Writing about running around the city never gets old. This newest edition is about our beloved Charles Street. Yes, the one that many of you can see out of your dorms and apartments. The beautiful Charles Street 12 is a 12-mile road race that runs from the Trader Joe’s in Towson down to the Under Armour headquarters in Federal Hill.
This is one of my favorite races in Baltimore. Although I seem to say that for every race, I mean it this time. Not only does the course run by Homewood Campus (where I get a little adrenaline boost each time), but it also goes past many historic monuments in Baltimore City and Baltimore County — the University Baptist Church, the Washington Monument and the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen. It finishes along the harbor and truly gives you all the best views in Baltimore.
As always, the race started early at 7:30 a.m. We got there just early enough to catch the sunrise, but the humidity and heat were catching up with us already. If there’s anything bad about the race, it’s the usually subpar running weather. However, once we lined up to start the race, all worries about the weather and any nervousness got left behind.
The Charles Street 12 is a net downhill course, but the first few miles from Towson to Homewood Campus host a few long and steep hills that might take you by surprise. The good thing is that those few miles are filled with natural scenes. So, as we ran along the tree-lined road, all we heard was the light striking of feet on the ground, different from the typical city noises of Baltimore that most of us have become familiar with.
The scenery changed fast, though. As we passed Homewood Campus, the race became louder and more spirited. The course runs through the heart of the city, and more supporters come out and cheer for the runners, with the biggest hotspots around Mount Vernon and Inner Harbor. Those cowbells and posters really did give us a big boost. But as the city got busier, the roads did, too. Even though police officers closed down the roads and controlled traffic, there were still impatient drivers honking at the runners every now and then.
This is where the course got faster and easier, too. The race becomes mostly downhill right after Homewood Campus, which roughly marks the halfway point. So there were a lot of people picking up their strides and locking in for the final half. Be careful about the hills around Mount Vernon, though. Right after Penn Station, the uphill crushed many runners’ aspirations to not walk on the course.
The finish was supposed to be beautiful — you trace the harbor and turn onto the main Under Armour campus for a sprint finish, with many supporters along the way to cheer you on — but I was among the runners who underestimated the hills around Mount Vernon and was using all of my mental capacity to keep up my pace. It’s much hotter around the finish, too. So, everything becomes much more of a blur.
Of course, the race is always all about the people who you run with. Racing is much more fun when you can line up with friends and cheer each other on in the middle of the race. So grab a few friends who might be interested in a weekend run and invite them to come out to one of the many races that Charm City Run hosts every year. If a 12 miler sounds too intimidating, the Baltimore Running Festival is right around the corner and offers much more accessible distances like the 5K and 10K runs.
I’ve never regretted running a race in Baltimore, even if the next week was loaded with midterms and papers. This one was no different. Even though I had to leave my friend’s housewarming party early and go to bed at 10 p.m. on a Friday night, I couldn’t imagine any better way to start off my weekend!