Marathoners take it to the streets

Race: Thousands of runners turn out for Baltimore's third annual run through the city.

October 19, 2003|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

Long-distance runners were far from lonely yesterday in Baltimore, as the city's third annual marathon became a moving street festival, starting in the heart of downtown and stretching from the Inner Harbor to dozens of neighborhoods.

Under gray skies, while many city dwellers were reaching for their first cup of coffee, several thousand runners began their 26.2-mile journey at South Paca and West Pratt streets, near the Bromo Seltzer tower and Camden Yards.

Kyairra Brooks, 13, a pupil at Lombard Middle School, had her camera ready. Her father was running the marathon and her younger brother and sister were running a short "Fun Run," she said. "I'm nervous for all of them."

Dress was hardly uniform - one runner sported a paisley tuxedo and another had Elvis shades and matching sideburns. One man had scrawled instructions to spectators across his chest tag: "Yell go, Art!"

Thirty minutes into the race, the stream of runners reached the three-mile mark in Druid Hill Park, where the clouds had given way to bright sunshine.

They later passed the Stieff Silver building on the edge of Hampden. They ran by the white marble of Pennsylvania Station on their way through downtown to Light Street. They saw the urban charms of Federal Hill and Canton, the green of Patterson Park and the blue of Lake Montebello.

Organizers said about 3,000 runners registered for the full course. But even more signed up to run a half-marathon or the four-person team relays.

Along the way were proud parents such as David and Margie Harris, who came from Springfield, Ill., to watch their daughter, Kelly Perin of Canton, complete her first marathon.

Dr. Peter L. Beilenson, the city's health commissioner, ran one leg of a team relay with his 15-year-old son, Alex, his wife, Chris, and Helen Montag, his former wife. "It's our blended family relay," he said, wearing a UCLA sweat shirt.

For a runner from London, the course was an eye-opener. Becky Tunstall, 32, said, "It was a good tourist trip to see the fantas- tic church spires, the beautiful parks and the brilliant support from people sitting on the steps drinking coffee."

For 49-year-old Jeff White, a federal employee from Harrisburg, Pa., yesterday marked a nice symmetry: his 49th marathon. He and fellow members of a Harrisburg-area road runner club, Jim Honchar, 39, and Gene Gignac, 47, finished in 3 hours and 10 minutes.

While morale on the asphalt trail was high, with strangers slapping hands and some downing doughnuts at rest stops, some motorists were frustrated as streets were closed for the runners.

One Federal Hill businessman, Joe Hooe, said the marathon was worth the nuisance to traffic and commerce.

"It is my pleasure to sacrifice one business day for this morning," said Hooe, 35, owner of the Tire Network. "Anytime people come together for one single thing, it has to be good."

Taxi driver Towand Fuller agreed. "You don't see me complaining," he said. "It energizes the city."

Lee Corrigan of Corrigan Sports Enterprises, the company that organized the event, said Baltimore was, until two years ago, the largest city in the country without a marathon.

Frank Durbano, 40, of Columbia clapped enthusiastically yesterday morning for every runner who passed his perch on Key Highway. Speaking to his 12-year-old son, Anthony, he said, "Good way to meet new people."

About 400 Baltimore police officers were working the event, most of them on a voluntary overtime basis, city officials said. An Eastern District police officer, Charles E. Lee, said it was his third time working the race: "Love it," he said. "Fast, slow, come out for the cause."

Baltimore police Lt. Gabe T. Bittner said seeing the first few runners - Erick Kimaiyo, Christopher Kipkosgei and Charles Kamindo, a trio from Kenya - glide into the finish was a highlight. "These guys weren't even winded," he said. "It was absolutely incredible." Kimaiyo finished in just under 2 hours 19 minutes.

As hundreds of runners huddled in "space blankets" to ward off a chill after the race, local members of the national Active Survivors Network gathered to congratulate each other. Four members of the Towson branch ran a team relay as an affirmation of health and vigor after serious illnesses, they said.

"We're unlike any team," said Jay McCutcheon, 42, who recovered from a stroke a few years ago.

At 1 p.m., five hours into the race, 524 women and 1,183 men were recorded as marathon finishers, officials said, using an ankle-clip electronic system. The runners had 7 1/2 hours to complete the race, and officials estimated that at least 2,000 eventually did.

At 3:40 p.m., the last man, according to race officials, made it to the finish line. Luther Meyer, a 20-year-old member of the Army assigned to honor guard duty in Washington, winced and struggled his way through shin splints that hit him before the halfway point - about Mile 10, he said. "I just tried to finish," he said as he received medical attention.

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