The Baltimore Running Festival turned 9 this year, and I’ve run either the half-marathon or the relay five times and signed up and been unable to run a couple more. In other words, I love this race–and it isn’t for the unrelenting hills.

Here are a few of the highlights:

1. Corrigan Sports, which is a race organization nonpareil. They do a great job, ask for and incorporate feedback from runners every year, and are quick to apologize when something goes wrong. Plus they send me a “happy birthday” email every year; how cool is that?

2. The Gummy Bear Man, who I know has a real name (but I don’t remember it). He’s moved away, but he comes back to Baltimore every race day to hand out hundreds of pounds of gummy bears to thrilled runners around mile 23.

3. The wacky crowds, who come out in every neighborhood and cheer for the elites and stay until the last, slowest runner has gone by. My fav this year: “Eye of the Tiger” man–tiger suit, standing on the hood of a car pointing at runners as we went by, with the Survivor single playing on an endless loop.

4. The volunteers, including police, water station attendants, and the guy who handed me that silver crinkle blanket to keep me warm at the finish line.

And, of course, the runners — who somehow in Baltimore get that we’re all in this together. One year heat and ferocious head winds took their toll: I was hurting, everyone around me was hurting, and just about everyone was walking. A stranger looked at me and said, “We’re going to finish this race together.” And we did.

We spend a lot of time talking about online communities, and how to create and nurture them. I wonder if we sometimes forget the examples offline that are happening all around us. In Baltimore, there’s a race day community that I’m proud to be a part of each year.