and still ahead of my projected finish.  Miles 13-16, to me, and as I heard others say are the worst miles mentally of this course.  They are flat but just kind of there. The excitement of the harbor at halfway is behind and the hardest pat of the course lies ahead.  these miles are like the calm before the storm.  I started to incorporate some walk breaks after mile 16 which is where the hills start to kick in.  I figured if I could keep the running up with minimal walk breaks, I would be fine.  It worked well up through about mile 22 and then I kind of fell apart again, the second marathon in a row where I would struggle to the finish.  It was still a great feeling running down Eutaw street, seeing the Bromo Seltzer Tower, the entrance to Camden yards, the serenity of the outfield between the warehouse and finally Cindy just outside the finish line.  They double barricaded the area around the finish so no hug or kiss this time.  I crossed the line in 5:05, the worst of my 15 Baltimore Marathons, a course I had run 3:47 on at one time.  My, how age and having 89 marathons on your body affects your times but I would not trade those experiences for anything.  I Did tell Cindy at the end that I thought I needed a break because it was becoming difficult to enjoy the 26 miles.  I realize that most of it is me.  I can't blame it all on age. I should be training better, eating better and maybe altering my running form to compensate for the aches and pains.  But truly, I don't want to stop.  I do enjoy even the worst days, the ones that show your character, the ones that require a faith beyond yourself but in God, the ones that preserve hope for the future.

I have run 15 marathons in 2 years including some of the most difficult marathon courses in the country.  We have traveled to Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, New Mexico, Wyoming.  How can this not be fun?  It is fun but outside of the marathon, we make it fun also.  I guess fun is in the eye of the beholder.

So, back to the title of this post.  Events like this bring people together, not just the runners and their families but the people of the city including all the volunteers, citizens, police, and city workers, There was no unrest to be seen.  It was truly Charm City.  The people of Baltimore cheering us on, even in the worst areas, were welcoming and inviting, encouraging us with each step.  The police did the same and as I thanked them they were gracious in return with their smiles and accolades.  We were also told at the restaurant we went to that the police have a choice of either working or running on festival day.  I admire them being involved either way.  The city,even the media welcomes this day more than any other mid-sized city.  WBAL televises the entire marathon and people in the neighborhoods just love the worst parade ever.  It was rest, play and joy in a city that has known its share of unrest. That's what marathons do.


The start
Cannon of Confetti and Oriole man holding his flag 

Hope this guy did well - kind of felt for him

All dressed up and 26.2 to go!

Snipers at the start on the Hampton and Camden Yards

One last selfie

Protected by Baltimore's finest

Our penguin friend when running through the zoo.  I saw him in person, Cindy saw him on TV

The masses coming down St. Paul street mile 8.5

Oriole man - yes he runs like this every year

Half way

Cindy seeing the faster people from our hotel room

A casual stroll to the finish - yes I can still smile after 26 miles

Celebration dinner at the Rusty Scupper on the Harbor