I ran the Under Armour Baltimore Marathon on October 15, 2011. It was my third marathon and my first since running the San Diego Marathon in June. The race was on Saturday, so I flew up early Friday morning to spend the day with Jackie, creep all over the expo, and prepare for the race.

The weather on Friday was horrendous. I flew in at an ungodly hour and made it to Baltimore by 8 am. After picking up my rental car, I headed over to Jackie’s so we could go to Baltimore to pick up my packet, check out the Expo, and get some lunch. It was completely pouring rain. Being downtown Baltimore, there was nowhere to park, so we got to run through the rain a lot.

I love a marathon with a mascot!

I kind of bought a lot of stuff at the Expo, per usual. It wasn’t my fault though. Under Armour was the sponsor, and they have really awesome stuff. On an unrelated note, why do they utilize the British spelling of “armor?” The founder went to the University of Maryland. So did I. We’re not sophisticated. I don’t get it. Go Terps!

Leaving the Expo, we saw a bird just sitting on the ground. Literally, it was sitting on the ground. Not kind of standing on its little bird leggies, actually sitting down. Jackie is about as nice as me, so we were both unconcerned. I think we actually laughed. Nicer people all gathered around the bird to try and assess its situation. One girl, probably a vegetarian, actually picked it up. Jackie and I took a picture instead.

I’m good at taking pictures. Please note the kneeling girl at the far left of the picture. She’s tending to the possibly injured, possibly stupid bird.

After running back through the rain, Jackie took me to a restaurant for lunch that she was very excited about. I had just started eating meat again, but she didn’t know that, so she had nicely found a place with lots of vegetarian options. At least, that’s the reason she SAID we were going. Really I think she wanted to go so she could see the look of horror on my face when I saw the place.

The Paper Moon Diner is decorated with terrifying colors and objects. Any of you who have ever been to my house know that I don’t really like “objects.”

The menu was very extensive and delicious. Too bad I couldn’t eat because things were staring at me the entire time.

Thanks for this, Jackie.

After eating my food as quickly as possible so as to escape this establishment, Jackie and I headed back to her house to lounge around. Unfortunately, Jackie was headed to Germany the next day for work, so she would not be able to come to the race as one of my adoring fans. I was pretty verklempt about this because it kind of happened at the last minute, but mostly I was terrified about having to get myself to and from a marathon with no supervision. Because this was only my third race, I had no idea how I would feel at the end and I was scared about having a horrible race and having no one there to hold my hand (literally and figuratively) on the way home. In an attempt to mollify me, Jackie made me pasta with vegetarian meatballs for dinner. My wake up call came early the next day, and I had to figure out how to use public transportation.

I got on the light rail into Baltimore at around 6 am on Saturday morning. It was extremely easy to find a parking spot since I got to the rail station so early, and I got on the train with a bunch of other runners. I was extremely nervous, but began talking to Perry, one of the other runners. It was his first marathon, but he looked like he had been running them for years. I suddenly felt morbidly obese for no viable reason.

Oh hey Perry, sorry I looked up your bib number and Facebook stalked you.

At the starting line, I found Ed, who I had run with in San Diego and trained with all summer. We were both hoping for a finish near 4:30, so we started in the vicinity of the pace group and decided to stay together for a bit. This worked for about 10 miles.

Me and Ed (in red) during happier times. Probably about Mile 4.

The first part of the course was really cool – it took us through the Inner Harbor area of downtown and through the Baltimore Zoo. The Baltimore Raves mascots, “Rise” and “Conquer” live in the zoo, and they were out with their handlers to greet the runners as we entered the zoo. You know what’s a giant bird? A RAVEN. I ran a lot faster. Other animals were out as well, including a skunk, a crocodile, and some penguins!

A runner (in a crab hat!) stops to say hey to a penguin. How cool is that?

At mile 9, I saw Lauren, Sarah, Rachael, Dan, and some of their friends for the first time. They had come out to cheer for me, and Lauren made awesome signs based on some of my favorite tv shows!At this point in the race, I was still feeling pretty good.

A Jersey Shore sign was obviously necessary. Yeahhhhh buddy!

Unfortunately, by the time I saw them again at mile 13, things had gone dramatically downhill. I started having back spasms at Mile 10, and they were relentless for the next 16.2 miles. In case you didn’t know, that’s a really long time to be hunched over and generally unable to run. I lost Ed somewhere around the Under Armour headquarters (which, by the way, I didn’t even notice that we ran past…). I was really glad to see Lauren and the gang again around Mile 13, but I knew it was going to be a VERY long race.

Happy to see them, sad to be running a marathon.

The pattern for the rest of the race basically went like this. Run for half a mile, get a back spasm, stop and stretch, walk, and repeat. It was incredibly frustrating because my legs felt fine, my feet weren’t fatigued, and my stomach wasn’t upset, but my back was raging out of control. I tried my best to enjoy the course, which was truly interesting. It took us through the best and worst parts of the city, around a lake, and through the zoo. There were a lot of miles through the projects, which were actually some of my favorite miles because the crowd support was great there. I heard multiple kids (seriously) yell to their moms “Mom, look at all the white people!” Those poor, deprived children.

The original picture that made me realize I look like a T-Rex when I run. Not in the ghetto.

The course was very hilly, but I was walking so much that I didn’t really notice. I ran whenever I could, but at this point it just became about finishing the race. It was the first (and only, to date) race I have ever considered dropping out of because I just didn’t want to do it. I didn’t care. But I know myself well enough to know how angry I would have been at myself if I hadn’t finished that race, so I just kept going, one mile at a time, cursing myself for thinking this was a good idea. Around Lake Montebello, the wind was fierce and it was a tough fight. However, I knew that after that point, the course was mostly downhill as we headed towards Camden Yards.

I was determined not to walk at all after mile 24. I wanted to run the last couple of miles, no matter how slowly. It was incredibly painful as my back spasmed over and over again, but I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it.

Oh hey, Cal Ripkin. You’re way tougher than me.

I was about to cry in this picture because I was in so much pain, but the finish through Camden Yards was great. Or as great as a finish can be when you want to die. I finally finished the race in a time that would normally be described as embarrassing, but I can’t help but be proud of it. I fought for every single inch of those last 16.2 miles. I wanted to quit a million times. When I crossed the finish line, I was angry. Truly, I was MAD. It took talking to a friend of mine to put it all in perspective.

The longest marathon in history was finally over.

My friend told me how proud he was of me, and that I should be amazed by what I had just accomplished. I ran 26.2 miles, for God’s sake. Well, I sort of ran, but whatever. The point is, I did something that 99% of the population never does. I overcame a lot to finish that race. Sometimes it takes talking to a non-runner to put your accomplishments in perspective. I swore after that day that I would never be upset with a marathon finish, no matter what the time, ever again. Unless it’s slower than Baltimore. That would be unspeakable.

I earned that shit. Believe that.

After the race, I plopped my sorry ass on the light rail, went back to Jackie’s house (to be greeted by no one, since she had left for Germany…rude), took a shower, and shoved myself back out the door because it was the University of Maryland’s homecoming game and I had to see my long lost friends. I think it was just because they were really drunk, but everyone was SUPER impressed that I had just run a marathon, and even more impressed that I was at a tailgate just a few hours later. Let’s be clear. I wasn’t drinking. I was just kind of standing around in amusement. Jaime told me how proud she was of me approximately every five minutes. She was so proud of me that when she was trying to put chips in her mouth, she couldn’t even make it from the bag to her mouth without dropping them. That’s drunkenness pride.

Some ADPi’s! Nice face, Lauren.

I was really glad I ended up going to the tailgate. I got to see a bunch of old friends and take my mind off of my disappointing race and my aching back. I had an early flight home the next morning, but in true Maryland Homecoming fashion, I got a belligerent phone call from someone who will not be named at 1:30 am and I spent the next hour and a half on the phone with said person. That’s what friends are for, right? Well, that and marathon spectating.

Me and Lauren, Super Fan! Not to be confused with Swim Fan. God, that movie was creepy.

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