Event: 2015 B&A Trail Marathon and Half Marathon, sponsored by Annapolis Striders
Event Date: March 29, 2015
Event Location: Severna Park, Maryland
Why I decided to run this race
I like to collect race bling. I also like the trill of race day. And I like to support local organizations. So even with all the runDisney races I’m doing this year, I needed more. (Check out some of Jennifer’s great runDisney race recaps from her year of runDisney races: Pluto’s 5k, Donald Duck’s Half Marathon, The Parks to Paradise Challenge, Star Wars Half Marathon, The Enchanted 10k, and the Princess Half Marathon).
After I received my training schedule for the next several months from my coach, Jeff Galloway, I looked for races that would fit in with my assigned long runs and signed up for as many as I reasonably could.
Getting there/the lead-up to the race
The B&A Trail is a paved, relatively flat, rails-to-trails path that goes from Baltimore to Annapolis. I live near one end of the trail and run sections of it nearly every weekend. So even though the course for the half follows a different section of the path, I didn’t need to do a lot of planning to know what to expect.
My only concerns about this race leading up to it were: 1) Since it’s such a small race and it is a Boston Qualifier I worried that I would be one of the slowest people on the course. I mean, there is no shame in being the last finisher and I knew that there would at least still be marathon runners on the course after I finished, but it’s hard to set my pride aside. 2) After talking to Jeff we agreed that I should treat this as a long training run rather than a race. But c’mon! The adrenaline! How would I ignore the temptation to run this like a race rather than a slow training run?
The race Expo
Even though the race is a small one, the hosts still organized an expo for bib pick-up. It was held in the high school gym and only had about 4 vendors, but it was still an expo.
My husband and I approached the table with the bib packets, showed our IDs, and had our bibs and event shirts within about 2 minutes. I took a quick look though the vendors—mostly local running stores—and ended up buying a lightweight rain-proof jacket that was on a 60% off sale rack.
I was surprised at how much I like the swag for this race. We got long-sleeve royal blue tech shirts with the race logo. They had men’s and women’s cuts, so the shirts actually fit me. The material is comfortable and I think it will breathe well. And I love the logo. I was not expecting to, but I do.
The calendar might say that it is spring, but the thermostat does not agree. I don’t think it ever got above freezing while we were on the course. So I had to wear significantly more layers than I should in late March.
I did not wear a costume for this race, but I did still go with a skirt and color-coordinated outfit ‘cuz a girl’s gotta look good even if the weather isn’t cooperating. I started with a purple Adidas sports bra and Under Armour long running tights. On top I layered a dark grey Reebok t-shirt under a purple long-sleeve Nike shirt with a built-in neck gaiter. On bottom I wore a zebra-print Sparkle Skirt. For extra warmth, I started with an Under Armour beanie hat, an Ascent buff, and North Face gloves. Finally, I used my normal Injinji socks, Garmin Forerunner 620 and Gymboss interval timer, and Camelbak Marathoner hydration vest. After about a mile I took off the gloves, and after about 3 I removed my hat and used my buff as a sweatband/ear warmer.
The start of this race is probably literally the closest race to my house I will ever find. We hopped in the car about 25 minutes prior to the race, arrived less than 10 minutes later, found a parking spot on a side street, and headed into the high school with about 10 minutes to spare. We warmed up for a few minutes and had a final potty break inside, and when we walked out a singer was performing the National Anthem. We listened and then headed toward the back of the pack. About 30 seconds later we heard a horn and we were off.
Regarding my first concern noted above, I was happy to see several other run/walkers from the very beginning. Yay! I wouldn’t be alone on the course the whole time!
Along the course
The course is not terribly complex: we run a mile or so through a neighborhood before getting on the B&A trail, which we followed toward Annapolis until we turned around and came back down the trail toward the school. The half-marathoners peeled off at mile 13 and headed the last 0.1 back to the school. The marathoners continued on the trail toward Baltimore for another 6.5 miles before doing another turn-around back to the school.
The trail was not closed to other pedestrians but we started pretty early so there weren’t many others out at the beginning of the race. I had expected the course to be more crowded, especially once we hit the trail, but the event is kept pretty small (there were only about 600 half-marathon runners) so there weren’t any jams or slowdowns, at least for those of us at the back of the pack.
About 3 miles into the race I fell into a pace with a woman I didn’t know, and we ran together for almost the whole thing. She was happy to be out on the road, a great cheerleader for everyone around her, and a joy to spend the morning with.
As surprised as I was by the race shirts, I was similarly pleasantly surprised by the SMO. It’s a heavy medal with a full-color version of the race logo and the date. The ribbon is a little lame, but only because I’ve been spoiled by the beautiful ones done by Disney. I’m very proud to have earned this SMO.
The post-race experience
Another pleasant surprise: an awesome post-race spread of food free for the runners. There were the standard banana and bagels, but there were also rice and beans and cheese to make nachos and Papa John’s pizza delivered in small batches so it was hot and fresh. I came in towards the back of the half marathon pack, and there was still plenty of food available.
My iPod put out a pretty good shuffle this week. Many of the songs, while not typical pump-you-up jams, had lyrics that were very inspirational to me (and, as it turned out, inspirational to a running companion). Fans of Sons of Anarchy will recognize “I will not be commanded; I will not be controlled. I will not let my future go on, without the help of my soul.” from Greg Holden’s “The Lost Boy”. Shortly after that I was invited to “Put one foot in front of the other one” with fun.’s “One Foot”.
Unexpected Magic. Most memorably, as I climbed an incline toward the mid-point turn-around spot, the lyrics from Billy Joel’s “Goodnight Saigon” reminded me that “we would all go down together”. Feeling inspired, I called out “You got this!” to a racer who I had just watched struggle up that same hill. As I passed her she turned to me with tears in her eyes and said “I needed you to tell me that right now!” So my new friend and I skipped a few interval cycles to walk with her and convince her that she did, in fact, have it in her to finish what she started.
Looking back now
I did not expect to enjoy this race as much as I did. I had heard from a friend who ran it last year that it was kind of a boring race with boring scenery (she also runs this trail every weekend, so she knew what to expect). Plus, it was cold, I’ve been spotty in my training due to the weather, and I seriously considered staying in bed instead of getting up and going. However, I loved this race! I loved the shirts and the SMO and the people I met and the food at the end and the fact that it was minutes away from my house! And my husband felt the same way. There’s a good chance we’ll do this race again next year.
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