Robert Creese and Julia Roman-Duval have batting averages the Orioles would envy.
Creese, a 29-year-old mathematician from Mount Airy, won the Baltimore Running Festival’s men’s marathon Saturday in his first-ever attempt of the 26.2-mile event, and Roman-Duval, a 40-year-old astrophysicist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore and mother of three from Columbia, captured the women’s marathon in her third try since becoming a competitive runner in 2014.
Creese, a former cross country runner at Glenelg High who wore a Penn State top as a 2014 graduate, crossed the finish line in 2 hours, 26 minutes, 45 seconds — a time that was more than two minutes faster than the rest of the field. He said he elected to try his hand at his first marathon after breaking the 30-minute mark at a 10K last week.
“I wanted to see if the [U.S.] Olympic Trials, which are [more than] a year from now, was a possibility,” he said. “Maybe not right now though. That’s still a long ways away. But I’m pretty excited. I think I’m more tired than anything.”
Creese said his strategy involved trying to maintain a 5:30 minutes-per-mile pace and staying comfortable through the first 15 miles. He said his plan unfolded as intended until the final six miles.
“I died,” he admitted. “[My thoughts were,] ‘Just go fast enough so that the gap didn’t shorten too much.’ Just wanted to hold on to the finish.”
Creese joked that he could have run faster, “but I probably wouldn’t have won.”
Daniel Rowe, a 38-year-old Locust Point resident, finished second in 2:29:03. That time was six minutes faster than his previous personal record at the Boston Marathon in April after training in the wee morning hours to help his wife raise three children under the age of 5.
“I felt really good through the half, and then I saw my family,” he said. “They gave me a lift, and I caught a few folks on the hills. I felt good. It was a good day.”
Unlike Creese, Roman-Duval was a veteran of the Baltimore marathon, winning in 2018 and participating virtually in 2020. She signed up for Saturday’s race to help prepare for the California International Marathon on Dec. 4 that will serve as the national championship for USA Track and Field.
“I was due for a very long, hard workout, and when you do these long workouts on your own, it’s pretty bad, it’s kind of a chore,” she said with a laugh. “With all of the crowds and all of the support here, it’s so much more fun. I’m very happy.”
Roman-Duval said she intended to average a 7-minute pace for the first six miles before ramping up to a 5:50 pace for the next eight miles, dropping back to that 7-minute rate for six more miles and then accelerating again for the final six miles. When she saw that she had distanced herself from the competition, she decided to go for the win, which she did in 2:46:48 – nearly a minute faster than her winning time of 2:47:42 in 2018.
“A good 14 miles and the rest easy is really great physical preparation, but also mental,” she said. “This is a huge confidence boost for me. Things went really well, and I felt smooth and strong the whole way. I didn’t tire myself.”
Megan DiGregorio, a 34-year-old White Marsh native and Towson graduate, finished second to Roman-Duval in 2:54:22.
The victories by Creese and Roman-Duval punctuated another successful showing for the Baltimore Running Festival, which anticipated a field of more than 11,000 runners — an increase of 10% from last year’s event — to compete in the marathon, half marathon, 10K and 5K. Race organizers said 40 states were represented by participants.
Saturday was bittersweet for Sid Busch, who ran the last half marathon of his career. The Goose Creek, South Carolina, resident had participated in every Baltimore Running Festival since its debut, but said at the age of 76, his body has been breaking down, including a heart attack in August 2021.
“I have to walk all my races now,” he said. “Somebody was trying to tell me something.”
Busch carries a 3-foot-by-5-foot American flag to pay tribute to the memories of military and police officers killed in the line of duty. On Saturday, he honored Marine Pfc. Joshua Klinger, who died June 14, 2005, when an improvised explosive device exploded while he was conducting combat operations near Fallujah, Iraq, and Marine Staff Sgt. James Malachowski, who died March 20, 2011, in Helmand province, Afghanistan, while conducting combat operations.
Busch said he was comfortable with his decision until the morning of the race.
“When I was walking to the start this morning, it kind of hit me hard that this will be the last time I ever cross the finish line in the half marathon,” he said. “People tell me that I’ve had a great impact. I personally don’t see it, but that makes everything worthwhile.”