Calm, a neon storm, then calm again in East Baltimore

Cheering on the runners
(Kaitlin Newman, Baltimore Sun)

Early Saturday morning, Officer Vinny Julio stood in the intersection of Chase and Washington streets, idly twirling a wooden police baton on his first assignment since graduating from the police academy the day before.

The streets were quiet on marathon morning until the first skinny figures began to dart past around 9:30. David Berdan, well ahead of the pack with the number 1 pinned to his vest, looked at Julio's stick.


"Hope you don't need that," he said, zipping on by, an early gust in the storm of runners following somewhere behind him.

Julio had no occasion to use his baton and police reported no significant incidents connected to the Baltimore Running Festival. By the end of the day, about 16,000 runners had passed him — among them dozens of his new colleagues at the Police Department — completing a snaking marathon course that wound through many Baltimore neighborhoods.

In all, an estimated 27,000 people participated in the festival, which includes a half-marathon, 5-kilometer race and a kids fun run.

The marathon course started at M&T Bank Stadium downtown before making a long loop up through Druid Hill Park and back toward the Inner Harbor. From there it was on to Federal Hill and Locust Point before heading through Fells Point and into East Baltimore.

The newly minted officer stood near the 17-mile mark, he told a couple who ambled by while it was still quiet.

At the other end of the block, past a few boarded-up houses, Emmie Healy poured yellow Gatorade into paper cups, ready to hand it out to thirsty people when they arrived. And by 10 a.m. the stream of runners grew stronger, coming in tight packs of three or four.

"This is just a few runners, but soon it will be a whole crowd of people getting crazy," Healy said. It was her second year volunteering at the race.

On this block, supporters for the runners were few and far between, something that Sarah Tiller put down to the unusually bad weather. Tiller leaned on the handle of her screen door, reggae music softly wafting out from inside, and said the inclement conditions would not stop her.

"I've watched every last one of them," she said.

Then, at a quarter past 10, the main group of runners appeared, a tide of neon vests punctuated by the occasional shirtless man sweeping down the hill from Johns Hopkins Hospital. They eagerly grabbed Gatorade from Healy's station or took water passed out by City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young on the other side of the street.

Cheers of encouragement drifted down from the crest of the hill, where the course made a right turn from Madison Street onto Washington, and a woman rode along the sidewalk on a bicycle, tooting a plastic horn.

At the corner of Eager and Washington streets, Emily and Daniel Shively handed out gummy bears and Jolly Ranchers, surprised by how quickly their supplies were consumed.

"Emily's done several of these, that's how she got to know that candy is valuable," her husband said.

By 10:30 a.m. Berdan, a science teacher from Owings Mills, was already nine miles down the road, crossing a tape held by Boston Marathon bombing victim Erika Brannock and claiming victory — the first local runner to win the race in its 13-year history. But the runners at Chase still faced a punishing uphill run through Clifton Park and along Harford Road to Lake Montebello.


At noon the main pack was long gone from Washington Street, but a few runners still made their way slowly along. Nicky Yates and David Sylvester occupied a spot under a railroad bridge offering high-fives and words of encouragement to everyone who came by.

Sylvester was in town from Philadelphia, dropping his sister off for a wedding. He got caught in the road closures and decided to cheer on the final few racers.

"I love this stuff," he said. "I high-five people everywhere I go."

Two blocks down, the cleanup had already begun, with people using rakes and shovels to sweep away the mess of cups left in the gutters.

And Officer Julio was twirling his baton again, waiting for a crackle to come over his radio announcing that the day was done.