The 22nd mile is tough in any marathon. Grim, even. In Baltimore’s annual death march, err, marathon, it leads uphill to Guilford and 30th Street, which is why Nate Sweeney and Peggy O’Leary are standing on their car, in full-body tiger costumes, madly cheering and encouraging runners while blasting Survivor’s epic “Eye of the Tiger,” theme to Rocky III.
“Risin' up, back on the street
Did my time, took my chances
Went the distance
Now I'm back on my feet
Just a man and his will to survive”
You got it!” “You look great!” “Ok, let’s go! “Start it up!,” Sweeney and O’Leary shout out to runners, who can’t help but break into smiles. A few, forced to walk up the end of the hill, begin jogging again.
Sometimes you laugh to avoid crying, right?
It started 10 years ago, in Milwaukee, actually, where Sweeney and some buddies went to cheer for a friend running in a marathon there. Sweeney brought his boom box, put in “Eye of the Tiger” and set it on repeat for six hours.