A View from the Rear: The Baltimore Running Festival
By Chris McKee
When I signed up for the relay, I had every intention of training. I wanted to. But, well, whatever, I couldn’t /didn’t. I hadn’t run a race since 2001, and I’m no great shakes at running anyway. (See below). But I wouldn’t let that stop me. Stephanie told me I was stronger now and I could do it, and I believed her.
To everybody who trained extra hard, coming to boot camp early to run and getting together to run on your own, congratulations. The extra hours, wear and tear, didn’t stop you from working it. You are stronger, too.
4:30 am – 6:50 am: Everybody’s in a good mood as we arrive and get ready for the race start. Group pictures are taken by the Johnny Unitas statue, all of us Boot Camp Girls and Guys in bright orange and white. There are grins, stretching, logistics, a lot going on.
7:00:00 a.m. The flashbacks I’ve been having become a reality. I ran my first race in 1984, a 10K. I trained with my best friend twice a week. And when the race started, she left me behind immediately. I followed at a more leisurely pace. Around mile 5, a spectator (male) advised me, “You so far behind, you should stay here with me.” (Yes, I know he was flirting, but he was also right.) But I finished; I would not give up.
7:00:30: As I see my boot camp pals vanish in the distance, I accept my fate and plod on.
As the race progresses, I realize now why the first leg is the shortest, 5.7 miles. It’s all uphill. As I run/walk through streets I’ve driven all my life, I marvel that I never noticed that. Lesson 1: Always check the race course first.
7:52 a.m. There’s a steel band that’s kicking along the Druid Hill Reservoir. The tinkling of the drums and the blue shine on the water make that stretch worth it, along with fresh air, a cup of water, the most golden sunrise, and cool morning air. That refreshes my soul, and I keep plodding on.
8:18 a.m. In the zoo, there’s the cutest owl perched on a volunteer’s arm, to greet us as we run by. I ask if I can strap my relay chip to the owl and have him fly it to the handoff point. She reminds me that that’s cheating. Sigh. The owls are so cute, I want to take one home. I image them soaring through the air, effortlessly, and plod on.
8: 21:05 I see people returning from the hopefully near finish line. I ask a passerby, “Is the finish close?” She replies, “Yeah, but I ain’t gonna lie, it’s all uphill.” Ok.
8:24 a.m. A volunteer tells me, “You’re very brave to do this.” I grunt, “Or a fool,” and keep going. He thinks that’s hilarious.
8:33:05 Mary sees me and runs down to help me make it over the line. I pass my chip off and thank the Lord above it’s over. I feel proud. I feel happy. I feel peaceful. I feel good.
9:00 a.m. I post on Facebook, “Just finished the first relay leg of the Baltimore Running Festival. 5.7 miles. Made it!”
9:30 a.m. I pick up my relay medal, a heavy, engraved medallion featuring a happy crab with one of those Olympic-style medal ribbons attached to it. It’s gorgeous. I’m happy. No less happy by the free fruit, drinks, snacks both healthy and otherwise with volunteers urging you to Eat! Take! What a great group of people. Much thanks to them for making the end a celebration of pride and accomplishment.
2:00 p.m. After a loooong hot shower, I collapse and check my Facebook. It ended up over 20 of my friends “Liked” me. Some wrote congratulations. One wrote that I was a role model. That’s the biggest response I’ve ever received to anything I’ve ever posted.
Just because I didn’t finish in the top 1,000, didn’t mean that what I accomplished that day didn’t matter. And I’m glad I had friends who told me so. I’m glad I had the Boot Camp Girl and Guys, that helped me get physically and mentally ready to conquer this challenge. I’m glad I’m gonna do it again.
’Til next year.