Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Marine Corps Marathon - Race Recap

   Dudley and I rolled into the DC area the Wednesday prior to Sunday's race. My parents still live in the DC area, and the race gave us an excuse to have a quick family visit and to catch up with some long-time friends. Plus, was nice that we didn't have to rush around the day prior to the marathon like we did in Chicago.
   The expo was on Friday. We had plans to meet up with our friend Ron, his friend Amanda and several of her friends, who were also running the race. Amanda ran MCM last year and told us we needed to be there right when it opened to avoid the lines. I was kind of confused about this, but then remembered that the MCM has higher security than most races - even for the expo. Fortunately, the security line wasn't too bad and after a few minutes we were in.

Hello, Expo!

   We picked up our shirts and bib numbers. I was happily surprised because rather than regular shirts, we got long-sleeve fleeces! Very nice.  I'm generally happy with any shirt I get, but it's fun to get something different every once in a while.

   I'd love to give you a rundown of what was at the expo, but I really don't have any idea. Why? Because the line in the merch area was so long that it took us almost an hour to buy a shirt and a visor. It was crazy. There were a lot people, but apparently the registers went down for a while, too.  By the time we bought our swag, we only had about 10 minutes before we had to leave for the Pentagon where we were meeting people for lunch and a tour. I did a quick lap around the expo, got some free ice cream and left. I'm sure it was quite nice though. Any expo with free ice cream gets a big thumb's up from me.
   We then all headed down to the Metro and went to the Pentagon where we met up with Darrin and Shane for the aforementioned lunch and VIP tour. (Thanks, guys!)  Though I grew up in the DC area, I had never been to the Pentagon. It's a pretty amazing place. Really fascinating, especially for a history buff like I am. I'd love to show you a bunch a photos but, as you can imagine, they don't allow cameras in there. But if you're ever in the DC area, I highly recommend taking a tour. Wear some comfortable shoes though. We walked about four miles - that place is huge.


   Sunday morning, Dudley and I got up around 4:30am. We had plans to meet Ron at the Pentagon (where the race started and finished) at 6:00am. This was a little early, but as with the expo, there was security we had to go through and we wanted to miss the lines. I'm REALLY glad we did. While we waited about 20 minutes, other people who arrived later actually missed the start of the race because the lines were so long. This wasn't a regular bag check either. We had to go through metal detectors. That was a first for me. 

The Marines don't slack on security.

   Once through security, we had a while to hang out. It started to sprinkle a little bit, but nothing too bad. We were under a giant tent and we also all brought trash bags so we didn't get wet. 

Who can rock a trash bag?  We can rock a trash bag!  

   I want to take a minute here to talk about the organization we ran for: wear blue to remember.  This organization "is a national nonprofit running community that honors the service and sacrifice of the American Military." We learned about this group through Amanda, who I connected with a few months ago on Facebook but hadn't met until this weekend. She's the wife of an Army man, and has run with wear blue for several years. When I heard about the group, I knew I wanted to run with them during the MCM. What an amazing organization.  Founded by the spouses and friends of the 5-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, which suffered a large amount of casualties in Afghanistan, the group got together to run as a way of supporting each other. The organization then grew throughout the country and now has official wear blue events, with the MCM being one of them. 
   Prior to the race, all of the wear blue runners got together for the Circle of Remembrance, where the runners called out the names of the fallen service members they were running for that day. This was the first time I cried that day.  
   After the Circle, we headed to the start line. As with Chicago, it was crazy crowded. But unlike Chicago, the MCM didn't have corrals. They had self-seeding areas based on time, but they weren't separated by ropes or anything. We were just kind of crammed in there. But we were all so excited about the race that we didn't really care. 
   The MCM doesn't slack on the opening ceremonies. You know how some sporting events has military fly-overs? Well, so does the MCM. With V-22 Ospreys. 

Bad. Ass.

   At 7:55 am, the howitzer fired and we were off! And yes, you read that correctly. Not a starting pistol - a howitzer.  As I said, the MCM doesn't mess around.
   The first few miles were really congested. REALLY congested. With Chicago only two weeks behind me, I was OK with starting slow. In fact, I was OK with running slow the entire race. I had felt really good the two weeks in-between Chicago and MCM, but as the race went on, the fatigue set in. Setting it on cruise-control for this marathon was good with me. 
   The MCM course is fantastic. As I mentioned, it starts at the Pentagon and continues into Virginia for a bit.  This section was really pretty, as we ran down George Washington Parkway which has a lot of trees and the leaves were all turning. From there we ran into Georgetown, where I had flashbacks from when I used to go down there in high school and college. It was kind of rainy at this point, so there weren't many spectators on this part of the course, but it was so fun going down memory lane that I didn't miss them too much. We wound our way through DC, running along the Potomac River and passing landmarks like the Kennedy Center. Around the half-way mark, we hit Hains Point and the wear blue mile. And this was the second time I cried. 
   The wear blue mile honors fallen service members by posting their photos on both sides of the course with their name, date of birth and date of death. I swear, even though there were thousands of runners on the course with me, you could have heard a pin drop while we were running through this section. It was very emotional. After we passed the photos, we ran through 300 (I think) American flags held by wear blue volunteers who lined the course. Again, this was just awe-inspiring. They were cheering, clapping and thanking all of us for running. It was, by far, my favorite part of the course. 
   We then headed back into the city where we passed most of the monuments and the Capitol. I can't tell you how much I love this city. I've been fortunate to have participated in several runs through the DC and every time I do, I'm floored by how beautiful this city is. I'm so lucky to have grown up there.
   But back to the race... After we passed the Capitol, we headed down towards the 14th Street Bridge at mile 20. This bridge is infamous during for this race because it's the time check. You have to "Beat the Bridge" by a certain time (1:30 maybe?) in order to finish the race. Fortunately, we made it to the bridge with plenty of time.  It was right before the bridge that I saw a pony on the course. That's right - a pony. A Marine Corps Pony to be exact. 

Of COURSE, there's a pony on the course.  And I just noticed the expletives on the signs behind the pony.  Oops.  

   We then headed back to the Pentagon for the finish line.  Let me say for the record - two marathons in a month was tough! Fortunately, I didn't have any of the problems here that I had in Chicago, but it still hurt. Unfortunately, Dudley DID have issues and had a hard time running, but I stuck with him like he did with me in Chicago. We were both really relieved when we saw that 25 mile marker. I kept hearing about a hill at the end of the race, and we finally hit it....at mile 26.1. Are you kidding me? The LAST thing we do before crossing a finish line is climb a hill? Yep. That's exactly what we did. It was brutal. But as my husband said, "If you go deep enough into the pain cave, there is a Marine there waiting to give you a medal." Which is exactly what happened.


God Bless America.

   I loved this race so much. I can see why people run it every year. It's a beautiful, scenic course that is well-supported by both the race organizers and the crowd (who came out in force once the weather cleared up). The only thing I would have changed about it is that I would have worn something to honor my dad, who was a Marine. A lot of people did that and I wish I would have had the foresight to think of something to honor him during the race. If I run it again, I'll definitely do that. 
   I have no idea what's next. As of this moment, I don't have anything official on the calendar other than a Thanksgiving Day Fun Run. I've been recovering over the past few weeks, and it's been great. I'll start planning things soon enough though. If anyone has any suggestions for 2016, let me know!

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