A familiar face and a first-timer headlined the 15th Baltimore Running Festival on Saturday.
For the second time in three years, Dave Berdan of Owings Mills won the men's marathon, completing the 26.2-mile course in 2 hours, 30 minutes, 21 seconds. The 34-year-old cross country coach and assistant track coach at Stevenson won the 2013 race in 2:30:06.
Running in her first Baltimore marathon, Caitlin Gaughan of Scranton, Pa., won the women's race. The 29-year-old middle-school counselor, who has participated in nine other marathons, crossed the finish line in 2:58:12.
Berdan withdrew from last year's race after overcompensating for a torn labrum in his left hip and suffering a stress fracture in his knee. Berdan, who had a sizable lead in that marathon before pulling out, said he had high hopes for Saturday but wasn't sure what to expect as he stood at the starting line.
"Anything can happen," he said of his approach. "It's such a long race. I came in with a goal of winning, but with my hip last year, it's still not 100 percent. I started feeling it around 20 miles, but I just kind of zoned out and ignored it."
Berdan led for the first 5 miles of Saturday's race, but Brian Rosenberg, 38, an accountant from Mechanicsburg, Pa., who won the 2014 marathon, passed Berdan shortly after emerging from the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore.
The two ran down St. Paul's Street, side by side, before Berdan retook the lead after 8 miles. He increased his advantage over Rosenberg after circling Under Armour headquarters and passing the Inner Harbor.
"We were talking," Berdan said of his time with Rosenberg. "It's good to have someone to run with. I was really smart this year and went out conservatively. Sometimes I forget how long the race is and get impatient. This year, I even told him, 'I'm going conservative.' And when he caught up to me, he was like, 'Good job being conservative.' We ran together for a while, and then we started picking it up. I talked to him afterward briefly, and he said he went out a little too quick there."
Rosenberg, who said he maintains a friendly rivalry with Berdan, tried to keep up.
"We were talking a little along the way, trying to keep the pace consistent but not too fast," said Rosenberg, who finished third (2:37:27). "We had a string of miles that were maybe a little faster than I wanted. So I had backed off figuring that was going to catch me in the second half, and it did. I think I paid for it a little bit. He had a real nice finish in the second half. I knew if he was on his game, he was going to be really difficult to beat today. I'm happy to see him get the title back."
Jeremy Bennie, 21, a Maryland graduate who attends law school at Virginia, finished second (2:35:15).
Berdan joins a group of two-time winners of the Baltimore Running Festival. Erick Kimayo won in 2002 and 2003, John Itati in 2004 and 2007, and Stephen Muange in 2011 and 2012.
If not for last year's withdrawal, Berdan might have become the first runner to win three consecutive Baltimore marathons.
"That would have been pretty cool," he said. "But it feels even better to come back after having to stop last year."
Gaughan wasn't expecting to win the women's division. She said she woke up Saturday morning with stomach pains.
"I actually didn't feel well this morning. I just thought to myself, 'Just get through this today. Don't worry about pushing it.' As soon as the gun went off, every bit of that stomachache went away and I just got into the zone."
Gaughan passed Denise Knickman of Baltimore after the first mile and never relinquished her lead.
"She was pretty fast, and she went by me pretty fast," said Knickman, 47, a physical therapist who ran in the 2000 U.S. Olympic marathon trials and finished Saturday's race in 3:06:54. "I doubted I could catch her. My friends were telling me that she was slowing down, but I guess not."
Emily Ballantyne, 24, of Baltimore was third (3:10:50).
Gaughan said she didn't know she would win until the end of the race.
"I think I felt that way at maybe 26.1" miles, she joked. "It was challenging. I didn't want to get too ahead of myself. I just said, 'Stay conservative, stay confident, just get through this. Don't worry about winning. That is not what you're here for.' I tried my hardest and gave it my all."
Asked how it felt to be the champion, Gaughan said: "It hasn't sunk in yet. It's still kind of surreal really. I'm in shock."