As was on my 101 Things to do in 1001 Days list, I had "run another marathon" listed. I had signed up for the Baltimore Marathon, which I was to run last Saturday (the 15th of October). And I'm bummed to say I didn't finish the race. I left the race at almost 16 miles. Honestly, it was largely the fault of the race organizers and partially my fault.
What I didn't know about the race before I started it was that the first ten miles is mostly uphill. Not particularly difficult hills, but still hills. I think this may have contributed to my overall pace. Also, the end of my marathon training kind of fell apart and I wasn't at the pace I had hoped I'd be. Nevertheless, I settled into a pace that would allow me to finish the marathon in the time allotted. Around mile nine or so, I was heading into this fucking awful stretch that takes runners out to the Under Armour Headquarters. Under Armour is a major sponsor for the race, and the trek out and back fills several miles, so I highly doubt they will ever remove that portion of the race...BUT IT SUCKS! If there was one negative thing I had to say about the race course, it would be the Under Armour stretch. It's hot and boring and awful. The first ten miles were beautiful and fun and awesome, but that stretch from about mile ten to mile thirteen was just crap. So I finished that section and passed the 13.1 marker at 3:27, which is exactly on time to finish the race almost dead last. There were three walkers behind me, and I think that's it. There was another runner in front of me, whom I was trying to catch, because he was moving at a steady pace and I was starting to lose my steam. My feet had been hurting for a few miles and I was feeling the major bummer of being so close to last.
I know I've always said it doesn't matter if I finish last, but I didn't understand what it felt like to be last.
As I was running the Under Armor stretch, the SAG Wagon (there to pick up runners who can't make the cut off) started to crowd me. First it was tailgating me. Then it casually passed me on the course as if I wasn't there. Then it would drive right ahead of me for a bit, stop and chat with someone while I had to run around it, come up and catch up to me and pass me. It was incredibly annoying and really crowding me. Finally, I was able to get along side it and yell through the open window at the guy to back off. This should've been a clue to me that things weren't going well.
As I rounded mile fourteen, I came across a very short stretch of street before making a turn to the last half of the course. This street is lined with fancy hotels and all the roads come together on a little turnaround. It's very near the Inner Harbor and very touristy. I made the turn and almost immediately, the cops allowed a car onto the course behind me. I assumed it was part of the race, because why would a car be allowed on a closed course that I paid for during the time allotted for the race? The car tailgated me and made me very uncomfortable. When parking spaces opened up to my right, the car used them to pass me and pull up to the circle...as I yelled at her. I was screaming at her when three cops sauntered over and gave her a quiet lecture about runners having the right of way. But why was a car allowed on the course anyway?
I went through the traffic circle and reached a stretch of road that would take me right past where I was staying and where Adam was waiting to cheer me on before going to the finish line to meet me. During the next mile, the same thing happened again. Another car was allowed on the course, where they proceeded to tailgate me until I felt so uncomfortable that I moved out of the way and they passed me. I met Adam and was incredibly stressed out by my pace and the Sag Wagon and the way cars were forcing me off the course. As I was talking to him, making him walk with me, trying to figure out if I would stay on the course or not, ANOTHER CAR did the same thing! At this point, with so much happening, and with where I was staying being right there, I just walked off the course. I was just stressed out and afraid and wasn't sure if I could even finish the race safely.
I went to the finish line and tried to raise hell and I am telling you, NOBODY CARED. The security company tried to tell me no race organizers weren't present. The traffic cops wouldn't call their supervisor over to help me, just told me to "look for people with stripes on their sleeve, they are everywhere". The vendors and tents in the finish line area (which is a hot, unshaded parking lot with very little seating) had no idea where anyone was. The race organizers actually yelled at me.
The only helpful or sympathetic person was a manager of the retail tent that sold the official merchandise. I had bought 26.2 capris for $50, because they were nice and I wanted something to commemorate my second marathon. Technically, they don't do returns. After hearing my story and why I didn't want them anymore, she refunded my money in cash. Thank heavens at least one person was interested in doing her job well.
What I've learned is that "walker friendly" is very different from "allow walkers". I read all of the information about cut off times and did a ton of research before I signed up for this marathon. If I had done the half, I would've been fine. However, when a marathon says they "allow walkers," that's not the same as being walker friendly. Very few marathons in the U.S. are actually walker friendly. Because, of course, the idea is that you run it and in marathon running world, a ten-minute mile is considered pretty slow. Allowing for 6.5 or 7 hours to complete a marathon seems to be a way to sort of allow for runners of all capabilities or run/walkers. But a true walker friendly marathon has a longer time or has an early start for walkers.
Now, Disney's marathon claims it's a seven hour limit, and I finished it right about on time. I was technically over because I was in the last corral and also because I took a break and rode a roller coaster halfway through the marathon. However, Disney also advertises for walkers and it's very, very clear that there will be a lot of walkers on the course. Disney is one of about a handful of marathons that are this friendly, and most of the others aren't.
So, lesson learned. However, since I wasn't breaking any rules and I was within the time limits, it's incredibly wrong that the cops allowed cars onto the course and that the organizers tried to blame it on the city and that of all the organizations participating; cops, the race organizers, a private security company, official merchandise, stadium personnel, vendors at the finish line; none of them was organized enough to have any idea how to contact one another in the event that someone like me was put in danger. If it had been a bomb threat, sure, the bomb cops would've been there. But the race fucking up and endangering a runner? WHO CARES!!!??? And for that reason, I cannot recommend Baltimore Marathon...and now, I'm signing up for a marathon in May. This one, a Mainly Marathon embraces walkers and has no cut off time. The course is a mile and a half out and back that I have to repeat sixteen times, but that's ok. I just want to get another marathon under my belt and then maybe also go ahead and do the Honolulu Marathon in a couple of years!
In conclusion, I would fucking love it if the entire world learned about this and next year saw a huge dip in attendance because the general public will not stand for something like an organization creating an event that draws in thousands of people and then they just don't really give a shit about the safety of those people. If cars had come on the course where there were hundreds of runners in close proximity to each other, would it have been a big deal then? Sure. But one person? WHO THE FUCK CARES? I also wrote to the Baltimore Sun, and they don't care either. Y'all, no one gives a shit about me, just at all. And no one gives a shit that the organizers of a race didn't actually follow through with their own rules. Just, absolutely no one cares.
As for the rest of my list from last week : I basically just enjoyed my time with Adam and didn't think about school.