This is my first year being home in Baltimore for the fall season since 2011 and I am loving it! The running store I work at has been busy, busy, busy for the last two months as we hosted several of our own races and prepared for other big events in the area, one of those being the 16th annual Baltimore Running Festival. My Dad has run numerous Baltimore half and full marathons but even when I was home for the season in high school, I always had a cross country meet the day of the races.
I had originally planned on training for the half marathon but after coming down with a bad case of mono this summer, I had to halt my running and racing plans for over a month. I wasn’t planning on racing at all but when my Dad received two free entries from Under Armour, I figured I may as well enjoy the festivities and race the 5K.
To give you a bit of background, I have only been running about 15-22 miles a week mixed in with cross training, lifting and fitness classes. I can feel that I have lost fitness and gained some weight. I am perfectly OK with where I am right now but I am definitely not in any kind of racing shape.
Last month I raced the Run to Remember 5K with my co-workers with the intention of HAVING FUN. I decided to keep that same mindset going into the Baltimore Running Festival 5K this past Saturday. My Dad’s best friend from college joined us as we headed downtown at 6 a.m. to meet up with the Charm City Run training groups at Pickles Pub, located conveniently right across the street from the starting line.
The 5K was the first race of the day to go off with a start time of 7:30 a.m. After saying hello to many fellow employees and store regulars, I stripped down to shorts and a tank to embrace the perfect, fall running weather and ducked under a barrier to join the more than 4,000 other runners eager to start just as the announcer boomed, “two minutes until the 5K start, two minutes.”
TWO MINUTES. I spent eight years of warming up an hour prior to start time in order to make sure I was physically and mentally ready to take on the race ahead of me. The morning of the running festival I got in a few leg swings in that two minutes and then we were off! Not the smartest decision in terms of loosening up my body, but for the purposes of having fun and enjoying the day, I just went with it.
I’ve grown so accustomed to running without a watch lately that time was far in the back of my mind. I started far back in the tight pack of runners and focused on moving my way up little by little. This is my favorite way to run a road race as it is much more motivating to pass others than to be passed. I made my goal to slowly pick off every woman I saw in front of me. It was during this race that I realized a few things:
1. I LOVE RACING. I spent so many years of my running career being so afraid of races. I could run a great workout and push myself to pick up the pace on runs, but when it came to races I overthought every moment, quickly got discouraged and often gave up on myself halfway through. It wasn’t until indoor track of my sophomore year of college that I re-discovered my love of racing. I love getting out there and competing. It is always great to go out for a run but there is something about racing that is truly magical.
2. I LOVE BALTIMORE. Running by Camden Yards, M&T Bank Stadium and other familiar streets honestly gave me the chills. I could not stop smiling when I heard loud speakers booming “We Are The Champions” and then looking up and seeing the Orioles ballpark. I have so many memories in these places and I love that I am able to race through these familiar sights with thousands of other Baltimore locals and visitors by my side. Also, check out that crab medal! #BaltimorePride
3. I LOVE MYSELF. I am so proud of myself for getting out there and still racing. As I mentioned before, my fitness level is not prime right now and I have accepted that. However, running and racing are things I can do no matter what and it’s something that no one else can ever take away from me. It is what gives me energy and makes me Lizzy. The runner’s high I had after this race was somewhat embarrassing as I walked around afterwards with a goofy grin on my face and way too much pep in my step.
That all being said, I am also really happy with the outcome of this race. This was about having fun, and for me having fun is racing my heart out and giving it all I have on any given day. I ended up with a time a time of 20:56, over a minute and a half of improvement from the Run Remember 5K when I was the first female finisher in 22:31. This being a much larger and more competitive race, I placed as the first female in the 20-24 age group, 7th female overall and 55th place out of more than 4,000 runners. I realize that this is still not much to brag about as I know this is not the fastest I will ever run and not nearly as impressive as the times of others but I really am proud of myself for busting that out while not feeling in tip-top shape.
More importantly is my Dad’s race. He has been weighed down with many late nights at work and family worries but he let that all go to finish yet another Baltimore marathon. His finishing time doesn’t matter in this race because it is nowhere close to his best but the determination he had to exhibit to get through that race is something that I hope to embody. My mom and I both gently suggested he bump down to the half marathon but he stuck with his decision to tackle another 26.2 miles. In addition to elites such as Lauren Fleshman and Emma Coburn, my Dad is one of my all-time favorite running role models. I was beaming with pride as I tracked his progress from the computer at work later in the day.
All in all, my first experience at the Baltimore Running Festival was a great one and I can’t wait to run in it again in 2017. Perhaps I will be tackling the half or the relay instead of the 5K…but we’ll just have to see!
P.S: For another great Baltimore Running Festival recap, check out this blog post from Kathy, my co-worker and friend. 🙂
P.P.S: Anyone else run Baltimore or another recent fall race? I’d love to hear your race story in the comments below!