There are two locations I have wanted to run in Maryland since I started running again: the Bay Bridge and Ft McHenry Tunnel. Since they haven’t run the bridge in a number of years (Please bring it back), I settled for the Ft McHenry Tunnel (the big one you go through if you go down I95 in Baltimore).
First and foremost,this race benefits the Special Olympics in Maryland. Regardless of how the race was run, this is a cause worth donating to.
Pre-Race: Registration was a breeze on their website. They also help you create a webpage so you can collect donations for the Special Olympics All the important race information was there and easy to find.
Race-Day: I made one mistake going to this race. I didn’t read the directions and just pulled up some directions from Google. The all-knowing Google did not take into consideration that they were closing exits for the race. Had I read the directions on the website I would have known and saved myself a little time getting to the race.
This race would definitely take the cake for having the most security. The race is sponsored by the Maryland Police so they were out in force. In addition to handling the parking and crowd control they had a few platoons of runners joining the racers. They also did not allow any backpacks or fanny packs in the tunnel. They did allow me to wear my “running belt” so I had my phone to take a few pictures.
The Race: This was a race for a great cause, not a race for a PR. I can’t say that enough. There was an odd moment at the start when they moved from what many thought was the starting line, about 50 yards closer to the tunnel (the real start line). People in the back thought the race had started and were jogging past the walkers at the front incredulous that there were so many walkers at the front of the race. Once that got cleared up, the race began. You go right into “Bore 4” of the McHenry Tunnel. The echoes of the tunnel really amplified the cadences of the police platoons which was pretty cool and inspiring.
They quickly funnel you into one side of the tunnel which made for close quarters so early in the race. The funnel in the tunnel is the main reason this race is hard to set any personal records in. If you were behind a pack going slow, it was difficult to get around without sneaking into the off-limits side of the road.
I found my splits to be off as well. The first mile downhill was around 9 minutes. The next mile was mostly uphill and I was at 16 minutes. My last mile was a whopping 11 minutes. It just seemed like the markers were off to me. Like I have said a number of times already, this is a race for a great cause in a neat location.
Running in the tunnel was interesting. Not surprisingly, it was downhill into the tunnel, back up the other side. Turn around and repeat. There was no wind or weather to deal with (not that there was any outside either). The echoes of the tunnels amplified the cheering and cadences of the cadets/officers running in formations. For a moment I thought I was back in the Army.
Post-Race: They had the usual bagels, fruit and water available after the race. They also sold hamburgers and hotdogs which was a good idea to raise some more money. They also had a bouncy castle for kids setup and a DJ playing music to entertain everyone.
Goodies: The sense of giving to a good cause and a t-shirt. Did I mention this was for a good cause?
*****I would give this race 5 stars for the cause and 3 stars as a 5k. I would run it again just to have the opportunity to run the tunnel again. Give this race a try, and enjoy the unique location.
For more information or to make a donation, visit: http://www.tunnelrun.org/