The Casual Runner

Conquering More of Those Darn Hills, Race Review: 2014 Charles Street 12

Event: 2014 Charles Street 12

Event Date: August 9, 2014

Event Location: Baltimore, Maryland

Jen - 20140809 - Charles Street 12 Pic A

Pre-race selfie. Aren’t we cute?

Why I decided to run this race.

A year ago I decided to run this race because my husband was deployed, I was alone and bored, and I thought it would be a good test before I ran my first half marathon later that fall.  It’s billed as a fast and downhill course…though they forget to mention that there are some serious uphills right before the downhills.

Moving ahead to 2014, I had planned to train harder for hills for this race season and thought this might be a good test of how well I did.  Also, I really like running in Baltimore: there’s so much history and interesting architecture in the city that is enjoyable to look at and learn about.  Plus, it’s the same weekend as OTAKON (kind of like Baltimore’s version of ComicCon), and as you enter the last few miles you’re treated to tons of people in awesome costumes making their way to the convention center.  (And, as some may have picked up, I am a sucker for a good costume!).

Getting there/the lead-up to the race

I did not train for this race as I should have.  After my disastrous showings at ZOOMA Annapolis, Iron Girl Columbia, and the Frederick Running Festival in April and May, I had a hard time motivating myself to run long distances.  From about late May to mid-July, my longest run was 7 miles.  In mid-July when I started my 6-month run/walk/run e-coaching program with Jeff Galloway, I let him know this race was on my calendar and he got me as prepared for it as best he could in just a few weeks.  I ended up approaching this race as a training run rather than a race for a PR, even though I had a hard time wrapping my head around that concept, and until about mile 9 I was still having a hard time struggling with this mental aspect.




Jen - 20140809 - Charles Street 12 Pic B

Front of the women’s shirt; back of the men’s. Weird waving pose not intentional.

The race Expo

This is a local race put on by a local running store.  They do a good job of putting the race together, but they focus on the race and the after-party rather than a pre-race expo.  Packet pick-up rotated between the several Charm City Run stores in and around Baltimore; you just picked the one most convenient to you.  They did offer some great discounts on merchandise in the store during packet pick-up week, if you were in the market for those items.

Swag review

I love the swag from this race.  Charm City Run partners with Under Armour (a Maryland company) for their race premiums.  Last year we got a nice heavy sweatshirt with the race logo (extremely prescient, given the weather we had last winter).  This year we got lightweight long-sleeve half-zip shirts, which will be perfect for fall running.  Ladies got blue and men received grey.  Both were the same quality as other Under Armour products, which make up a lot of my running wardrobe.

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Sparkly skirts bring happiness to all!

The gear

Yup, this was a pretty typical race outfit for me: aqua Sparkle Skirt, blue Adidas sports bra, dark blue Nike tank top, dark blue Bondi band headband, black Under Armour compression running shorts, Injinji socks, Brooks Adrenaline GTS 14 shoes, Garmin Forerunner 620, and Camelbak Marathoner hydration vest with two bladders (one for water and one for my electrolyte drink).  There were no costumes and not a lot of skirts in this race, so I was definitely an anomaly.  But I got to dance a little jig with a local school mascot at one of the water stops after he (she? it?) got excited by my sparkly skirt.  And a random spectator wanted me to stop so he could take a picture on his smartphone…um…yeah…that was a little creepy…so I didn’t so much stop, but I did wave and smile because he was going to take the picture anyway.

The pre-race

This is a point-to-point race, so unless you have a friend drop you off at the start and pick you up at the end, you have to park at the finish line in downtown Baltimore and then take a bus to the start.  I lucked out last year because my husband came home literally the night before the race and he was willing to get up and drop me off.  This year we were both running, so we took the buses.  I was a little worried that they wouldn’t have enough or that we’d have to wait in long lines.  But when we pulled up there were buses lining Pratt Street and Market Street.  We got there as one bus was loading and left, and then got on the next one.  It was an easy trip up to the start and we had a very enthusiastic bus driver who encouraged us to do a few cheers and wished us well on the race.

The race starts in the street in front of a mall, and there’s a lot of room in the mall parking lot to stretch, sit, and hit the port-a-potties; they also open the mall and you can use the bathrooms in there.  The organizers set up a sound system and had some fun music playing, there was a bag check, and a small tent selling last-minute GUs and other items that people may have forgotten in their haste to park and make the bus.

One of the coolest parts of the pre-race was seeing all the ASA Wingmen set up for the athletes they would be running with that morning.  ASA pairs volunteers with mobility-impaired athletes who have the heart to compete.  It’s a great cause and I think the sight of the whole team on the move is one of the few things that will cause bleary-eyed runners to clear a path in a crowded parking lot at 6:30 AM.  (For more information on ASA Wingmen and photos from their race today, visit: or

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Baltimore’s central train station…and a random huge statue.

Along the course

The name of the race is the Charles Street 12, and that describes most of the course.  We start north of the city on Kenilworth Drive and head south.  Learning from last year, the organizers actually detoured the course around Charles Street for the first 3-4 miles to avoid some of the worst of the hills right at the beginning.  Looking at my stats from last year, this was a good idea—I gained more than 1,000 feet of elevation last year, but gained less than 500 feet this year.  Once we turned onto Charles Street, one of the oldest and most historic streets in Baltimore, we generally stayed on it: going from cute neighborhoods of old brick houses, past some of the city’s oldest universities and churches, coming out in the thriving downtown area, and ending at Power Plant Live! after a jaunt on the Inner Harbor waterfront.  On paper, the course is mostly downhill, though you do have to power through some ups before you get to the downs.

I was running this as a training run, and therefore using some intervals I’d never run before.  It was a little awkward at times, but I found some compromises that ended up working for me until the last two miles.  I just ran out of steam and walked most of the last part of the course.  I had the same problem last year.  I would like to eventually run this race feeling strong enough to finish on a run rather than a long walk.  Even so, my pace was better than what I was running earlier this year (and had I managed to maintain the pace I had up to the first 8 miles, I was set to beat my time from last year).  So it seems the coaching is paying off.

Jen - 20140809 - Charles Street 12 Pic E


The SMOpinion

The medal this year was a solid piece of stamped metal, with the logo printed prominently on the front.  The ribbon was a little cheap (c’mon, you can do better than plain black, right?) but it’s a nice heavy piece of bling that I wore with pride.

The post-race experience

Like last year, the post-race party was at Power Plant Live!, a multi-venue nightclub area in downtown Baltimore.  Last year we did not stay because my husband brought the dog and she wasn’t allowed in the party area.  This year we did check it out.  We grabbed a couple of food boxes (by the time I got there they still had turkey wraps and veggie wraps…I chose turkey) and beers (first one is free for each runner!) sat on some stairs and ate while listening to a cover band.  The performers were not the best singers on every song, but I’ve heard worse live performances from the originals artists (I’m looking at you Third Eye Blind!).  It was a fun little party while we cooled off and enjoyed the gorgeous, not-at-all-typical-August weather.

Looking back now

Having done this race twice now, I think I would consider doing it again.  I need to train for the hills, but the downhills are fast and fun.  I like that this is a race that I’ve done since the beginning of my running journey, so it’s a good test for progress (or lack thereof).  I would like to get to the point where I can still run the last 2 miles and run through the more populated areas of the course.  And maybe next year we’ll plan ahead to attend to the OTAKON convention after the race…I hear they have some great costumes there!






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