See how they run

October 18, 2002

TWENTY MILES down, 6.2 yet to go and the runner was beginning to doubt he could make it. He had breezed through plenty of marathons in his long career. But now he was over 60, hadn't put in enough training, and it was hot. Really, really hot for October.

And those hills! Who knew Baltimore had such hills? Race officials claimed the course would flatten, then roll downhill after mile 16. Wrong! Mile 20 through Druid Hill Park seemed to go straight up.

Yet, each time his spirit started to sag, spectators along the course would call out the initials he had printed on the front of his T-shirt.

"Hey E.T! Way to go! Looking good! Almost there!"

He knew he didn't look good, and he certainly wasn't almost there. But somehow the encouragement was a tonic. He felt better, felt like he could make it without walking. He smiled, waved and pressed on to a respectable finish.

The thousands of spectators who lined the course of Baltimore's inaugural marathon last year should congratulate themselves for a job well done and bring their friends back tomorrow for the marathon's second running.

Such an extraordinary outpouring of spectator support not only perks up the runners but provides an enormous image boost for a city that is often underrated and misunderstood even by people living nearby.

Some of Baltimore's loveliest neighborhoods were dropped from the course this year to spare runners those wretched hills along Northern Parkway. But the race still offers great views of Fells Point, Patterson Park, Falls Road and many city landmarks.

None will be quite so welcome, though, as the faces of those friendly folks along the way calling out, "Way to go. Looking good! Almost there!"

Take a few minutes and cheer them along.

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