26.2 things about the Marine Corps Marathon
1. I still can’t believe that in trying to switch metro train cars on the way to the race (to be able to ride in the same car with members of my pace group), I actually slipped and fell on the platform at East Falls Church… then jumped back up, ran into the car, and proceeded as if nothing had happened.
2. The day was hot. Really hot. On a day where I was hoping for good marathon weather of 55 degrees, we ended up with the heat climbing to 78 degrees. This meant that whatever performance everyone could have gotten, the reality would be a little slower. (According to Jeff Galloway, one minute per mile slower.)
3. This was the first marathon where I started with my entire pace group and we all managed to stick together for 8 miles. Even more impressive, it was the largest pace group I’d ever had: 13 people.
4. The new setup for how everyone lined up and started for the race worked wonderfully; we somehow ended up at the very end of the pack and it still only took us 12 minutes to get to the start line. (In 2002 we were closer in and it took us 20 minutes.)
5. One of the good things about starting at the end of the pack is that throughout the entire race I found myself passing people left and right. That’s such a great mental boost.
6. I really liked the addition of North Arlington into the course; yeah, the first two miles uphill aren’t ideal, but since you’re supposed to take those miles slowly anyway, why not force people to take it easy? Even better, once the hills are over you’re on Spout Run and the GW Parkway, both of which are gorgeous in autumn.
7. There was a huge contingent of runners from Canada participating this year; most of them had red baseball hats with the flag on the front and "Canada" stitched onto the back.
8. Walking up Capitol Hill instead of trying to run it was one of the smartest things Julie and I ever decided after wiping out all of our energy on it back in 2002. It felt good to have a brief break in the middle of the course, and thanks to speed walking we really only picked up an extra minute and a half in the process.
9. Running down Ohio Drive over the lip of the Tidal Basin was one of the more beautiful moments of the race; the course used to veer back up and away from the Potomac River, but this change was very much for the better. A very serene moment.
10. I don’t think everyone else in my group agreed with that assessment; in the course of that mile we dropped from nine runners to just four. (In the end you have to run your own race and I had no intention of slowing down to have others keep up, but I always hope that everyone can stick together for as long as possible.)
11. In 2002 and 2003 I was in the back half of my group for the entire second half of the marathon. Being in the lead group of runners from the pace group this year was a very nice, strong feeling.
12. Hains Point, missing from the course for several years but now back from the dead, is always been a badge of honor for surviving it, with veterans complaining about the wind, or the lack of crowds. Me? I thought it was fantastic. Very beautiful, and mentally I enjoyed the brief break from screaming people, just letting myself concentrate on moving forwards.
13. I’d never seen The Awakening statue down at the tip of Hains Point before and it was even better in real life than the pictures make it out to be.
14. Coach Tod’s words of encouragement at mile 19.5 as we were leaving Hains Point made me laugh for a good half-mile.
15. In 2002 and 2003 I made the 14th Street Bridge (which has a cut-off time limit) with no minutes to spare and it was a harrowing experience getting there. This year I stepped onto it with 50 minutes to spare, which was a really amazing feeling.
16. Miles 20-22 were the hardest part of the course for me. There was no relief from the sun up on the 14th Street Bridge, and it felt like a continual uphill climb.
17. The 14th Street Bridge was also the only point in the course where I was physically worried about finishing the course strongly. My left shin started to ache with each step and I had to wonder if it was time to slow down. Then we got off the bridge and its incline and all of the pain promptly went away. Apparently my left leg just hates that bridge even more than the rest of me.
18. Randy bought salt capsules at Metro Run & Walk and I must say that it’s much better than having to pour salt packets into your mouth. In retrospect with the heat and such I wish I’d brought all four capsules he’d given me instead of just two.
19. At mile 23 Randy was feeling strong and zoomed off into the distance, leaving just me and Julie to tough out the last three miles. I can honestly say that if Julie hadn’t been there I probably would have slowed down considerably, and I am really grateful for her being there for me.
20. Out of all of the friends and family that showed up to cheer (and hurrah for Mom & Dad, Suzanne, CJ, Karon, Jeff, Laura, Rob, Madelyn, Don, and Cecilia!), I’d say the biggest surprise was Laura’s dog Tisha, who was absolutely delighted to run along side us. Laura making sure that Tisha didn’t lick runners was pretty funny too.
21. The biggest surprise overall for me was that after losing her at mile 17, to have our friend Pam suddenly catch us at mile 25.5. I don’t know if she’d suddenly sped up or we’d slowed down (probably the two combined) but I was really impressed.
22. After being told for several months that the finish line was now "just at the top of the Iwo Jima Memorial Hill", I saw the hill, thought that statement was fact, and sprinted up the hill fast enough that my old AIDS Marathon Program Rep Carolyn said something along the lines of, "Oh my god!" as I ran by.
23. The finish line, of course, was not there and the sprint eventually had to turn into about 30 seconds of walking until I got far enough along the curve that I could see it for real. And then I sprinted it in, again. I do love my finish line adrenaline rushes.
24. I was seriously worried that with the heat I wouldn’t make my "under 6 hours" goal (I’d already thrown out the "under 5:45" goal before the race even began) so I was thrilled with my finishing time of 5:55:22, setting a Personal Record by 29 minutes and 40 seconds. With all of that heat and sun I am amazed and thrilled with that end result.
25. Most emotional moment of the race had to go to Gelareh, who we’d lost at mile 20 and who shot over the finish line in tears because she’d not only finished but also squeaked in under 6 hours by less than a minute. I gave her a huge hug while she sobbed with relief and I saw several marines frantically snapping pictures so who knows where that image might turn up.
26. Next year, under 5:30. Oh yeah.
26.2. Best Pace Group Ever.