They crossed the finish line yesterday in all manner of celebration. One runner did a cartwheel; another, a Michael Jackson moonwalk. One man did a Ray Lewis dance. Two women dressed as ballerinas stopped at the very end and did a grand plie.
You'd have thought they would have been too pooped for such shenanigans, having just run as much as 26.2 miles. But, no, a number of the record 22,000 entrants in the 10th Baltimore Running Festival chose to close with personal antics that sent a buzz through the throng and which left their marks on the race.
"You do stuff for the crowd. It gives them something to look at besides all the people just jogging across the finish line," said Arland Macasieb, 35, of Clifton, N.J. He wrapped up a dandy marathon (2 hours, 52 minutes) by doing a cartwheel — and falling on his can. Medical personnel whisked Macasieb off to the first-aid tent, for observation, where the runner defended the stunt as his "signature move."
"I pretty much end every race like that, unless it's a sprint finish," he said. "Why not do a cartwheel? My legs may be tired, but my arms are still fresh."
All afternoon, runners hustled their way to the end, some with arms raised in triumph, others pointing a finger to the sky. Some whooped. Others applauded themselves or traded high fives with the strangers beside them.
"I've seen it all," said Mike Burns, the official timer who has been clocking races around the world for 32 years. "My favorite was in Hawaii, where two people started the marathon single and finished it as man and wife. They were married on the course, in mid-race, by a minister."
One couple kissed as they crossed the finish line, and many, like Ryan Cowder and Tami Hileman, held hands.
"We did it for solidarity," said Cowder, 33, of Ocean City. He and Hileman, 36, of Pittsburgh, did the half marathon to honor a friend, Sam Hicks, an FBI agent who was killed in 2008.
As he completed the race, Mark Shrader crossed himself.
"I'm Roman Catholic and I thanked God to be able to do this," said Shrader, 51, of Lebanon, Va. "It's just like saying grace over a meal."
One man ran the last few yards backwards. Another pulled up to take a bow. A woman stopped shy of the end to answer her cell phone. Several runners leaped, basketeball style, to touch the banner above the finish line.
Several waved small American flags. But Rob Hillery, a Marine from Quantico, Va., did the entire marathon carrying a 3-by-5 foot U.S. flag, on a pole, which he waved as he concluded the race.
"I did it to raise awareness for wounded Marines," said Hillery, 29. "But things got tough during the race when the wind picked up. I had to choke down on the flag real hard."
Dave Green, 42, a marathoner from Cornwall, England, had enough oomph left in his legs to do the moonwalk. It was, he said, a spontaneous gesture, unlike those of most others who planned their tomfoolery in advance.
When he finished the race, Rick Dorsey stopped, crossed his arms, knelt on one knee and performed, admittedly, "a very bad Ray Lewis impersonation."
Dorsey, 36, a Navy lieutenant from Springfield, Va., said he wanted to inject "a little local flavor" into his first Baltimore Marathon. Who better to mimic than the Ravens' star?
"Plus, I didn't feel like being on my feet anymore," said Dorsey.
He wasn't alone in paying homage to the home team. Nikki Bass ran the half marathon in a Todd Heap jersey and with a feathery purple boa around her neck. At the end, Bass, 27, whipped the boa down her back and danced "a little shimmy" for all to see.
"I did it to support the Ravens, who are having a great season," said Bass, a chemist from Towson. "Todd is my favorite. All through the race, people were yelling 'Heap! Heap!'
"I think he should run it with me next year."
A handful of runners crossed over with youngsters in tow. Michael Mills, of Ellicott City, ran the final mile of the half maraton with his daughter Ashlyn, 3, who'd been handed to him by his wife on Eutaw St.
"She (Ashlyn) helped me keep going," said Mills, 31. "I kind of forgot about being tired."
Runners looked out for each other all day. When Ashley Chappell, 21, collapsed near the end, she was picked up and helped across the finish by her friend, Crystal Stein, and a stranger, Mindy Haines of Millersville, who happened to be running beside them.
Did Chappell ask for support?
"She didn't say not to," said Stein, who, like her friend, is from Stewartstown, Pa. "If she hadn't finished, she would have regretted it later."
One runner stopped abruptly, five feet from the finish, and hopped across on one leg. Did Walt Cawley pull up lame?
"Nah," said Cawley, 38, of Glenwood. "I just bet a lot of guys I would do something interesting at the end. But that doesn't mean that I'm not in the worst pain of my life."
For finish line hijinks, though, it was hard to beat the antics of Amy Schmidt and Mary Beth Danker. The 51-year-old Cincinnati women both ran the marathon dressed in white net tutus, to which they'd pinned red cardboard crabs. At race's end, they stopped, stood on their tiptoes and did a few ballet moves right out of "Swan Lake."
"When you're at the finish line, you can do that sort of stuff," Danker said.