After months of agonizing over the best course of action to take regarding whether to run the Marine Corps Marathon on an injured hip, race weekend was finally here. The moment of truth. There was actually very little doubt about whether I would go. As my friends and family know, I can be a just a tad stubborn. Giving up on running the race without giving it my best shot is just not in my nature.
My hubby Bill was not registered to run the race, but he came along to Washington, D.C. with me for moral, logistical, and physical support. We met up with my Marathon Maniac friend Nancy, her daughter and two grandsons.
The expo, where I picked up my bib, was crowded, as expected. We didn’t hang out there too long, as there was nothing I wanted to buy, I didn’t want to spend too much time on my feet, and I was starving! We did, however, see this Brooks display of weird mechanized mannequins “running” in slow motion.
The race shirt is…different. I like it. I definitely do not have another one that is similar. What do you think? It’s colorful!
We wanted to find an Italian restaurant for dinner to get some pizza or pasta before the race and the desk clerk at our hotel recommended one close by that sounded wonderful, but when we called to see if we could get reservations, the person who answered the phone just laughed. There were over 30,000 runners and their families in town, so pasta was at a premium Saturday night.
We wound up at The Cheesecake Factory. When I travel, I don’t usually like to go to chain restaurants, but I liked this restaurant and there is no Cheesecake Factory near us at home. And those cheesecakes!!!
Sunday morning dawned overcast and cool. Perfect running weather. We made our way to our corral, took a quick selfie at the start line in our throw-away shirts and watched the skydivers do their heart-stopping plunge with the American flag that kicked off the official pre-race ceremonies. After the flyover by an MV-22 Osprey (a helicopter/airplane hybrid) and a very stirring rendition of the national anthem, the howitzer, signaling the start of the race, went off and we inched toward the start line.
My hip has been taking a little while to get warmed up in my training runs, so a little stiffness and soreness at the start of the race didn’t bother me. I was happy to look around and soak up the surroundings. I am partial to smaller races where the logistics are easier, but I have been wanting to run the Marine Corps Marathon ever since the flu and bronchitis caused me to cancel out of the 2009 MCM at the last minute.
I was people-watching more than scenery-watching at the beginning of the race, and there was plenty to see. I saw many husband-and-wife teams running together, which made me wish Bill was running with me. There was a fireman running in his boots and full gear, including an oxygen tank, and a group of men running together who made me do a double-take.
Three men were making their way through the course, one of them in a wheelchair. One man was pushing the wheelchair and one was running interference as they wove through the crowd of other runners. I realized at second glance that the man pushing the wheelchair had one leg and one prosthetic running blade.
I learned later this incredible veteran, Retired Staff Seargent Jose Sanchez, was injured in Afghanistan in 2011, and is now on a mission to motivate and inspire people. He wants to show that indomitable Marine perseverance and keep on pushing himself. I was certainly inspired and motivated by his courage and strength.
By mile eight, however, my hip was hurting too much to continue running, so I began to alternate walking and running intervals. This is how I finished my previous marathon in August, my slowest one ever.
At mile 12 I entered the famous Blue Mile. All along both sides of the course at regular (frequent) intervals, there are signs emblazoned with pictures of servicemen and women who have been killed in action, arranged in chronological order according to their dates of death. Along with their pictures, their ages at the time of death were given. Many of them were in their early twenties or even younger.
The dates on the pictures ranged from World War II-era to this past August. Runners, usually a chatty bunch, especially during a marathon, were uncharacteristically silent. After the mile of haunting pictures, family members of the deceased servicemen lined the path waving flags, giving high fives, and cheering runners on. I ran nearly the entire mile with tears in my eyes. The selflessness and bravery of those men and women and their families are incredibly touching.
I could not do a race report of MCM without mentioning the Marines and members of the other armed services assisting runners on the course. There are medical people at regular intervals, volunteers at water stops, and service men and women handing out sport beans and gels, oranges, and Vaseline (for chafing). I cannot praise them highly enough. These service people were enthusiastic, polite, helpful, and attentive. Our country’s defense is in excellent hands.
As the miles for the last half of the race rolled by, my pace increasingly slowed. I did more walking and less running with each mile. Before the race, I was concerned about making it through the two gauntlets and “Beating the Bridge” in time, but my initial pace for the first eight miles gave me a comfortable cushion. I never really had to worry about getting swept from the course. The miles seemed to go by fairly quickly, considering how slowly I was running.
At mile 26, I ran (yes, ran) past the grandstands, walked up the final hill, then ran across the finish line. Another marathon adventure, done! Or as the Marines say, “Mission Accomplished!”
I walked through the food and beverage line, picked up my medal and throw away jacket (much nicer than a mylar cape), and was congratulated by what seemed like 100 still-enthusiastic Marines. After finding my hubby near the beer tent, we made our way back to our hotel and headed out of town.
On the way home, we stopped in Baltimore at Nacho Mama’s, one of our favorite restaurants, for a celebratory margarita (hey, it’s practically Gatorade; it contains sugar, lime juice, and electrolytes) and some delicious burritos. It was the perfect ending to a great race day.
I recommend the Marine Corps Marathon to anyone looking to try this distance. It is a uniquely moving experience. The course is mostly flat, spectator support is fantastic, and the organization is better than any race I have ever run. I give it five stars out of five.
I am linking up with Patty, Erika and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run, Shank You Very Much for Dream Team, Running on Happy, Crazy Running Girl, and Coach Debbie Runs for Coaches’ Corner, Fairytales and Fitness for Friday 5, and Nicole and Annmarie for Wild Workout Wednesday.