Running festival a day to take things in stride

Races: For drivers, marathoners and other runners, it was a day of starts and stops.

October 17, 2004|By Phillip McGowan | Phillip McGowan,SUN STAFF

Plenty of people had places to go yesterday morning in downtown Baltimore. For participants in the Baltimore Running Festival, the path was free and clear. For everyone else, it was gridlocked.

Friends and families who made up a solid portion of the estimated 250,000 spectators enjoyed the sunny skies and crisp breeze as they marveled at the professional runners and motivated their slower loved ones.

"This wears me out just watching these guys," said Betsy Ziegler, 54, as a quintuplet of Kenyans near the lead turned off Key Highway onto Light Street, about the halfway point of the Baltimore Marathon.

Mothers and fathers lined up their strollers, some carrying homemade signs of support. Others such as Ziegler and her husband, Dale, 56, strolled out from their neighborhoods to catch a glimpse of an event that is gaining repute.

The times of marathon winners John Itati (2 hours, 14 minutes, 51 seconds) and Ramilia Burangulova (2:40:21) set records for the city event. But most participants weren't chasing that sort of glory. Runners said the diversity of events - the 5K, kids run, marathon relay, half-marathon and full marathon - provide runners of all abilities challenges and goals to achieve.

"It has really caught on," said Edward LeCates, 59, of York, Pa., who won his age group in the 5K yesterday.

This was his third year of participating in the Baltimore festival in four years - a knee injury sidelined him in 2002.

Organizers said that 9,532 runners participated yesterday, a record for the event. Many came from around the country.

Making it a family outing

Erik Makus, 27, made the trip from Blacksburg, Va., to run his first marathon. He was accompanied by his father, Larry Makus, 56, who traveled from Moscow, Idaho.

The elder Makus was planning to run his eighth marathon but opted instead for a half-marathon.

As thousands of people packed in for the start of the marathon just north of Paca and Pratt streets, Brian Corrigan, 41, of Philadelphia waited at the back of the throng, near a sign indicating where five-hour marathoners should stand.

"It doesn't matter," Corrigan said. "Let all the gazelles start up front. I'm back here with the heavyweights."

His wife, Terry Corrigan, later ran in the 5K to raise money for leukemia and lymphoma; her brother was found to have lymphoma three years ago.

Many spectators appreciate the intense dedication of those who train for marathons, even if they can't fathom anyone running 26.2 miles on concrete.

"I think running 26 miles just isn't very healthy," said Richard Rose Sr., 49, of Fairfax, Va. His son Richard Jr., 20, had just completed a half-marathon in preparation for the Marine Corps Marathon in two weeks in Washington.

With temperatures hovering in the 50s and winds occasionally gusty, a few runners were treated for hypothermia, a festival spokeswoman said.

Julie McCarty, 37, of Abingdon was diagnosed with runner's knee two years ago, but it didn't deter her from running her fourth Baltimore Marathon. With her left knee padded, she took to the streets with her son, Chad, 18, for the second straight year.

"[Last year] at Mile 24, he said he would never run a marathon again," she said.

"But I still finished," Chad said, adding that his motivation for competing this year is to "get a medal around my neck."

The McCarty family's involvement in the running festival also included that of husband Richard, a Baltimore police officer: He directed traffic at Orleans Street and Broadway.

On certain streets, especially those running east-west, traffic moved at a snail's pace for several hours. Police at times directed cars though gaps between runners.

Plenty of idle time

Skip Cerf, 40, of Bel Air sat in his red Ford pickup on Pratt Street just west of Calvert Street about 9:50 a.m. as the start of the half-marathon sent a steady stream of runners north onto Calvert. Hundreds of cars and trucks backed up on Pratt as far as the eye could see.

Cerf, trying to get to work at a downtown hotel, said the information on the street closings in The Sun was incomplete, showing only the marathon route. It didn't show that Calvert Street would be cordoned off because of the half-marathon.

The races' traffic stoppages didn't seem to affect other city festivities. At the sixth annual Fells Point Oyster Festival, organizers said the cold, drizzly weather was more of a factor in reducing turnout in the early afternoon than the races. Some of the vendors had a hard time setting up in the morning because of the street closures, but the roads had reopened by the time the festival started at noon.

Sun staff writer Andrew A. Green contributed to this article.

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