The 10th Running of The Celtic Solstice Five-Miler was presented with a peculiar set of challenges.  We knew that this day would come one year, but we never knew until the last minute what was going to happen on race day 2009.
Seventeen inches of snow....Baltimore biggest blizzard in a hundred years.

The weather system began developing mid-week, initially calling for flurries on the weekend, then snow showers, then a snowstorm, then an all-out blizzard. 

With a race that has thousands of runners pre-registered, there are only two choices.  In the words of Yoda, "There is Do, or Not Do.  There is no Try."

Tents has been set up.  Food prepared.  Police, rangers, tow trucks, buses, spot-a-pots and emergency personnel contracted.

At two o'clock in the morning the course was dry with no ice, just dry feathery snow accumulating at a rather rapid rate.

Many people wanted to come but were snowed in their driveways or neighborhood streets.  Many others elected not to even try to brave the wintry elements.  But for the hardy 450 souls that made their way to Druid Hill Park on a snowy, windy, winter morning, we all were able to experience one of those rare moments in life that will reside in the memory for a long, long, long, long time.

An online video is here: http://www.facebook.com/#/video/video.php?v=256020564427&ref=mf
John Davis Photography was on hand to record the event: http://web.me.com/jdph/Celtic_Solstice_09
A race report is below:

Fellini in Narnia
By Dan Murphy
December 19, 2009
Baltimore, MD

Photograph by johndavisphotography.com
Godsey reclaims title at an event that "didn't happen."

In a surrealistic setting reminiscent of some of the wildest movies ever filmed Bryan Godsey edged out a hard-charging Tim Briggs by four seconds to lead a field of 388 in a wind-whipped, snow-drenched 10th Celtic Solstice Five-Miler.  Godsey's time of 29:34 was 2:50 slower than his 2006 victory.  Briggs 5:56 average per mile was slightly slower than his 5:54 pace from 2:36:40 in October's Twin Cities Marathon.

Baltimore's largest single day snowfall in the past century will do that to your pace.

Flying in from Austria for the holidays, Godsey was literally picked up by someone named "Elf" at the airport and delivered to Baltimore.  Kipchirchir, disguised as an Eskimo Orangeman, wonderfully produced a pair of spiked waffles from his quiver just before the start of the race.  Godsey admitted that on each of the rare occasions that the spikes actually penetrated to something solid to grip that they provided a bit of acceleration that enable him to just hold off Briggs.

Women's winner Julia Rudd had a different type of waffle.  Now living in Herndon, she is planning to marry Alan Webb.  She was worried that she would be trapped in Baltimore by the snow, which would affect her planning process. After consulting with oracles and wizards she elected to make the journey and spend the night in Baltimore.  But an evil spell caused her wallet to remove itself from her vehicle just as she arrived at her destination.  Void of money, phone, and identification, she disconsolately made her way back to her Northern Virginia abode  But as these things happen, as she recovered her purse, she recovered her desire to compete, and re-drove back to Baltimore as the snows began to fall.  The next morning she notched a double-victory in 34:15 - 1st kilted runner in a Royal Stewart tartan that matched her Saucony racing gear and first woman overall.

The pre-race ceremony started in a cavernous tent with room for hundreds of runners.  The snow coating the Big Top created a natural ambient light that resembled an ice cave.  All five ten-time runners of the event marched through the crowd led by a broadsword wielding Celtic Warrior and bagpipers.  Linell Smith, Jack Heisler, Richard Krummerich, Shawn Pinamonti, and Ingrid Pfoertsch have run each Celtic Solstice event from the first day that the race was conceived in a raging thunderstorm as a small crowd huddled together under the crumbling shell of the ancient Stieff Silver factory.

As the runners raced, the real behind the scenes work began.  Tim Mullen supervised the process of brewing cauldron after cauldron of hot steaming soup.  Boordy Vineyards began warming the Wassail Wine.  Fruits, cookies, and other refreshments were set up as the music played on.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photograph by johndavisphotography.com
                                                                          
 Photograph by Bob Villanueva

The odds of winning a random award had increased exponentially as pre-registered runners did not post in record numbers due to weather conditions.  Gift certificates to area restaurants, history books about Druid Hill Park, Celtic Solstice tree decorations, running gear, all these items were distributed randomly among a broad range of participants.  The winners were all presented commemorative Christmas Tree decorations with this year's race logo.

Photograph by Bob Villanueva

The aftermath of the race spans two critical extremes. Those who made it commented, "Epic!" "Great event under extreme conditions!" "Snow-capped trees in Druid Hill Park were breathtaking." "The best race I have ever run."

Some who could not make the event were less complimentary.  "Appalling that they would run the race under those conditions." "This event really didn't happen." "Disappointed that the race wasn't postponed...unbelievable."

Race director Jim Adams was sanguine about the turn of events.  "Our snow date was out.  The only choice was to cancel or do it.  I knew some runners would come no matter what.  We had a safe course, shelter from the storm, hot food and drink, medical staff on hand, tow trucks on call, and a timing company present."

"Knowing what I know now in retrospect," Adams continued, "There is no doubt that I made the correct decision and under identical circumstances would do it again."

Photograph by johndavisphotography.com

"All we have to decide is what to do with the time given to us." - Gandalf