Thursday, October 18, 2012

Baltimore Running Festival

There was plenty to celebrate at the 12th annual Baltimore Running Festival this past weekend.  The festival, consisting of a 5k, half marathon, marathon, team relay, and kids fun run, brought together a record attendance of 27,000 runners and an estimated half a million visitors.  It was the 6th year in a row that the event has sold out.  Among the throngs of runners, there were plenty of  royal blue and navy Striders/Bullseye Running singlets to be spotted.

In the marquee event, the marathon, four Striders finished in the top 50.  The top finisher for the Striders was none other than our resident mileage king, Keith Levasseur, who decided that running a marathon with shoes was not enough of a challenge for him.  Instead he opted for some "comfortable" flip flops to carry him across the distance. His time of 2:46:58, was good for 29th overall and set the Guinness World Record for world's fastest marathon in flip flops.

Only a few minutes behind Keith were Jason Tripp (2:48:24, 31st), Peter Keating (2:52:47, 38th) , and Adam Wytko (2:53:34, 41st).  Jason's time was good for 3rd in the master's category (40+).

Starting concurrently with the marathon was the team relay.  On the men's side, the Bullseye Running team, consisting of Carlos Renjifo, Phil Lang, Tom Williams, and Mark Buschman, was looking to repeat as winners for the third year straight.  On the women's side, the Bullseye Running Ladies (Kelly Westlake, Vicki Lang, BeaMarie Altieri, Robyn Humphrey) were trying to go for the win as well.  The men faced stiff competition from a team of UMBC alumni (Adventures for the Cure), while the ladies had to contend with a very strong women's team from the Falls Road Running Store.

In the women's relay race, the Bullseye ladies took an early lead over Falls Road, as Kelly Westlake ran a superb first leg, giving the team almost a two minute lead over their rivals.  This lead, however, was short-lived, as Falls Road's second leg ran a tremendously fast and essentially put the chance of victory out of reach.  This fact did not seem to deter the Strider/Bullseye women, who ran their hearts out, with Vicki running a gutsy second leg (48:39), followed by Strider hall of famer Bea Marie (41:54) on the third leg, and a very strong finish by Robyn on the final leg (48:02).  Even though they finished 4 minutes behind the Falls Road team, they obliterated the team behind them by nearly 14 minutes, with a time of 2:54:40.  Oh ... and one more thing I forgot to mention ... these women are all 41 years young or better, which makes the feat all the more remarkable!

In the men's relay race the race ended up being a nail-biter.  Carlos led off with a fantastic first leg, which saw him handing off to Phil almost a minute and a half in front of the UMBC team and nearly a minute in front of the top Kenyan's in the marathon.  Phil ran a brilliant leg, which was over 90 seconds faster than his previous best over that leg of the race.  Although the Bullseye team was caught by the UMBC team, Phil's effort limited the gap to a little over 30 seconds, which kept the team in contention.  On the third leg, Tom cut the gap to less than 10 seconds, giving Mark the opportunity to take a shot at the victory.  Mark did not disappoint,  as he threw in a few surges early in his leg to close the gap and take the lead.  Despite being taken off course by the pace bike, Mark kept his composure and came home strong with a convincing victory over their challengers.  The time of 2:23:54 was almost 6 minutes better than last year thanks to great performances across the board.

Other racing team members running on relay teams included Caroline Bauer (The Usual Suspects, 2nd coed team, 2:53:15) and Dorothy Beckett (Run4Chocolate, 4th female team, 3:13:46).

Finally, there was the half marathon, where John Chall and Stephen Olenick represented the team.  John ran 1:20:16, which was good for 2nd in the grandmaster category (50+).

But by far the best performance of the day (in my humble opinion) was Stephen Olenick's 1:15:05 half marathon, good for 5th place overall.  The time was a huge PR for Steve on a very challenging course.  The feat becomes even more impressive when you consider that only two years ago, after setting  a PR in the Baltimore Marathon (2:48:08), Steve was seriously injured and sidelined from running for 18 months.  In less than 6 months, Steve has gotten himself back into top form and is arguably in the best shape of his life at the ripe old age of 36!  Way to go Steve!

Congratulations to all who raced.  Here are some pictures/videos, courtesy of Brian Fleming and Issel Lim:

Adam, finishing his 4th marathon in 4 weeks.

Master superstar, Jason Tripp running a solid sub-2:49 marathon.

John, either flexing his muscles, or pumped up to finish 2nd in the grandmaster category of the half marathon.

Keith in his flip flops.  Looks like he still has some spring in that stride!

Mark in some patriotic attire.  No better way to celebrate a three-peat.

Robyn brings in the Bullseye Running ladies team.

Steve, in the form of his life, and probably wearing a singlet in a race for the first time in 2 years (he usually runs shirtless).  The Striders logo looks great on you, buddy!

Mark, Carlos, and Tom pose for a picture after a thrilling relay victory.

Mark at the end of the race, showing his finishing speed.

More pictures are available on the Striders Website and the Racing Team Picasa Album.

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