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Runners shimmy and shake from hurling fruit at Tomato Run

What better way to spend your birthday than running from hurling tomatoes?

At least one Pasadena woman thought it was a good way to celebrate Saturday morning.

Equipped with a small gladiator shield, plastic sword and red cape, Beth Lewis, 48, said her daughter talked her into completing the Tomato Run 5K at Ripken Stadium for her birthday. Before the race began, she said she hoped her shield would block her and keep her from getting too messy.

"We didn't want to get hit in the face with tomatoes, hence the shield," Lewis said. "We just wanted to do something together with the family. It makes me feel young; I don't feel 48."

Other runners sported face paint, tutus and some even wore plastic hazmat suits, which could have easily come from the hit AMC TV show "Breaking Bad."

This year marked the inception for the Tomato Run 5K, created by RSP Live which also started the "Run For Your Lives" zombie 5K. Inspired by a Spanish run, La Tomatina, runners attempt to make it to the finish line without getting pelted by any of the more than 2,000 pounds of tomatoes.

The tomatoes are all unsalable, inedible tomatoes collected from farmers across Maryland. After the run, all of the tomato remnants were donated to Veteran Compost, a veteran run food compost center in Aberdeen.

Justen Garrity, president and founder of Veteran Compost, said he was contacted by the event organizers stating they had an awesome idea and were looking for a green and friendly way to execute it.

"Food waste is the largest waste component," Garrity said. "It's costing more and more money to throw garbage away; it's better to take it and reuse it."

Garrity said Veteran Compost takes food waste from residencies and commercial spaces like Harford County Public Schools and local businesses.

He said it takes about two months to treat food waste and turn it into fertilizer than can be put back into someone's garden for use.

"This is fun and a great chance for these hundreds of runners to compost...," Garrity said. "And we might throw some tomatoes."

Three friends dressed as a leprechaun, pink pig and quasi-80s b-boy in gold spandex were the prime targets at all three tomato chucking stations during the run.

"Get the pig, get the pig," a group of kids yelled at the second attack zone.

When the trio finally hit the finish line, they were all completely out of breath, but said the race was tons of fun.

"We had to dress up in costumes, it's like a week 'til Halloween," Russell Ward, 26, of Hampstead, said of his leprechaun ensemble.

The friends said they typically dress up for various 5K runs around the Maryland area, such as Tough Mudder and the zombie run, but Ward said while it is fun, it can be really difficult to run in the outfits, especially the ones made of felt.

"It's really hard running in costumes," Ward said. "But running on the road, like this one, makes it a lot easier compared to other races which is all trail running."

Although runners had to be at least 16 years old to participate, children of all ages were able to join into the fun. At the second tomato attack zone, children climbed onto rafters and hurled hundreds of tomatoes at runners.

Kyle Butcher, 10, of Rockville, said he pelted 20 to 25 runners with tomatoes.

"It was like really disgusting, but fun," Kyle said.

Kyle's younger sister, Ally, 5, also joined in the fun. Using a squirt gun, she shot runners with tomato juice during the run.

"I got to squirt tomato juice and my boots got all messy," Ally said.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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