The Baltimore 10-miler is set in early June, around the time of year when you can never predict what the weather is going to give you. Sometimes it’s a downpour, some years it’s a gentle breeze. This year it was 73 degrees, with 94% humidity. Sweating well before the first notes of the Star Spangled Banner, we were running through soup.
The first five miles, mostly downhill, take you out of Druid Hill Park and through neighboring Charles Village and Waverly, where you run through a brief part of the Johns Hopkins campus and past the city’s historic row houses, and around the beautiful Lake Montebello. All the while, you hear the cheers from passersbys.
The first half has a welcoming familiarity. It feels like a course you’ve run a dozen times, no matter where you’re coming from. Yeah, it has a few hills, but it all still feels easy and manageable. By the time you come running down the hill that leads to Lake Montebello, your stride is quicker than you intended. The course feels comfortable. Like a worn La-Z-Boy, you feel like you can just kick your feet out and coast your way to the finish…but that’s when the race has you in its trap.
Like that worn La-Z-Boy, this course ejects you from the feeling of comfort and leaves you in an unfamiliar upside-down world of rolling hills. After leaving the lake, pushing up that same street you so gracefully glided in on, you’re made to make a left down The Alameda. Now all of the runners ahead of you are coming up the other side of the median, faces in anguish. Because once you get to the turn-around before mile six, you see that you are looking at two steep hills, back-to-back.
Mile six is always my undoing.
This is where you can tell who are the calculated runners, from those who make up the plan as they go along. Unfortunately, I’m always the latter. Even when I go in with a plan, I always tend to throw caution to the wind and just let what happens, happen.
This is when the race finally starts. Your legs are exhausted and the runners that came in with plans have all passed you by. You are now left in that existential state of mind where you question the life choices that brought you to running.
The sad truth is that mile six is just a prequel for the rest of this race. The remaining four miles are a ruthless fight back to Druid Hill Park, as the course laughs at your arrogance.
The biggest hill comes just as you are entering the park. There is the second to last water station, accompanied by a random doughnut table – it’s things like this that make you question if this race has been laughing at you the whole time. Teasing you with the idea of tossing a few doughnut holes in your mouth as you try kicking yourself through the last two miles. Once you’re in the park, the finish is in sight, only 400 meters away- until it takes a sharp turn to the right. As the race goes, you still have another mile and a half before you can actually cross it.
After the brutal final hill that climbs, flattens, then climbs, the course sends you through one last turn. A random loop past the small Rogers-Buchanan Cemetery and a few park pavilions spits you out to those same remaining 400 meters you saw a mile and a half before, and it is a rewarding mad sprint to the finish.
My eyes glazed over once the adrenaline kicked, but I remember passing by two other runners that were just ahead of me, watching them getting comfortable again in the same trap set just before mile five.
I still consider myself a new runner. I have been doing this just shy of four years, and back in 2016, the Baltimore 10-Miler was one of the first races I ran. It has been one of my favorite races since. Even after moving to Pittsburgh, I still knew I had to make the trip back to try the course again. It’s one of the few races that I can say has a personality of its own. It might have a sadistic personality with a crab as a mascot, but it’s a fun race regardless. It’s also the only race I have ever run that gives you a fresh slice of juicy watermelon and an ice cold wet towel as soon as you cross the finish line.
I’m looking forward to next year!
Also, if you ever have a chance to run this race, I recommend doing it with a great crew. I’m lucky. Once I crossed that line, I found myself in the arms and high-fives of the Fastest Bastards in Baltimore.
Race Perks Included