Getting in shape to watch the marathon

Baltimore Marathon

October 14, 2004|By Annie Linskey | By Annie Linskey,Sun Staff

Watching a marathon can be, well, exhausting. Yes, the runners get plenty tired, but, then again, they spend months and months training -- and if they make it to the end, they get a free massage when they are done.

Spectators, on the other hand, can face cramped quarters as they search out their loved one(s) among the sweating throngs of runners. They holler out a few cheers before racing off to catch their runner again at the next spot.

And watchers will have to be on their toes. Elite runners will finish in just over two hours. The course closes after 7 1/2 hours. (It took this reporter 1 1/2 hours to drive the course -- but she did get a little lost in Druid Hill Park and had to stop for gas).

So, here we take a close look at the 26.2-mile course to find the most efficient and (more importantly) most fun viewing points for Saturday's fourth annual Baltimore Marathon.

Downtown

If you're committed to a day of marathon watching (and you don't mind mixing with hordes of like-minded people) downtown will probably be the best place to watch the race.

From there, spectators will only have to navigate a few blocks to see runners at the beginning (it starts at 8 a.m. at Paca Street), the middle (miles 8 and 13 on St. Paul and Light streets), and the finish line (at Camden Yards).

Plus, the marathon organizers have made elaborate plans for the downtown watchers. "It's going to be 30,000 people partying," said Lee Corrigan, a marathon promoter. They've planned a running festival with live music, games and food.

Corrigan also noted that the local networks will be down there interviewing people. So, he said, you might even get on TV. (Why should all of the runners get the glory, after all?)

Patterson Park

For a more laid-back and less hectic vantage point, this is a good choice.

The marathon course slices through the west side of the park, so spectators can catch their breath on grassy hills on both sides of the street.

The half marathon joins up with the full marathon course at the northwest corner of Patterson Park. The half marathoners will just be at mile three, and the full marathoners will be at mile 16.

Patterson Park is also home to one of the 17 water stops for runners along the course. If you're looking for a racer, standing close -- but not too close -- to a water stop is a good plan.

Plus, the folks at Patterson Park said they've got the greatest water stop on the course (could it be The Greatest Water Stop in America?). They turn out spirited volunteers, and they pride themselves on producing some marathon spirit sans 30,000 people.

Waverly Farmers' Market

This is for those who want to experience "marathon-watching lite." Pick up some heirloom tomatoes and poke your head out on 33rd Street to watch runners go by.

And, the runners will need some encouragement here. They'll be at mile 22 -- which runs along 33rd Street -- and they'll be coming off several miles of streets not known to have big cheering sections.

This particular mile has been officially designated for former Oriole and Baseball Hall of Famer Eddie Murray in honor of his number (33).

Charles Village

Another water stop worth checking out is the one at Charles Village.

The runners pass through here twice -- the first time at mile 6 when they're still a sprightly bunch and then at mile 24 when, as organizer John Fink put it, "they're dying."

"It's a nice vantage point because you can see them coming all the way down Charles Street," said Fink, who has run the race with his family in the past.

"You're hitting the wall," Fink continued. "That is why it is important to have people cheering there."

He's also planning on hosing down the runners with water, if it is hot out. So plan on getting sprayed.

Final thoughts

As of press time, more than 2,800 runners had signed up for the marathon, and 3,500 planned to run the half marathon. It's going to require stamina to cheer on all these people, so think about some carbs tomorrow night. Be sure to drink plenty of water. And, last of all, take it easy on Sunday. You might be a bit sore.

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