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Celtic Solstice Five-Miler

Sat December 16, 2023 Baltimore, MD 21217 US Directions

Event History


Founded in 2000 as part of the Maryland RRCA Grand Prix Series, the event grew rapidly to the point of thousands of participants from both RRCA clubs and non-affiliated running groups such as the Baltimore Pacemakers, Black Girls Run, NCR Trail Snails, Moms Run This Town, Hash House Harriers, and many other running clubs and groups.  But you do not have to be a club member, just someone who enjoys a five-mile run or walk during the Winter Solstice season through Baltimore's famed Druid Hill Park.

This run has a reputation as a race by runners for runners.  Race volunteers come from the various running groups around Baltimore.  The post-race party features hot soup by Chef Tim Mullen, hot Wassail Wine from Boordy Vineyards, hot coffee and hot chocolate from Zeke's  Coffee, bagpipes, Irish Wolfhounds, and plenty of Holiday cheer!


Karen and I told many of you that we would not be the race directors after 2021.  Well, it turns out that is "sort of" true.  We made arrangements with Corrigan Sports to take over the event, but they don't want to do it without us.  As a result, Karen and I are going to become "Race Directors Emiritus".  What this means is that we will still be involved by advising on logistics, planning, communications, etc.  CSE will be doing all the heavy leg work coordinating between the city, the vendors, event set-up an so forth.  This arrangement worked well in 2022 and we are excited to continue in that roll in 2023.

As with last year, the goal is to keep the spirit of the event alive.  That means maintaining the existing relationships with Falls Road Running, bagpipers, wolfhounds, soup, wine, coffee, and more.   And the BEST news is that we will still see all of you at the start line again this year!



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.  Sláinte to each of them!  May the wind always be at their backs to keep them going.




2000 (123 Official Finishers)- A hundred and twenty-six runners braved a torrential downpour replete with magnificent lightning strikes that brought new meaning to the term thunderous during the early pre-dawn hours of December 17th.  Thank goodness that Cobber Eccles of Streuver Brothers, Eccles and Rouse had opened up the Stieff Silver Building for shelter.

But those intrepid souls who ventured out into the elements and this long December morning were rewarded when the rains stopped, the lightning faded away, and the temperatures rose into the balmy mid-40's. 

The course rolled along by the historic mansion house, through quaint cobblestone streets all the way to the Baltimore Zoo before returning to Druid Lake and the spectacular views of downtown and mid-town Baltimore from the turnaround at the Moorish Tower.  The flat, then downhill finish, more than compensated for the rolling hills in the initial miles of the course.

Race officials were chagrined to discover that the second mile was 1,000 feet short, which resulted in some rather fast times.  Another indelible memory of this event was the discovery of police towing an obviously abandoned, and probably stolen, vehicle out of a field as the runners passed by.

Age group winners received a hand-drawn caricature of themselves rounding the Moorish Tower at mile 4 1/2.  Runners who elected the premium received a stunning, long-sleeve black PolarTech shirt, designed to retain warmth while transmitting moisture to the outside.

2001 (274 Official Finishers)- The week before the race, the Stieff Silver Building was an empty shell, but on race day the interior had been framed out and it was obvious that the famed Baltimore landmark would house renovated offices within a few weeks.  The course was re-aligned to bring it to the proper five mile distance, and on a very cold and clear December morning 275 people braved the chilly air for the second running of the Celtic Solstice Five-Miler.

2002 (417 Official Finishers)- With organizers wondering how to move the venue to another sheltered location, the Parks and People Foundation volunteered their space in the basement of the Stieff Silver Building.  The course was altered to compensate for construction work along the Mansion House loop and the placement of jersey wall barriers over portions of last years course.  This resulted in the Start/Finish line being closer to the Stieff Silver Building, where all the post race food was! The husband and wife team of Greg and Vicki Cauller, down from Pennsylvania, won the race, but there was spirited competition throughout, no where more evidenced than in the rear of the back, where Jeff Caldwell, who can not run because of bad knees, and Eugene Roberts, who runs on two prosthetic devices, battled it out.  Jeff say, " I could get him on the uphills, but my knees can't take the downhill pounding, and he (Gene) would just fly by me. Then I would get him on the next uphill.  But that last half-mile was all downhill, and I couldn't keep up with him." 

2003 (697 Official Finishers)- Over 700 people showed up on an overcast but crisp December morning.  There were several tents set up in the parking lot serving up food and a taste of Wassail, while the feast continued inside.  Jesse Williams and Glenn Mays ran side by side for most of the race, with Jesse finally holding on for the win.  Participants in the event were treated to hot spiced cider and soup outside with traditional  (and more non-traditional) food inside the building.

2004 (832 Official Finishers)- A record 832 runners finished on the fifth anniversary of the race. Pre-registered runners had covered the race expenses, so race day entries fees were donated to the Parks and People Foundation.  Tim Mullen and Greg Griffie reprised their outstanding hot soup in the outdoor tents, while the feasting continued indoors.  Quite a bit of excitement ensued among the finish line volunteers when someone dropped a spindle containing about a hundred and fifty names, and it took about two weeks to sort everything out. 

2005 (949 Official Finishers)- For the first time, the race utilized a chip timing system, partially in response to the dropped spindle from the previous year.  Several proposals were evaluated, and a team from the Annapolis Striders and Howard County Striders were selected to chip time the race using ChampionChip.  A winter storm deposited layers of snow and ice in Druid Hill park just three days before the race, but park maintenance personnel salted and plowed the roads.  That combined with a little bit of sun and wind dried out most of the course except for two large standing pools of water that required slight detours and an extremely muddy section that was packed down with wood chips and bales of hay by Scott Phin on race day morning.

Brian Godsey and Carlos Renifro led the race at a rather casual pace through the first four miles, then Godsey dropped a 4:28 final mile to take the crown for 2005.

2006 (1,521 Official Finishers)- A record number of runners registered for the event, forcing organizers outside the Stieff Silver Building and under tents.  With about 950 finishers from the previous year, plans were made for an expected growth of 20% and a crowd size of about 1200 runners.  Lo and behold, about 1900 runners showed up on race day, with over 1500 getting ChampionChip times.  Organizers ran out of chips, and resorted to using leftover ZooZoom and PowerBar numbers as the increased crowds went through all of the supplies in a hurry.  Dave Berdan led the race from start to finish, setting a new course record in the process.  The day was sunny and mild for a mid-December, with temperatures in the high forties and low fifties.

2007 (1,918 Official Finishers)-The number of runners continued to grow, with registered runners surpassing 2,500 for the first time.  There were 1,900 timed runners and an estimated crowd of 2,300.  Dave Berdan defended his title from the previous year.  Despite not registering for the premium jacket, organizers were able to find one for him anyway...after all, it just wouldn't do for the winner not to have a premium!  Katie Breitenbach was the women's champion. The race dodged a bullet, as a forecast winter storm held off and then failed to materialize.  That didn't stop the temperatures from dropping below freezing just before race-time, keeping the tradition of a cold, cold day rolling along.  [PHOTO ESSAY BY Jeanne Larrison]

2008 (1,926 Official Finishers)- The field continued to grow, with a record 2800 entries.  The number of runners overwhelmed the computer chip mats at the start, resulting in fewer times than runners.  On a chilly day defending champ Dave Berdan managed to set a new course record in 25:09.  Laura Paulsen of the Johns Hopkins University Track and Cross-Country team won the women's division.

2009 (388 Official Finishers)- Year of the Blizzard.  This year deserves a very special spot in the annuls of the event.  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 largest snowstorm of the century arrived about six hours before race start.  Brian Godsey returned from Austria to reclaim his title, while Julia Rudd braved the journey up from Northern Virginia to win the women's title.  The deep snow slowed everyone down, but a good time was had by all. 

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. [READ MORE ABOUT THE DAY HERE] [WATCH A VIDEO of 2009 BY ANDREW ADAMS]

2010 (2298 Official Finishers) - 
2011 (2809 Official Finishers) - 
2012 (3131 Official Finishers) - 
2013 (2952 Official Finishers) - 
2014 (3062 Official Finishers) - 
2015 (2711 Official Finishers) - 
2016 (664 Official Finishers) -Snow Storm - 
2017 (2373 Official Finishers) - 
2018 (2016 Official Finishers) - 

2019 (2211 Official Finishers) - Julia Roman-Duval won the women's side of the Celtic Solstice for the thrid time in a row with a time of 27:27.  She finished 30 seconds ahead of second place finisher Hannah Cocchiaro. In the men's field  Zach Kaminski strided to victory after a second place finish in 2018.  Zach's time of 25:49 was a minute and 16 seconds faster than second place finisher Tristiam Thomas.   With weather hovering in the mid 50s at the start time, participants enjoyed the day mingling with others from the Baltimroe running community. Stories were told and holiday cheer was spread.

2020 (597 Official Finishers) - Virtual Race - Like with most races, COVID 19 forced the 2020 race to be run as a virtual event.  Participants were forced to find their own Wassel wine, play the bagpipes on Apple Music and pretend their neighbor pup was actually an Irish Wolfhound.  That said, folks made the most of it and were able to continue their participation streaks and grew their race premium collection nonetheless. 

2021 (1729 Official Finishers) - Zach Kaminski, a former college distance runner from Elton, Md. won Celtic Solstice 5-Miler for the 2nd time.  With 2020 running virtually, Zach defended his title with a time of 24:46, besting his 2019 time by more than one minute.   One the women’s side, Hannah Cocchiaro placed first after coming in 2nd in 2019.  Her time of 26:47 had her cross the finish line in the top five overall, male or female.  It was a somewhat warm day by Celtic Solstice standards with temperatures in the mid 40s.  The post-race festivities were moved to the Maryland Zoo’s Lot C giving the race a new home for the first time in a few years.  A good time was had by all.  It was thought to be long time race director Jim Adam’s last event but little did he know we would be roped back into action is the same role with less heavy lifting.

2022 (2332 Official Finishers) - 2022 was marked by the merging of the old and the new.  In his first entry into the Celtic Solstice, James Heilman of Lutherville won the men's race by keeping a 5:17 pace for the duration of the 5 mile course.  While on the women's side 5-time champion Julia Roman-Duval got back on the top of the podium with her first entry since 2019.  The brisk weather left a chill in the air but not in the hearts of the participants who graciously welcomed Corrigan Sports as the new race management team.  It helped that Race Directors Emiritus Jim Adams and Karen Menge returned with Jim starting the race and Karen actually running for the first time in many, many years!


See the logos from each of the past events here.

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