Finding uphill challenge

Baltimore Marathon: A veteran of three Marine Corps marathons over the flat streets around Washington, Mary Spinoso of Baltimore has chosen to run a new course Saturday for a desired change of pace.


October 16, 2001|By Michael Reeb | Michael Reeb,SUN STAFF

Like everyone else in Saturday's Comcast Baltimore Marathon, Mary Spinoso will be on new footing for the inaugural running of the race.

Spinoso, a 40-year-old massage therapist from Baltimore, has run three Marine Corps marathons, but will be running her first outside Washington.

Thanks to the help of the NCR Trail Snails, a loosely formed running group that trains on the converted railroad trail in northern Baltimore County, she figures to be ready.

"It's a group that takes in runners of all shapes and sizes. It's a great way to meet friends and get your exercise in at the same time," says Spinoso of the Trail Snails, whose motto is: We're behind you all the way.

"I run with them every Saturday morning, rain or shine, in the snow," Spinoso says. "It's part of my training schedule. I know the run is always there. Part of it is the running, but part of it is the friendship."

The Baltimore Marathon will be loaded with runners from longstanding clubs such as the Annapolis and Howard County striders, Baltimore Road Runners and Westminster Road Runners Club. The NCR Trail Snails, on the other hand, represent the new kid on the block.

Harry Good, who is 51 and has run 14 marathons, serves as the "unofficial/official" coach for the Snails. "We take anybody at any speed," he says. "It's just very informal. We don't have any club dues; you just come out and we try to get you through a marathon."

But it is not only a club for marathon neophytes.

"Two of the Snails have qualified for Boston, which tells you that we have some fast runners," Spinoso says. "It's not all first-time marathoners."

The group has organized trips to Phoenix, the Mardi Gras Marathon and Las Vegas.

"I met them when I was trailing, pretty much running by myself and training for my first marathon," Spinoso says about her 1998 encounter with the group.

She had taken up running in the late 1990s as a recreational alternative.

"I was fit for the most part," she says. "I got the bug from a friend who ran a marathon in Italy; I started out just doing a mile and then just adding on."

She completed the 1998 Marine Corps Marathon in 5 hours, 26 minutes. The next year, she improved her time by almost an hour, and this year, she is looking to go below 4:30.

"I really want a 4:30 big time," says Spinoso, who would need to average about 10 minutes a mile to do so. "I know Baltimore is going to be a really tough marathon. Timewise, I'm below a 10-minute mile, but I just have to find my pace. I find the hills really a welcome break. The monotony of Marine Corps was starting to drive me nuts."

Wanting a departure from a notoriously flat course, she signed on for Baltimore.

"I have run the course," she says. "I did a 20-mile training run on it. It's a tough course."

Marathon facts

What: Baltimore Marathon Festival

When: Saturday. Marathon and marathon team relay start at 8:30 a.m. A 5K (3.1-mile) race starts at 9 a.m.

Where: Start and finish outside PSINet Stadium. The 26.2-mile course takes a counterclockwise route through Baltimore.

Marathon entrants: More than 6,300

Information: 410-377-8006 or 800-487-0670, or visit on the Web

Spinoso file

Age: 40

Hometown: Baltimore

Marathon debut: 1998 Marine Corps Marathon

Personal best: 1999 Marine Corps Marathon, 4:38

Baltimore goal: "I try not to get too fixated on time."

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