A great feat for speedy feet

The Baltimore Marathon is back on Saturday, with a running festival that includes food and live music

October 11, 2007|By Aaron Chester | Aaron Chester,Sun reporter

Baltimore City will morph into a running track for the seventh consecutive year this weekend, as the 2007 Under Armour Baltimore Running Festival returns to town today through Saturday.

Produced by Corrigan Sports Enterprises, the festival kicks off with the Elite Sportsclub Network Health and Fitness Expo today and tomorrow at M&T Bank Stadium. The expo will feature 80 vendors, including running companies selling products to local companies promoting businesses, organizers said. There will also be a variety of food and live music.

On Saturday, the Under Armour Baltimore Marathon and the Legg Mason Funds Team Relay will begin at 8 a.m., followed by the United Way 5K at 8:30 a.m., the Kids' Fun Run at 9:20 a.m. and the CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield Half-Marathon at 9:45 a.m.

The lack of extreme changes or additions to this year's event has not stopped the 39 people who have participated in the marathon every year since 2001 from returning for yet another outing.

Robert Olsen, 68, a retired architect, and his partner, Bruce Swanson, 62, a pastor, will run their hometown marathon for the seventh year this weekend.

"It's about being able to meet the challenge," Olsen said. "When I started running, I about died running a quarter-mile, so it's pretty impressive to me." He said it's the camaraderie between the runners and spectators that brings him back.

Swanson, who has 98 marathons under his belt, said the Baltimore Marathon is the only one that he repeats. He said he always keeps a marathon ahead of him as a goal.

Scenery is an important factor, too; Swanson especially enjoys running through Charles Village and Fort McHenry. He hopes that this year some of the pedestrian-heavy areas will be a little more cleared out for the runners.

According to Gene Brtalik, director of publicity for Corrigan Sport Enterprises, runners like Olsen and Swanson will get bigger medals this year. A Maryland Double medal will be awarded to marathon or half-marathon runners who also participated in the Frederick half-marathon or marathon.

Runners "all have different reasons," Brtalik said. "Some [run] for medals, some for free Under Armour shirts, some because of Baltimore. Runners have different reasons, and you want to make sure you make everybody happy."

Another addition this year is the Force 3 tracking system, which enables fans and family members to track where runners are throughout the race by e-mail, cell phone or online. Runners will have a chip in one of their shoes, and when they cross tracking mats throughout the course, a notification will be send out.

"In previous years, you go from point to point and hope you get to the finish line before the runner, but this keeps everybody updated," Brtalik said.

Another change is the return of the Lake Montebello loop into the course. Last year, the area was under construction and taken out for safety purposes.

Erik Katkow, 63, a dentist, has also run the marathon every year. Katkow, a Baltimore native, said he encourages everyone to spread the word about it.

Katkow said he runs mostly to stay in shape, and the marathon sends a positive message to the city about health.

"I hope I can still do this years from now," he said. "I see people out there in their 70s, and I hope I'll be one of them." Katkow added that he wants to see the marathon grow up to par with those of some bigger cities.

With about 3,000 registered for the 26.2-mile marathon and 6,000 for the half, according to Brtalik, an all-time high of more than 13,000 runners is expected when accounting for the team relay, too. Both the team relay and half-marathon are sold out, Brtalik said, and the festival has earned more than $75 million for the city and more than $3 million for charities.

"This brings in people from all over the city, showcasing Baltimore for all it's worth," Brtalik said. "Even if you're not running, come out and support," he added. "It's not just for runners, but for the whole community. Maybe you'll come down and be inspired: a city for everyone, a race for everyone."

The 2007 Under Armour Baltimore Running Festival is this weekend. The expo is noon-9 p.m. today and 9 a.m.-9 p.m. tomorrow at M&T Bank Stadium, 1101 Russell St., and Saturday is race day. Call 410-605-9381 or go to thebaltimoremarathon.com.

Baltimore Running Festival

Elite Sportsclub Network Health and Fitness Expo:

Noon-9 p.m. today and 9 a.m.-9 p.m. tomorrow on the Northside Club Level of M&T Bank Stadium, 1101 Russell St. Free.

Under Armour Baltimore Marathon:

Starts at 8 a.m. Saturday at Russell and Camden streets. Legg Mason Funds Team Relay also starts at 8.

United Way 5K:

Starts at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at Paca and Pratt streets.

The Fig Newton Kids' Fun Run:

Starts at 9:20 a.m. Runners will be sent to different start lines.

CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield Half-Marathon:

Starts at 9:45 a.m. Saturday at Light and Conway streets.



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