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In perfect conditions, community of runners competes in Baltimore Running Festival

After enduring a series of hills in the second half of the course, Brian Rosenberg slowed when he reached mile 20 of Saturday's Baltimore Marathon.

But once he saw Camden Yards in the distance around mile 24, Rosenberg let out a burst of speed as he approached the final stretch uncontested.

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"You got to be close enough," Rosenberg recalled thinking. "You can take it from here."

The 37-year-old from Mechanicsburg, Pa., won the Baltimore Marathon, finishing in a personal-best 2 hours, 33 minutes, 27 seconds. Alex Wang, a 23-year-old University of Maryland graduate from Ellicott City, was the women's marathon champion, finishing in 2:58:41.

Rosenberg took the lead from 2013 marathon champion Dave Berdan of Owings Mills between miles 12 and 13. Berdan withdrew from the race at mile 13 with a hip injury. Berdan, the first U.S. citizen to win the marathon, suffered the injury during training three weeks ago, he said. Through he continued his normal practice routine, the pain persisted.

"Right from the start [of the marathon] my hip hurt because I was standing around for a little while," Berdan said after the race. "In reality, I probably should've been stretching more when I was standing there."

The 33-year-old had a comfortable lead during the first nine miles, but the pain began slowing him down at mile 10. Shortly after Rosenberg overtook Berdan, the 2013 champion withdrew.

"I felt like I was dragging my leg," Berdan said. "And I knew when I got halfway that there was no way I could do that all over again."

Wang, who was competing in the Baltimore Marathon for the first time, enjoyed running through the multiple uphill sections in the second half of the 26.2-mile race, despite her unfamiliarity with the course.

"I like hills; it gives you a lot of variety in the course," Wang said.

This was the second year the marathon did not award prize money to winners — Under Armour dropped its title sponsorship last year. The absence of elite runners vying for the cash has allowed more local participants to emerge as top finishers.

State Sen. Catherine E. Pugh, who helped found the Baltimore Marathon in 2001, said there has always been a sense of excitement during race day, but the increased possibility of a local runner crossing the finish line first in recent years has helped enhance the atmosphere of the event.

"It's always good to have local runners winning it, it creates a different kind of excitement and enthusiasm," Pugh said.

After winning last year's marathon, Berdan noticed that more people recognized him during Saturday's race. Spectators shouted his name as he approached the Inner Harbor and began mile nine.

"Last year was just such a great experience, and even the first half this year," Berdan said. "This city is so supportive. … They get behind their own."

An announced 25,872 participated in the 14th Baltimore Running Festival, which included the marathon, half-marathon, team relay, 5K and kids run.

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Nick Arciniaga, 31, of Flagstaff, Ariz., won the men's half-marathon in 1:07:45. Julia Roman-Duval, a 32-year-old from Columbia, won the women's half in 1:20:53. Kennedy Kithuka, 25, won the men's 5K in 14 minutes, 55.14 seconds. Megan DiGregorio, 26, of Baltimore, won the women's division in 18:31.71.

It was still dark when the runners arrived at the starting line for the marathon's scheduled 7 a.m. start. By sunrise, spectators began stepping out of their homes to watch the leaders pass through northern Baltimore neighborhoods. The skies were clear throughout the race, and the sun's heat complemented the cool morning breeze.

The crowds increased in size as the runners reached downtown, and an estimated 40,000 spectators waited by the finish line on Eutaw Street to greet friends and family as they crossed.

Nick Bremer, of Annapolis, and Greg Mihaly, of Middle River, have been to marathons in Annapolis, Virginia Beach, Va., and Washington to support their wives, but it was their first time at the Baltimore Marathon.

"It's a nice setup with Camden Yards and [M&T Bank Stadium] right here," Bremer said. "It's a good place to have it."

When Mihaly wasn't checking his phone for text updates on his wife's progress, he was at the nearby Celebration Village, where there was food and live music for spectators and runners.

"I spent the whole two hours here," Mihaly said. "So I got to entertain myself while she ran. It was an easy way to kill some time."

As an Orioles fan who lived in Baltimore from 1999 to 2007, Rosenberg — this year's marathon champion — felt a sense of familiarity as he ran through Camden Yards and crossed the finish line. Though it was only his second appearance in the marathon, returning to the city makes him feel at home.

"It does feel like a home for me," Rosenberg said. "I like the crowd support. I really didn't have any complaints today."

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