For many, race is quest of self

Personal odysseys dot city running festival

October 14, 2007|By Stephanie Desmon | Stephanie Desmon,Sun reporter

Two years, 80 pounds and countless miles ago, Kim Frederick started the quest that brought her to the finish line of yesterday's half-marathon in Baltimore.

Her family - two brothers, two sisters, mom and dad - were cheering her on. Her best friend, Betsy Gay, waited excitedly to present Frederick a sash decorated with her initials on the front and the phrase "Hot chick on the run" gracing the back.

No one was prouder than the runner herself, who conquered 13.1 miles in just over 2 hours and 15 minutes.

"A year and half ago, I couldn't even run a mile," said Frederick, 27, who lives in Laguna Beach, Calif., but grew up in Howard County. "To a lot of people, a half-marathon is nothing. To me, it really is everything."

FOR THE RECORD - An article in Sunday's Maryland section misidentified a participant in Saturday's half-marathon as Kim Frederick. Her name is Katie Frederick.
The Sun regrets the error.

Under sunny skies and virtually perfect weather, an estimated 14,000 ran, walked and limped through the seventh annual Under Armour Baltimore Running Festival, which encompassed the half-marathon, a full marathon, a team relay, a 5K and the Kids' Fun Run.

Tens of thousands more rooted them on, from street corners and front porches, with music and Gummi Bear candy. They shouted words of encouragement to people they had never met, hoping to help power them through the hilly course. At the end, the participants would find a party waiting for them - with a live band, a clown making balloon animals, and food and drink to fill those who were clearly on empty.

"It's very much a hometown marathon," said Katrina Woodcock of Columbia, waiting with her 3-year-old for her husband to finish his first 26.2-mile race. "There are so many people, and everyone gets caught up in it. People are constantly crossing the finish line. It just builds. I love the festival atmosphere of it."

Not far from the finish line, Pat Luongo, an eighth-grade teacher from Perry Hall, kept ringing the red cowbell she wore around her neck. She was waiting for her 29-year-old nephew, a Navy pilot who lives in Virginia Beach, Va., to run by. But she had no intention of saving her enthusiasm just for him.

Besides, he was miles away, she figured, and all these folks needed someone to help them muster up a second wind, if not a third or a fourth.

"At least they know they're almost there," she said, standing alongside her marathoner father, Vincent Romeo, who at age 87 is only five years removed from running his last big race.

"When you're running, when you hear people hollering and cheering for you, it helps you pick up the pace," said Jocelyn Palacki, an interior designer from Pittsburgh who ran the 5K and was waiting for her boyfriend to finish the half-marathon.

The gorgeous weather was a far cry from the Chicago Marathon six days earlier, when heat and humidity forced organizers to call off the race before it was over. Scores of runners had to be hospitalized and one died (the death was later found to be caused by an undetected heart ailment). Some runners said they would have liked slightly lower temperatures in Baltimore yesterday, but spectators found the fall breeze brisk enough.

Stephanie Tell, Sara Mason and the rest of their gang carried signs and pink pompoms for Mason's sister, Kate Anderson, and another friend, Rachel Weber, both from Buckhannon, W. Va. Both were running in their first marathon.

"We saw them at the half [-way point]," Mason said.

"They look great," Tell added. "They're still smiling."

So was Canton engineer Matt Stanford, 25, even though he was exhausted after having just finished his first marathon in three hours, 29 minutes.

"She inspired me to run," he said of his younger sister, Meredith, who ran the Boston Marathon this year.

"He beat me," she said.

"But not by much," he insisted.

Anna Otten, 26, who works in public relations in Silver Spring, started running to give herself something to do soon after moving to a new town. And there she was yesterday, running the half-marathon in either slightly less than two hours or slightly more, depending on whether you count the unscheduled bathroom break at mile 10. (She prefered not to.)

"The greatest feeling in the world is, no matter how tired you are, you just ran 13.1 miles," she said. "You feel like you can do anything now."

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