Running over the Naval Academy Bridge in Annapolis is not for the faint of heart.
But once you get to the top of that steep, steep incline, you reap the rewards—the amazing view of the Severn River, with boats dotting the water and the U.S. Naval Academy on the shore.
Then it’s all downhill from there—unless you’re running in the Annapolis Ten Mile Run, in which you also run over the bridge on your way back to the finish line.
That’s for sure the biggest, scariest hill in the A10, but it’s only one of probably more than a dozen in one of the area’s most challenging 10-mile foot races.
I ran the A10 for the fourth time over the weekend, and I can honestly say it’s my favorite Annapolis race. (OK, so maybe it’s tied with the Annapolis Running Classic). But it is definitely my favorite 10-miler.
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The A10 was the first major distance race I ever did, and it started me on the path toward longer races. “If you can do 10 miles, you can do a marathon,” I remember my dental hygienist telling me. She was right.
I was initially attracted to the difficulty of the race. “This is not a race you are likely to set a personal record. It is a tough race with a hilly course run in the heat and humidity of a Chesapeake August,” reads the website for the A10, organized every year by the Annapolis Striders.
After four years and countless other races, it hasn’t gotten any easier, but the route has definitely gotten more familiar to me. The race begins and ends at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, winds through downtown Annapolis, past the Naval Academy and through Pendennis Mount above the Severn.
I look forward to the usual landmarks of the race—the run down Main Street, the track teams from the Naval Academy handing out water and Gatorade and, of course, the run over the bridge.
And I always look forward to the cheering section. The A10, now in its 41st year, is an institution not just for Annapolis runners, but for the community as a whole. Spectators line the streets, with many residents of Pendennis Mount setting up lawn chairs and sprinklers for runners to dash through (it’s hot at the end of August!)
I finished this year in a respectable 1 hour, 18 minutes, two minutes slower than I ran last year, but I was happy with it, since my goal was to stay ahead of the 1:20 pace group.
Runners this year were treated to some inspirational opening comments from the mother of Matthew Centrowitz, Arnold native and Olympian who just took home the gold medal in the men’s 1,500 meter in Rio. She talked about how her son won the A10 as a Broadneck High School track star in 2006, and wished the rest of us (far less gifted) runners luck.
A runner like Centrowitz may only come around once a century, but thousands of amateur runners tackle the A10 every year. I hope this is a tradition that continues for many more years.