An eclectic bunch has run of the city

Racing: Elite marathoners mingle with plodders, toddlers and family relay teams.

October 20, 2002|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

In the Baltimore Comcast Marathon yesterday, elite athletes clad in sleek running gear jogged alongside more casual runners, such as a man in cut-off shorts carrying an American flag.

Well, maybe not exactly alongside.

Erick Kimayo, 33, of Kenya crossed the finish line 2 hours, 17 minutes and 43.4 seconds after an air horn signaled the start of the race at 8 a.m.

Stragglers - resolute in their goal to finish - hobbled in closer to 3 p.m., when the race officially ended.

An eclectic group of 5,000 runners, cheered on by an estimated 23,000 spectators, trailed through city neighborhoods such as the Inner Harbor, Druid Hill Park, Federal Hill and Canton before looping back to the finish line between the Orioles and Ravens stadiums.

The runners' goals varied wildly.

Some aimed to qualify for the Boston Marathon by finishing in times geared to their age groups. Others, like 46-year-old Ed Rigby of Ferndale, just wanted to finish. Period.

Rigby said he would never have thought to run a marathon if there hadn't been one in his hometown.

"I love that we have this here," Rigby said just before the race began at Paca and Pratt streets. "And being familiar with the terrain keeps you calm."

It was flatter this year - a response to complaints about too many hills in the inaugural marathon last year - but spectators and volunteers passing out drinks kept the course spicy.

At mile 19 (where else?), Aberdeen Proving Ground soldiers wore blue No. 19 Johnny Unitas jerseys in honor of the late Baltimore Colt great.

"I love your shirts, guys," one breathless racer said as he grabbed a drink and breezed on.

Some neighborhoods, such as Patterson Park, used the marathon as an excuse to have a block party. And church choirs raised runners' spirits at mile 21, near 33rd Street and the Alameda.

The brisk air - 49 degrees with 86 percent humidity at the start of the race - was perfect for the runners, although spectators huddled for warmth.

All along the route, proud family members waved signs and shouted encouragement to the runners.

On Light Street at about 10:15 a.m., just beyond the marathon's halfway point, 8-year-old Laney Mathias of Baltimore hoisted a hot-pink sign that read: "You're the bomb, mom."

Mom, more widely known as Kathryn Mathias, was running the marathon to commemorate her 40th birthday, her mother, Joan McLean, explained. McLean came from Connecticut to watch Mathias' first marathon.

Back at the finish line at noon, runners streamed in steadily.

Those who had just finished sprawled across the ground at the SunTrust Celebration Village, where fitness took a back seat to Boardwalk fries, beer and slices of pepperoni pizza.

"We wanted this to be a party atmosphere," event organizer Lee Corrigan said.

The Matthews clan, Baltimore residents also known as the "All in the Family" relay team, reloaded on carbohydrates as they talked about their new family relay record. They finished in 3 hours and 18 minutes - 10 minutes better than last year.

"The parents are the slow ones," Mickey Matthews, 39, said. He picked up the last eight miles, and his wife, Dia Matthews, 39, ran the first six. Their children, Jack, 11, and Brooke, 13, ran the rest of the 26.2 mile course.

Jack, munching on pretzels after the marathon, explained his running philosophy: "You just gotta keep going."

"He's very impressed with himself," Mickey Matthews said of Jack.

Superhuman effort

Shelley Sarmiento, born and raised in Baltimore, said she was proud to have a marathon in her home city. Sarmiento, 41, said she remembers watching the now-defunct Maryland Marathon as a teen-ager and thinking the runners were superhuman.

Yesterday, she ran her 40th marathon. Today, she plans to run another in Norfolk, Va.

Her husband, Rick, and two daughters, 3-year-old Ivy and 5-year-old Sophie, popped up at various points on the course to spur her along.

At times, it seemed the whole city was rallying for the marathoners. Even drivers slowed by the herds of runners smiled and gave them the thumbs-up sign.

Little feet

Perhaps the loudest cheers came from exuberant parents at the CitiFinancial Kids' Fun Run, a new addition to the Baltimore Running Festival. Tiny racers had numbers pinned to their shirts just like the marathoners and even crossed the same finish line.

Seven-year-old Ian Crowther of Bethany Beach, Del., thrust his arms into the air Rocky-style when he spotted his mom after the 1/3-mile sprint for 7- to 9-year-olds. "You can tell this is his first race," Bonnie Crowther said, chuckling. She rubbed his back and scooted him from the awards tent (all 500 participants got a pin and a T-shirt) back to the finish line so they could watch his 11-year-old brother's race.

"The look on their faces ... " said CitiFinancial spokeswoman, Patricia W. Robbins, who helped plan the Fun Run. "They were positively glowing as they came across the finish line."

The youngest participant, 1 1/2 -year-old Tanner Crumish, determinedly toddled toward the finish line until, as so often happens with young runners, he became too distracted to move. His mother, Melissa Crumish of Buffalo, N.Y., carried him the final few yards across the finish line.

His time for the 100-yard run - 00:01:40. Not bad for a runner still in diapers.

Sun staff writer Elizabeth A. Shack contributed to this article.

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