The Baltimore Running Festival remains a work in progress, but organizers are hopeful that their third course in as many years becomes a keeper.
"I think we finally found the right one, but there are still improvements to be made," said Lee Corrigan, the head of Corrigan Sports Enterprises, which manages the festival. "One thing that we've been going around and around with the city for three years is striping the course, and we'll revisit that. I think it would help the runners, police and the race monitors."
Fila teammates Erick Kimaiyo and Christopher Kipkosgei went 1-2 in the Baltimore Marathon on Saturday, but they went off course briefly in the 26th mile. Afterward, they talked of the need to have the path of the course painted on the city's streets.
Running downhill from the 22nd mile to the 26th, the two covered those four miles in less than 20 minutes, but that was an aberration in a city where hills must be climbed to move away from the waterfront. Kimaiyo, who awoke with a cough and wasn't 100 percent, ran slower than he did a year ago, but three-time champion Elvira Kolpakova continued to get faster.
"The course could be easier," said Konstantin Selinevich, speaking for Kolpakova. "It's definitely not the fastest, but she didn't have any problems. It's not a course where you're going to break a world record."
Kolpakova headed home to the Caucasus Mountains of Russia, where she'll prepare for next month's world ultramarathon (62 miles) championships in Taiwan. Kimaiyo said he would return next year, then celebrated the same way he did last year, with dinner at a downtown steakhouse.
While the winners responded like the world-class athletes that they are, others had a tougher time with the 26.2-mile race. Corrigan said a male marathoner from Pennsylvania experienced chest pains and was hospitalized after the race, but was in stable condition.
The Baltimore Running Festival added a half-marathon, which registered 3,000. Those who ran joined the marathon and Team Relay at the midway mark. Some marathoners complained about the difficulty passing team relay runners who were walking abreast.
"I was very nervous about the start of the half-marathon, but that point at the Inner Harbor ended up drawing a huge crowd and became a focal point of the race," Corrigan said. "What we have to do now is get feedback from runners about how the fields from the different races melded together, but the less tinkering we can do, the better."
Corrigan has a three-year rollover contract with Baltimore City. This year his company added Under Armour and CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield as sponsors of the marathon and inaugural half-marathon, but sponsorship dollars were down.
"Our sponsorship money was $500,000 last year, and that went down to $340,000 this year," Corrigan said. "Mostly, I think that's a result of the economy. Baltimore is a tough place to do this, but the festival certainly isn't in any danger."