Half-marathon and 5K winners, what songs runners are listening to, the strangest clothing and more from the Baltimore Running Festival.
On Sept. 11, Dustin Whitlow, 30, ran the Erie Marathon in Pennsylvania. On Saturday at the Baltimore Running Festival, he went for a relatively leisurely stroll: only 13.1 miles.
He wasn't sure how he'd do or how he'd feel. It had been only a monthlong break, after all. Didn't matter. Whitlow finished in 1 hour, 13 minutes, 29 seconds — first in the half-marathon field — and with something close to astonishment.
Daniel Martin of Arlington, Va., and Jesse Henderson of Taneytown were second (1:15:11) and third (1:17:05), respectively
"I didn't really know what to expect," said Whitlow, who came within about 2 minutes of his personal-best time. "I'm going to go out and run hard, see how I feel, and I actually kind of surprised myself today."
Brenda Hodge, 45, of York, Pa., was shooting for under 1:30:00 or, if things really broke her way, under 1:28:00. Her women's-best time: 1:26:54.
It was a race of defied expectations. Hodge had worried that she wouldn't be able to keep pace early, then had closed the race late with what she said was her fastest mile of the morning.
"The guy in the biker, when I got into the last mile, he was telling everyone, 'This is the women's [half-]marathon champ!'" she said. "And they were getting psyched, and I got psyched. … The whole experience was just great."
Bruce Newman of Stella, N.C., won the Marathon Wheels division in 1:35:40. The Howard County Striders took the Team Relay event in 2:32:00. Zach Kaminski of Baltimore was first in the 5K race, finishing in 16:10.
Seeing it through: The toughest part about being blind and running a 5K? "The cold," Nikki Jackson, 31, said, laughing.
The Baltimore native crossed the finish line in 1 hour, 10 minutes alongside Liz Moyer, 30, of Baltimore, Nikos Daley, 30, of Baltimore and Orna, Daley's seeing-eye dog.
The 2016 Baltimore Marathon is seen in time-lapse as the runners start up Paca Street. (Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun video)
Saturday's race was the fourth for Jackson and Daley and third for Moyer. All wore shirts representing Blind Industries and Services of Maryland, a Baltimore-based organization that works to create opportunities for blind and visually impaired people through innovative rehabilitation and training programs.
Jackson began the race with some BISM students, some of whom were running it for the first time blind, but the group splintered over the 3-plus miles. Except for Jackson's and Moyer's walking cane and Daley's four-legged partner, it was an inconspicuous trio.
"People are always like, 'Oh, how do blind people do that?' " Moyer said. "We do it just like everybody else. We follow the sounds. We follow where everybody else goes. If we're not sure, we ask a question, just like anybody else would."
Added Jackson: "It becomes a lot easier every time you do it. And this time, they switched up the route a little bit, so it was like a straight shot each way instead of zipping and turning."
"This is her second year," Daley said, "so she's pretty good."
Play it again: In the frequently-asked-questions section of the Baltimore Running Festival's website, race organizers encourage "a headphone-free environment during the running of all its race distances," citing safety concerns.
And yet Saturday, it was hard to tell what there were more of: runners crossing the finish line with nothing in their ear, or runners crossing the finish line with something in their ear.
As for what they were listening to? Steve Frank's decision was a simple one with endless possibilities. The 55-year-old from Lutherville said he has all of the approximately 2,000 Grateful Dead live shows on his hard drive. He settled on a 1967 performance at the Felt Forum (later known as The Theater at Madison Square Garden) in New York to, as he put it, "drown out the pain" of his half-marathon run.
Cheering crowds have become an integral part of Baltimore Running Festival as runners look for the boost of encouragement and spectators find a way to participate without having to pound the pavement. Some say it's best just to embrace the race rather than fight the traffic.
"I think Mile 4 to 6 was pretty hard because it was insanely uphill, but I didn't know if I could stay up with my son, who's about half my age," he said as he stood next to his son, Sam Frank, 26, of Hampden. "But we managed to run the whole race together. I didn't think we could do it."
A self-descibed "super nerd," Bukhari Salaam, 17, of Severn chose a different auditory route for his 13.1 miles.
He chose "only music that I could really run to," which meant video game music. Near the end of his race, he switched to "Hopes and Dreams," a 3-minute instrumental song from the role-playing, single-player 2015 game "Undertale."
"When I was finishing, I had to turn to a certain song that I had so I could just go," he said, nearly out of breath.
Running weird: The Baltimore Running Festival attracts its share of clothing minimalists: runners with no shirt, short shorts and low-drop sneakers. Then there are the participants who go the other way, the type intent on making a statement with whatever they do wear.
Denise Knickman will compete in her 30th marathon this weekend at the Baltimore Running Festival, an event she has participated in nine times, finishing second last year among women and first in the age 40 and up Masters Division.
Among the runners spotted in various events Saturday: a young man in a Joe Flacco "ELITE" T-shirt; a middle-aged woman in a tutu skirt; an older man carrying an American flag as big as a widescreen TV; a man in Maryland-flag-style shorts crossing the finish line while holding hands with a woman in Maryland-flag-style leggings; a middle-aged woman in a crown and matching cape; a foursome of 20-something men in matching "Hulkamania" T-shirts; and a young woman with "YOU ARE" written on her left hamstring and "HELLA STRONG" on her right.