Running Away From Fear in Baltimore

When the Freddy Gray riots hit, I began to fear my upcoming business conference in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor the following week.  Even with the apparent calm, my mind played “what if” games.  What if there are more riots?  What if I get attacked?  What if it’s not safe? As I fought my wild imagination, I decided that any running would take place in the safety of the hotel gym.  After all, Baltimore has a reputation as a rough city.

I arrive in the early evening and walk to the Rusty Scupper to meet several colleagues for dinner.  As I walk, I am struck by the beauty and history of the harbor. To the south stands a large hill with a cannon perched on top.  There are historic ships sitting in the harbor.  People are playing volleyball on several sand courts late into the evening. Both men and women are running.  It feels safe (and where women run alone, it must be safe).

At 6:30 AM the next morning, beams of sunlight break through the heavy curtains of my hotel room making sleep impossible.  The conference doesn’t begin until 8:00 AM.  While staring at the ceiling of the room, I debate sitting and watching CNN for the next 1½ hours, going the hotel gym, or venturing out on a run.  Because yesterday seemed safe, I take a chance, put on my running gear, and head out into the early morning Baltimore air.

Rough city or not, no one is active at 6:30 AM.  I run along the waterfront enjoying the cool air and morning views with other runners and dog-walkers.

Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is home to several historic sights.  I run by the USS Constellation and briefly wonder what makes the ship famous. I don’t have time to read all the historic sign postings, so I take a picture and promise to read the history later.

The same is true for the USS Torsk.  I wonder if painting teeth on a submarine makes sense because no one can see it underwater.

Off to the south, I look up at Federal Hill.   A few runners are doing repeats up the sloped paths.  As I round the harbor, I keep looking for an easy path to the top.   After running past several expensive condominiums, I turn up a side street leading to the top where I am rewarded with spectacular views of downtown Baltimore and the harbor.

The end-to-end perimeter of the Inner Harbor to the top of Federal Hill is just short of three miles.  By the time I return to the hotel, it’s closer to 4 miles and time to clean up for the conference.

In the short hour, my run introduced me to Baltimore, its beauty and history.  While the city still has a rough reputation and there’s no hiding the riots, I no longer fear it nor will I hide in the hotel gym.

Sometimes you have to take a chance and spend time with a person to see beyond their reputation and find their beauty.

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