Archives For Running in Baltimore

A few words of thanks

July 27, 2014 — 11 Comments

Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude.

A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

On July 22, 2013, I bought a new pair of running shoes and started this journey. Since then I’ve swum 545 miles, ran 693 and biked for 4,542 miles more. Along the way I’ve jogged through downtown Bucharest and along the shore of the Black Sea; biked with Lucy in Sofia; swum in the Atlantic Ocean, Chesapeake Bay and the Hudson, Chester and Potomac Rivers; had one serious bike crash and taught the bartender at the Times Square Applebees how to make a perfect Martini. The 2014 Lake Placid Iron Man has just started and I will soon be swimming in Mirror Lake with number 367 painted on my arms. If all goes well sometime before midnight tonight I will add another 140.6 miles to these totals and then stop keeping track.

I have approached today’s race with mixed emotions. On some days I would wake brimming with confidence. On others full of self-doubt wondering what I had gotten myself into when I signed up for this. But no matter how I felt when each day began by its end I always fell asleep reflecting on how fortunate I was to have the support of my family and friends as I worked to achieve this goal. And for that I offer these few words of thanks.

First and foremost I thank Kathy who has supported and encouraged me throughout this journey as I transformed from someone who didn’t really exercise much into a dedicated athlete spending most of his spare time either swimming, running or biking. She has been with me from the start when I bought a new bike so that I could start riding it to work and never complained when I followed that purchase with a road bike, a folding bike and most recently a high-end carbon fiber racing bike.

I appreciate very much the swim coaching I have received over the years, starting with Bruce Rinker, followed by Katie, Bethany, Natalie, Zach, Joe and Lindsey. More than the coaching though, I am deeply grateful for the lane mates who have put up with me over the last four years, especially Will, Andrew, Bob, Suzanna, Krista, Brittany, Sarah, Corrine and Lauren. You have made swimming fun for me and I will never forget the times we spent together on our road trips to Bivalve, New York and Point Lookout. Thanks also to Dean, Jim, Ryan, Michele, Kelly, Miguel, Laura and Phil, experienced Iron Man finishers who have offered encouragement and great suggestions along the way. Elysia and Molly are among the dozens of other Marylanders who are here to race and volunteer. I wish them a safe and successful journey across the lake, over the mountains, through the forests and beside the rivers today.

I would not be the bicyclist I am today were it not for Bob, Dave, PJ, Mike and Charlie. You have taught me the joy of long distance cycling with friends and for that I am truly grateful.

The hardest part of the training for me has been the running and I will not set any records on the marathon portion of today’s race. Of all the disciplines however, my running has improved the most and for this I remember fondly and thank Dave, Parnell and John; Valerie; Josh and Glenn; and Kyle, Eric, Jim, Dave, Beth and Monica.

I owe special debts of gratitude to Tim who taught me to believe in myself as a swimmer and to Claudia who encouraged me to start this blog, swam with me in the very cold and rough Atlantic and during an emotional Purple Swim and trained with me for my first triathlon. I will cherish our friendships always.

And finally I am most grateful to Abby who helped me fall back in love with swimming which, after all, is what started this in the first place.

When I was in Lake Placid over Memorial Day weekend, a triathlon club from New York was also in town training. From time to time I would be passed by a member of that club who would call out to me “You can do it!” I would give a slight nod or a wave but didn’t really understand what was going on until later when I saw two members from the club pass each other by. The first yelled out the familiar “You can do it!” to which the second responded “I love you baby!”

Thank you again for the friendship, love and support that have brought me to the point where I really believe I can do this today. And with that let me close simply by saying to each of you, very sincerely, “I love you baby.”

Reading the run

May 18, 2014 — 2 Comments


During a typical week of training I run for five hours and bike for ten. To help pass the time I have started listening to audiobooks on my iPhone as I jog through the neighborhood.

I just finished every recording of the books and stories of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and this morning started listening to Fitzgerald. I am an hour into today’s run when Dick Diver tells an adoring Rosemary Hoyt “You’re the only girl I’ve seen for a very long time that actually did look like something blooming.”

I remember with a smile the first time I read that line. It was the summer before my junior year at Cornell when, rather than return home, I stayed in Ithaca working as a camp counselor and on three nights each week running with another ROTC cadet.

Her name was Val. We became friends after getting lost together while orienteering. Realizing we were hopelessly off course we folded the map, closed the compass and ambled through the woods until we came upon a set of abandoned railroad tracks that we were able to follow back to the parking lot.

We started running together soon thereafter and continued our routine until the end of the summer. We would meet at her apartment, run north past the fraternities and sororities that lined Stewart Avenue and cross the bridge over Ithaca Falls and enter Cayuga Heights. We would run for about 45 minutes until we reached President Rhodes’ house and then turn back.

There was no television at the boarding house where I lived so I spent the rest of my free time reading. That summer I read everything written by Leon Uris, Herman Waulk, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

When the summer ended so too did my runs with Val. She decided that the Army was not for her and gave up her scholarship. I would never again find the free time to read as much as I did that summer nor ever enjoy running as much as I did with Val.

Until today.

At 7:45 AM on Tuesday, September 3, 1985, I walked into the Pentagon and began my active duty military service. Over the next four years I would serve as a lawyer on the Secretary of the Army’s legal staff. During my time there I had the privilege of working with young lawyers who would go on to have amazing legal careers. After leaving the Army they would fill senior positions in Democratic and Republican administrations, manage Presidential campaigns, serve as Supreme Court clerks, and prosecute mass murderers. Some would sue tobacco companies while others defended them.

We all belonged to the Pentagon Officer’s Athletic Club, better known as the POAC, and would spend many lunch hours running together. We would start on the north side of the Pentagon, run northwest along the Potomac, cross the Memorial Bridge, circle Lincoln’s memorial and head back. On really nice days we would extend the run and circle the reflecting pool.

Many of my friends trained for and completed marathons but I did not. Until today, that is, when five hours and eighteen minutes after I passed over the starting line I finished the Washington, D.C. Rock and Roll USA Marathon.

The race started at 14th and Constitution and as I arrived the first song that greeted me was “I Can See for Miles” by The Who. This, coupled with a last minute text of encouragement from a friend, reassured me as I waited for the race to begin while watching the sun rise over the Capitol dome.

Washington is beautiful this morning. It is chilly when the race starts but I am covered by the wool sweater that has kept me warm over the last few years at early morning swim practices and on the shores of many open water swims. Today I leave it at the start line where it will be collected by the organizers, given to a nearby homeless shelter and put to a better use.

Most of the runners here today have signed up for the Half-Marathon and both races share the same course for the first 13 miles. We begin heading west on Constitution, then behind the Lincoln Memorial and run over and back across the Memorial Bridge before taking Rock Creek Parkway to the steep hill leading to Calvert Street. From there it is mostly downhill as we head east then south then east again towards RFK Stadium.

At the 13 mile split I watch as thousands of runners turn left towards the finish. I turn to the right and head west. The streets are nearly empty now as we pass behind the Supreme Court, dodge a few early morning tourists leaving the Capitol and run downhill towards the White House. We turn south at 9th Street and take a tunnel under the Smithsonian Castle before circling L’Enfant Plaza. From here we run along the Potomac and around the bend to the Anacostia. We pass the Nationals’ stadium and cross the Frederick Douglass Bridge into Maryland. We head northeast for six miles then cross the East Capital Street bridge to the finish line.

After finishing the race I return to Union Station to catch the MARC train home to Baltimore, repeating a trip I made nearly 1,000 times before completing my military service at 5:45 PM on Friday, September 1, 1989.

I am early and treat myself to a Martini at the bar in the center of the main hall. Sipping it I remember two other lawyers I served with who, twelve years and ten days after I left the Pentagon, were still there when American Airlines Fight 77 was crashed into it. One would die in a conference room obliterated that morning. The other, working just down the hall, would survive, his life forever changed by what he experienced that day.

I finish my drink and board the train home happy, but also a bit sad, that I have returned to Washington today.

Change in my pocket

December 22, 2013 — 2 Comments

Wanting to add a little mileage to today’s run, I extend the boundaries of my normal route. I run up Overhill and down Northway past the million dollar homes adorned with wreaths and red bows. I turn left and pass Sherwood Gardens, just as lovely in the winter as it is when it is full of tulips in April. Turning right I continue to the edge of Guilford and into Waverly, the much poorer neighborhood just beyond the stone walls and fences that separate it from its wealthy neighbors to the west.

I run south on York and it starts to rain. I pass people waiting for the 8 bus, huddled with coats but no umbrellas on their way home or to church or work. The houses here that are not boarded up vacants are run down and in disrepair. I turn at 33rd and head back towards prosperity. I pass Johns Hopkins and the expensive high rise condominiums that overlook downtown.

Running north I reach the intersection of Roland and Cold Spring. It is raining harder now. A figure stands in the median strip with a cup and a cardboard sign that I can’t read from my side of the street. Five cars pass him by, but one stops. As I get closer I notice that he is an old white man with a dirty white beard. He is thin and his coat is brown, dirty and wet.

I continue north and pass Baltimore’s most desireable private schools before turning south. It occurs to me that if the bearded man had been wearing a Santa costume and ringing a bell next to a kettle, everyone would have stopped and contributed. Yet when confronted with a real person in real poverty only a small fraction of my neighbors were willing to part with even a few coins.

And I am no different. Just two days ago, while on my way to court, I passed another person in need. “Spare some change?” he asked, crumpled on the ground and leaning against the corner of the building. “Sorry, don’t have any” which, while true, was not the real reason I wasn’t going to give him anything. “Merry Christmas” he said sincerely as we walked by without saying anything in reply.

Today I wonder how many others passed that poor man on Friday and offered excuses but no change. I also regret that I was not more like the driver who stopped instead of the five who ignored the man with the white beard on the corner of Roland and Cold Spring.

On my second lap he was no longer at the intersection. Even if I had change to offer, it would have been too late to help. I turn for home having made my New Year’s resolution ten days early. From now on I will always carry change in my pocket and be the one who stops.