Monday, October 29, 2012

Oo-Rah: Marine Corps Marathon 2012

Since I’m currently stuck in Washington D.C. thanks to Frankensnurricane Sandy, and everything is closed, what better time than to write my race re-cap for the 37th Annual Marine Corps Marathon!

Saturday morning, Joe and I got up crazy early to make our 6:25 am flight to BWI. Everything went smoothly, and I chatted with some fellow Nashville runners at the baggage claim. After taking the SuperShuttle to our hotel and stashing our bags in our room, we met up with my friend Jimi for an early lunch of pizza at Matchbox Chinatown and then headed to the Expo.


The process of getting our bibs was very smooth, and the Marines working packet pick-up were very friendly. The expo itself was more overwhelming. There was a bit of a snafu because security wasn’t allowing any glass bottles inside the DC Armory, and Jimi had brought a whole bunch of beer in his bag from the brewery he works at. So Joe ended up staying outside of the expo to babysit the beer. After getting my shirt, I shopped a bit and ended up waiting in a really long line to pay. I wished I’d stayed at the expo longer, but the crowds wandering around aimlessly were driving me crazy. And there’s really only so much running stuff you can buy, right?

My grandparents moved to Arlington from Charlottesville two days before we arrived, so we ventured out there to visit them for dinner in their new assisted living facility. It was a pretty decent pre-race dinner – kind of bland and pretty much guaranteed to not mess up my digestive system. Then it was back to the hotel on a Metro full of fun Halloween costumes. Predictably, I slept horribly and woke up at 5 am to drink my coffee and fuel up. Every morning I get a quote from in my e-mail, and the day of the marathon, it was particularly apt.
“For all that has been, thanks; to all that will be, yes.” – Dag Hammerskjold


Earlier this week, I bought iron-on letters for my race shirt and put my name on the front and “Run Rev Run!” on the back. Best idea ever; all through the race people were cheering for me by name. After I was all ready to go, we hit the Metro, chatted with more runners, and hopped on the train to the Pentagon. If I thought the train was full when we got on, more and more runners kept squeezing on. Then we walked. And walked and walked to Runner’s Village. I met up with my friend Jen after waiting in the slowest moving Port-o-let line in the history of running, and we walked to the start. After hopping the fence to get into the start corral, the gun went off, and we stood around for 15 minutes before crossing the start line.


Jen and I both had a “reach” goal of sub-4:40 and were planning on a PR race. We started out conservatively and feeling good enough to keep reminding ourselves to pull back on the pace a bit. I first saw Joe at mile 10.5 where he took the picture on the right. Obviously, I was feeling pretty happy at that point. After over a week of worrying about the weather, we ended up only having a strong headwind at a few points and NO rain. Lots of signs read various iterations of “Sandy is right behind you!” though my favorite sign was, “Paul Ryan is already finished.”


We kept ticking off mile after mile and started to pick up the pace a bit. Joe saw us again along the National Mall, which was encouraging. I was starting to not feel so great anymore. When we made the turn to go over the bridge back into Virginia, I knew I would have to back off. Lots of people around us were walking, and we kept having to weave around them. Jen was looking strong, so when we got off the bridge, I told her to go ahead. I slowed down and took some walk breaks. Everything hurt, and I was mentally frustrated by the crowds of runners that had us weaving the whole race, adding an extra .43 on my Garmin by the finish line. After allowing myself a brief pity party, I said “yes” to the pain, the blisters, the aching muscles, the foggy head, and the guy dressed as a purple Teletubby in front of me and pressed on. At about 25.8 miles, I saw Joe, and he tried to motivate me. In my pain, I told him to shut the hell up much to the amusement of the runners around me.


Marine Corps Marathon finishes up a hill to the Iwo Jima monument. A hill. After running 26 miles. Fortunately, I run hills all the time, and this particular hill was surrounded by cheering spectators and Marines and had a giant finish line at the top. I surged past the people around me and kicked everything into the finish. 4:43:44, official time. Then I burst into tears. I waited in a short line to be presented my medal by the awesome female Marine above, and we saluted each other. After getting a jacket, food, and drink, I walked for what seemed like forever to meet up with Joe.

One of the truly great things about MCM was the social media support. Every 10K, my time and pace were tweeted, posted to my Facebook page, and e-mailed/texted to everyone who had signed up to follow me. So even though Joe hadn’t been right at the finish line, he knew I had finished and PR’d. And at the end, I received all the texts, tweets, and Facebook comments from friends who had cheered me on from all over.

All in all, I don’t know if I’ll do another enormous race like MCM, or if I do, I will have very different expectations. Running with 30,000 of your closest friends is inspiring but also frustrating. The course was constantly congested, even in the last few miles, and the aid stations were particularly bad. At one point, Jen and I lost each other for about a mile coming out of an aid station. As wonderful as a job as they do with the logistics, there is just no way to organize 30,000 people without a lot of waiting and walking around a large amount of space. At the end of the day, I walked away with a PR and the knowledge that I ran hard and left everything out on the course.

And because I’m more than a little crazy, I signed up for Rocket City Marathon in Huntsville, AL, which will qualify me as a Marathon Maniac!