A funny thing happened this past Saturday: close to 60 people gathered in front of Tilghman Elementary School and then ran to St. Michaels. You can't blame them, really--the weather was custom-ordered for running. And by the time the last one ran under the old Knapps Narrows Bridge and into the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, the first annual Bridge-to-Bridge Half-Marathon was in the books.
For me, it was the culmination of about a week with no deep breaths and a lot of spinning in circles--and one forced (for sanity) run on Thursday to scout the 5K course. At the end of a 12-hour day Friday, I left the Museum at 12:30 a.m., after chalking the 5K with Tim Bamforth of the Seashore Striders, then helping organize awards. I was back at 5:00 a.m., on sub-2 hours of sleep, to help set up tables, park cars, and get everything square to get the race underway. At that point, I was not sure I was going to be able to swing running in the race. What ultimately got me to run was the bull-rush of CBMM's Cristina Calvert and John Ford, who took over logistics, and the velcro-hand of friend and training partner Mike Keene, who threw me in a truck and drove to Tilghman. But on to the good stuff.
Parking cars set the tone early. People were pulling into the Perry Cabin field with smiles that matched the weather and great enthusiasm for a new event. Talking to runners I knew and those I didn't carried me into the day. The arrival of "Team Claiborne," Suzanne Scott and Jim Richardson for the 1/2, John Scott for the 5K, with matching signs was a highlight. Seeing local speedsters Stuart Horsey and Matt Dunn arrive, I made a guess at who our front-runners would be.
After a sign-planting trip to Tilghman, and a brief word to the assembled runners as to where the aid stations would be located (funny, I forgot to tell folks how to get to St. Michaels), the gun fired, and we followed an ambulance off the island. Crossing the first bridge, it just felt cool to be a part of an inspired group aiming toward St. Michaels and CBMM.
When you divide roughly 60 people by 13.1 miles, chances are you are going to have long stretches of spread out runners. I ran most of the race by myself, with miles coming between 8 and 9 minutes. I pushed myself, but not overly, and made sure to take the scenery in from Eastern Bay to sunny fields, to stretches of trees. A few folks passed me along the way, but I didn't make a move to try to stick with them, just kept my own pace and followed the shoulder. I have found that races I run that runner/triathlete David MacKendrick also runs in, I tend to keep him in sight, at closing and fleeting distances--and he is kind enough to wear bright colors, so I can see if I'm on pace!
I carried some Gatorade and half a pack of Clif Shot Blocks, to supplement the Gatorade and water at aid stations, and that seemed to work well. After a push at the end, and almost catching the runner in front of me (St. Michaels resident Pierre Bernasse) in a foot race, I finished my second half-marathon race in 1:50:12, a good 8 minutes faster than the hilly Baltimore course last October, doing well enough to earn 3rd place among the men in the 30-39 age group, somewhere around 16th overall (race stats to come). That's my brief account of the race I ran.
More interesting to me were the stories and finishes of the others. I took a post at the finish line to greet and congratulate the runners and give them Restaurant Local bottles of water. I was inspired to see ultra legend Don Marvel come in around 1:57, at 64 years-old, to win his age group. I was giddy when "Team Claiborne" finished in tandem, hands raised and smiles gleaming. I was charged to see Nancy Toby finish her 5th half-marathon in 10 weeks, posting a PR that bowled over her previous best. I was lifted to watch CBMM docent and volunteer Al Kubeluis, who had five friends stay with him from all over the east coast, so they could run the race together. But probably one of the most remarkable sights I have ever been a part of, was the 60+ great grandmother, 3-time cancer survivor, who was the final runner to finish.
She called me earlier in the week to ask if there were going to be cut-off times, as she sometimes has trouble staying ahead of them and being allowed to finish. I assured her it was a pretty straightforward course, and that she'd be able to finish. Her daughter, herself a grandmother, who also ran, went back out to greet her and run with her as she turned in to the Museum, and they crossed the finish line together. I can't think of a better way to finish a race.
At the end of the day, there were a number of stories. Easton runners Stuart Horsey and Lori Callahan won the male and female overall races. Close to 100 runners came out for the half-marathon and 5K--with a U.K. resident finisher, a strong Annapolis Striders contingent, and a great showing from Eastern Shore runners. And I just get the sense that we started something really cool, worthwhile, and hopefully enduring.
Check back here, the Museum's website, and the Seashore Striders website for official results. And look for an upcoming issue of Running Times magazine for photos.