Since January 2016, I have run at least one half marathon every month. I didn’t have a planned half for December, so I decided to add on the Race 13.1 Baltimore Half. I picked this one for a few reasons outside of running as well. Since I went to school in MD, I have a lot of friends in that area and I thought this would be a great time to catch up and visit with some! The other reason was that this was suppose to be two weeks out from the Jacksonville Marathon, so the distance would have worked well. Jacksonville didn’t end up happening, but it was still a good add since I needed the half for December anyway.
For some time now, I had wanted to run one of the Race 13.1 races. Their schedule never aligned with mine and they always seemed to be held in the southern states. I had noticed they had some more Northern races in the past year, so I thought the Baltimore race was a great chance to give them a try. With the race right in Baltimore, one of my college friends was kind enough to let me stay the night with her and her family. Last minute, her husband decided to run, so he was kind enough to pick up my bib. The race had bib pick up until 8pm, but with not leaving until after work, I was barely making it into town in time. He said it was pitch black though as pick up later in the evening was at the waterfront where the start line was. Not necessarily the nicest of welcomes for the runners.
I was glad I made it in at a decent time on Friday evening as it gave me a chance to catch up my friend Meg and her husband Mark. They lived within a half mile of the start so come morning, Mark and I walked down together. It was nice to have a local with me so I didn’t get lost. I knew Mark would be so much faster than me, but it comforting knowing at least one person out there since I show up to start lines so often by myself.
As I went into this race, I secretly had in my mind that I wanted to push myself to get to sub 2:30. At the double weekend in KS/MO just three weekends prior, I had 2:34 and a 2:32 performance. It made me think that if I could do that on a double weekend, maybe I could get down just under 2:30 on a flat course. The temperatures were showing to be perfect. I desperately wanted to see a 2:29:xx on my watch, but was very unsure if it would actually happen. The only thing to do was to try. I hadn’t seen anything that low for a finish time since March, so why not try for it?
The start and finish line for the race was in the Canton Waterfront Park. The first mile was out to the right and pretty much a mile out and back in an industrial area. I decided to drop my normal run/walk and just walk at the water stop. At this race, they were a little more spaced out, but I really wanted to give it a try. In fact, I had actually planned to not even take my hydration pack, but I noticed on the course map the distance between stops and decided to just take it. There were 3 water stops and you hit them all twice, but just seemed to be placed at odd miles.
The first mile clocked in at 10:56 on my watch. I thought to myself this was a little fast to start, but I am usually fast on the first mile. All I had to do was just maintain under 11:27 and I would hit my goal. I told myself to pull back a bit, but, in true form, I didn’t actually pull back. I stopped looking at my watch for the most part until the later miles and just let myself run. It certainly seemed to aid in how this race turned out for me.
Around mile 3, we turned into the Fell’s Point area. In addition to the half, there was also a 10k and a 5k race. Even though I was doing the half, I was not pleased with how the 10k was done on the course and felt really bad for those runners. Right around mile 3, runners who were coming back turned right onto the trail around the water to the finish line. However, Some of the lead pack were sent back on the main road. No one was actually directing runners onto the trail. Finally, as I was heading away, I did see a police office follow, but I am not sure if he was going after them to turn them around or just follow them on the road. To make it worse, later on the course was the official 10k turn around, but no one was standing there to tell the 10k runners to turn around. Many were getting to where they thought it was and asking if they turn around. It just was not clear. I actually saw a runner coming back way further than the turn around so I am sure he probably ran closed to an 8 mile 10k. If you’re going to have different distances out there, then there should be dedicated volunteers to assist those runners.
Mile 4 took us out of Fell’s Point and along the Inner Harbor. My second gripe about this race was the course itself. I understand how shutting down the least amount of roads is certainly easier, but I wish we would have run more through the city streets. Instead we ran along the waterfront along the water, not even on roads, but more like a riverwalk for several miles. Sure, the views were great, but it would just have been nice to see more of downtown Baltimore.
Just after mile 5 did we leave the sidewalks of the Inner Harbor and back onto the streets. I was still feeling okay, but could tell I was a bit more worn than normal at this point in a half. I was still hitting the walk breaks at just the water stops though. Just after mile 6, I saw Mark coming back through. It was great to see him! At the end of mile 6, we came up the Under Armour campus and some train tracks. I always hate running over tracks because I am such a klutz and afraid I will trip over my feet and fall flat on my face.
Just as we made the second to last turn before the turn around, a car was trying to cut onto the course. The driver did not listen to the police officer at the intersection and he actually turned onto the course and the police officer at that intersection was having nothing to do with it. I kept going toward the turn around but when I made it back to the same spot, the original officer and another one were giving the driver a nice talking to. He looked so annoyed, but this is why we have officers on the course. They are they to help us stay safe and she was just doing her job. Since I was around the same runners when we first saw the driver head onto the course, we all cheered the officer on for taking care of the driver.
It was mile 8 that things started to go downhill. By now, I was just tired and began to start looking at the watch every once in awhile. I had taken a walk break back the Under Armour campus water stop but was quickly was wanting another one. I kept talking myself out of it and to make it to the next water stop which was just after mile 10. As we passed mile 9, we turned back onto the pathway along the Inner Harbor. I was so thankful that there was no wind that morning. I could only imagine how bad it could have been with some wind. To end mile 9, we did a random lap around the Baltimore Beach.
The water stop just after mile 10 couldn’t come soon enough. I took an extended walk break to get my composure because I was certainly already loosing it for the last 5k. Up until this point my pace ranged from 10:22-10:43 after that first mile. Toward the end of mile 10, I finally just took walk break. I didn’t want to fall solely on the walk, but I just needed that walk break. I was paying attention more to my pace and realized that I was on target for around a 2:26. I was actually pretty shocked by this and really tried to maintain the pace I was going.
Mile 11 was probably the hardest for me. I took the most walk breaks in this mile. I finally took a good one minute walk break to just get myself together to run the last two miles. I figured I would take this extended one and hopefully have less walk breaks later. It actually sort of worked. Just as we came up to the mile 12 marker, we turned onto the path to the finish line. This time there were no issues like they were having with the 10k runners. Thankfully the last part of the race wasn’t too crowded for me as I had a fear of just falling off the edge into the water. Eventually, I could actually see the finish line area. I pushed as much as I could, but watching the finish line video of myself crossing the finish line, it didn’t look like I was pushing at all.
After crossing the finish line and seeing my time of 2:20:05, I was absolutely stunned! I truly thought back in mile 11 I was around a 2:26 and was giddy with that potential finish time. My original goal was just to see a 2:29:xx on the watch so my 2:20 blew that out of the water. My second emotion was being pissed that I missed going sub 2:20 by 5 seconds. It was more a kick myself in the butt type reaction, but I just didn’t know I was actually going that fast. Not looking at the watch during a race can sometimes pay off. I was still pretty amazed that I went a 2:20:05. The course and the weather certainly helped to get there. This was my fastest half since August 2016! I had certainly slowed down over the past 14 months and it was great to see that I could do it again.
Overall, I loved the race I ran, but didn’t necessarily love the logistics and organization of the Race 13.1 Series. I just thought they dropped the ball on many important logistics and that really turned me off. I know I also registered for this race pretty late, but the price and what you got didn’t necessarily translate either. (Note: you did get a race t-shirt as well) When I saw the 10k runners go through with the course, really turned me off. I know it wasn’t my race, but I never want to see any runner’s race effected by a bad course. The medal was fun though. They did have the crab on there, which was a great touch since it was a MD race. I think my ultimate feeling is that if a Race 13.1 series race happened to be schedule in a city where I was going to be or wouldn’t cost me a fortune, I’d give them another chance. However, I wouldn’t make it a destination for this race series. I hate to have left the race with that feeling, but I did. Maybe I will get a chance to give them another try and things will be different. I know a lot of people seem to love their races, but this just didn’t do it for me.
Official Finish Time:
59/89, Female 30-34