Celtic Solstice is Baltimore's premier winter event. Some may say it's the year's best race, in large part due to the party under the tent. In its 15th edition, Jim and the gang went bananas on the race premiums - insane Brooks jackets.
Of course it's also a very competitive race, which there aren't many of this time of year. Our own stock of runners was a bit depleted; a bunch of the guys were up in Bethlehem racing the USATF Club XC Nationals that day, and a few of our other fasties were laying low following their marathons last weekend. With past winners Brian Godsey and Dave Berdan nowhere in sight, the door was open for Carlos Renjifo of Howard County Striders to take his first win in 7 tries. He not only one, he decimated the field with a 90 second margin of victory.
Our first runner was Nick Gehlsen, who finished 3rd in 27:24. Then I saw that his chip time was just a second or two behind 2nd place and I thought START ON THE LINE!! After Nick it was the ageless wonder, Elijah Kosgei, in 4th at 28:24. I haven't seen Elijah in probably a couple of years. Dude's got a metric ton of children and is taking classes again I think, so it was nice to see him back out there. He hates the cold but got it done, and I was glad to see him racing as his actual age (46) instead of his usual "I'm 40 every year." PJ Martinez ran a fine 29:02, Jeremy Gworek got into sneaky shape (29:14) and Terence Baptiste surprised us with a 29:43.
Coming in a little over 30 minutes, showing some excellent December fitness, were Mike Zero (30:16) and old man Steve Levin (30:25). Tom Stott had one of his best Celtics, running 30:51. Brennan Feldhausen just missed breaking 31 minutes (31:03, although I doubt he cared too much) and Bobby Van Allen continued his trail to former glory, running 31:21. Cory Donovan finished at a solid 31:32 and PJ Anderer came in at 31:45.
Then it was time for some fast ladies to finish! Carly Page and Suzanne Andrews ran most of the race within a few seconds of one another, and while Suzanne got her on gun time, Carly had the faster chip - 32:09 to 32:12. Great race for both! For Carly, nearly a minute faster than her spring 8k, and Suzanne just always surprises me with how fast she is when I think she's not running. Little Justine DiGregorio finished 10th in 33:09, and Eileen Fleck, who I missed out there, was 15th in a really strong 34:20. Sara Damiano came in at 34:53, Meg McNew strolled across at 35:56, and Patty Stott finished a strong fall campaign, running 40:17.
The morning was a little brisk, but not anything we're not accustomed to on Celtic Saturday. Brennan got to "take the walk" at the beginning of the race, wearing a Bart Starr Green Bay Packers' jersey (courtesy of Jim). The tradition is that bagpipers and Irish wolfhounds lead out the couple of folks who have done this race every year, and with Brennan leaving Baltimore, Jim asked him to be an honorary leader of the procession. Very cool.
Many thanks to Jim, Karen, Pete, Meg D, Dan, Amy, all the Falls Road staff, and especially all of you who came out and volunteered. This race is no small undertaking, and it requires a lot of help. I know they all appreciate your efforts, so thanks!