Runners squish and splash to the finish at rainy Frederick half marathon

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The thick of the starting pack travel up East Patrick Street at the start of this year’s half marathon Sunday morning.

The clang of cowbells usually greets runners at the three-mile marker of the Frederick half-marathon, but with a sudden downpour at the start of the race, the squish of water being pressed between feet and the soles of sneakers was the prevailing sound instead.

A total of 3,700 runners crossed the start line of the Frederick Running Festival’s half marathon on Sunday.

Runners departed from the Frederick Fairgrounds at 7 a.m. on a 13.1-mile journey past Harry Grove Stadium, through downtown, around Baker Park, up to Hood College and out to the far reaches of Schifferstadt and Monocacy boulevards to reach the fairground’s muddy infield for beer, chips, bananas and a medal.

Along the way, they were cheered on by spectators, either who lived along the race course or were visiting from out of town. Janelle Coolbaugh, of York, Pennsylvania, even had a cowbell.

“If I’m not running, I’m spectating,” said Coolbaugh, who was waiting for her husband Tom to reach the 7-mile marker at the intersection of 2nd Street and Delaney Avenue.

Wearing a blue poncho and equipped with a race map in a translucent page protector, Coolbaugh saw Tom off at the fairgrounds before walking to Market Street, making a pit-stop at Starbucks and then heading to mile seven to cheer him on once again.

She stayed at the intersection cheering and clanging her blue Geico cowbell to encourage the long trail of runners behind Tom.

“This is actually a really friendly course to spectate,” Coolbaugh said.

The Coolbaughs are seasoned spectators. She runs marathons and just started ultra marathoning, which she completed her first of in Alaska.

Tom cheers her on during the long races, and they keep a few cowbells in the car just in case.

She is headed to Illinois in October to run the Chicago marathon, and she’s still deciding whether she’ll squeeze a marathon in on their trip to Las Vegas to see Lady Gaga. Coolbaugh said her goal is to run a marathon in all 50 states. So far, she’s checked off eight.

“If I’m in Vegas, I might as well check off another state,” she said.

On the other side of the intersection, Amy Keating waved a full-size American flag as runners passed her home. Usually she would be in the race, but she wasn’t prepared enough to run this year, she said.

Keating has run the half-marathon approximately 10 times, and she knows it can be a lonely run unless there are people outside cheering.

It was also the first time many of the runners were attempting a half-marathon, potentially, Keating said. She called out individualized encouragement to each runner as they went past.

Mile seven, however, was just halfway to the finish line.

For those who persevered and made it back to the fairgrounds, cheers and clapping filled the air as runners approached the inflatable finish line on the race track.

Louis Levine, 22, of Baltimore, won the race with a finishing time of 1 hour, 12 minutes and nine seconds. He maintained an impressive pace of 5 minutes and 30 seconds per mile.

The official race clock counted up the minutes relentlessly for everyone else, but many were still able to walk up to the “personal record” bell afterwards and ring it with a hammer.

As soggy and muddy as runners got on Sunday, there were still plenty of smiles among the finishers.

If anything was missing, it was more cowbell.

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