|Pretty steady race. I can't complain about my performance.|
This is long enough overdue--I know. Life has been busy, and that's good. But before I wait too long and attempt a lengthy post that covers everything, here are the highlights from my first (and probably last) Marine Corps Marathon:
- I'm really glad I did it. I don't want to give the impression that I'm not. However, running in this race has made me want to cling even more to smaller races. I get a bit of social anxiety--or crowd phobia, or whatever you want to call it--when I'm squished among 30,000 other runners.
- I beat a Goonie. Yes, Sean Astin, the darling asthma kid from the Goonies (yay for asthma representation in the media!) ran this race, and I ran it faster than him. That doesn't mean much, but in a race in which I didn't PR, I have to claim something. His net time was 4:29:11, and his clock time was 4:30:56 (all in all, a great time). But this is significant because it means he had very little time between when the clock started and when he crossed the start line, which further means he started up front, which leads to my next observation about the race...
- "The People's Marathon." I guess folks at this race don't feel a need to align themselves in the clearly marked pace designations prior to starting. MCM is not a race for elite runners; that is, there is no cash prize for winning. This probably makes it more average-runner-friendly. And I'm an average runner, so I should appreciate that. But I still appreciate rules and organization, too. I started in my predicted finish time of 4:15ish, around a 9:30 pace, and I still spent about five miles just trying to get ahead of everyone not going that pace and seemingly not interested in going that pace. I spent a lot of energy trying to make up for my slower pace in the initial miles. That's not ideal. (Aren't we racing? Is this a giant group run? Am I doing it wrong?)
- Oh yes, there are hills. I heard very mixed reviews about the elevation of this race from others who'd run it. Some said hilly, some said not (all Floridians). Let me be the definitive voice on this matter: it's hilly. But--they are mostly in the first quarter of the race, and I felt them. Particularly because I was also trying to run faster than my goal pace during this portion, I really felt them. I did not hill-train, so that's my fault. But I also didn't feel any worse for the wear after the race, so it was a mild inconvenience, I would say. Nothing like what I did at Steamtown. And that last, cruel .2 of a mile felt like it was straight up to the sky. I was prepared for that mentally. But there was something I was not prepared for...
- "Beat the bridge." Some friends told me this prior to the race, but I didn't know what they were talking about, so I shrugged it off. Now I know exactly what they mean. There is a bridge at about the worst point in the race, around mile 20, and the evil of it is not in it's elevation; it's actually a flat overpass. What makes it awful is that it goes on pretty much forever, and all crowd support is suddenly gone, and all you have to look at is more bridge in front of you, while the sun beats down and tries to drain your energy from your worn-out body. I saw so many people give in to walking on this bridge, and I came pretty close myself--but I didn't do it. I knew it would only take me longer to get off the cursed thing.
- Emily. I don't know Emily, but I was really annoyed with her by the end of the race. You see, at some races, usually smaller ones, the race organizers print runners' names on their bibs, but not so at this one. So in order to ensure that crowd supporters would still call her name and cheer for her, a woman who unfortunately ran just about the same exact pace as I did wore a shirt with her name printed on it. This way, for the entire race, wherever there was crowd support, people would yell and cheer for Emily. And I couldn't escape her. It's not that I was jealous; I just found it obnoxious after the first couple of times. And then I was irritated that I was spending energy being annoyed at Emily. A couple times I passed her, but somehow she always reappeared, pumping a fist into the air each time someone called her name. She must have had a great race. Good for her.
- Candy from strangers. I've never seen so much kind offering of candy at a race. Supporters held out large bowls full of unwrapped, sticky candy--Twizzlers, Swedish Fish, gummy anything. All I could think about was the numbers of runners before me who must have clumsily stuck their sweaty hand in the bowl and grasped around for whatever they could grab while still trying to run. And how many other pieces they must have touched! And how our immune systems are low after such an arduous race. The germs; the horror! I didn't spend days prior to the race prepping with Airborne and Emergen-C just to get sick from a sugary treat. Thanks, but no thanks.
- Friends. I knew going into this race that I would not PR. I was glad to just feel capable of running it, given some of my foot drama throughout training. So what made this race special was having such wonderful friends there with me. Tampa really represented at MCM. I knew at least eight Tampa runners going into it and met a few more afterward. And while I didn't really stick with my girlfriends for very much of the race (see #3), I was so happy to be able to meet with them beforehand and afterward. I knew they were going through what I was going through, and that made it feel more special.
- The monuments. I'd be negligent not to mention the other special aspects of this race. As we walked toward the start area, we walked past the Arlington Cemetery, which really tugged at my heartstrings before anything had even happened. I already tend to get emotional at races, so why not bring it all out before the start? It's impossible to walk past that vast graveyard and not think about the numbers of military personnel who have fought and died for our country, imagined their reasons for doing so, and considered their lives before their deaths. It was at once spooky, touching, and thought-provoking for this self-proclaimed pacifist. I've always had a deep appreciation for and interest in the military--despite my feelings about war. Now that I think about it, I guess this is the only monument I really noticed; I'm sure we ran around other ones, but not close enough for me to have paid attention (I was too busy trying to win).
- Oh, and all those marines. Active-duty marines lined nearly the entire course. They were professional, gracious, and encouraging. But one too many of them called me "ma'am." I let it slide. At the very end, when I'd made my big push to finish, I was ready to collapse, and there just happened to be young, attractive marines at the ready. So I wobbled a little bit, as I usually do when I've finished a marathon, but I might have exaggerated when I got near a handsome marine, who was probably not even twenty years old. He held me up and walked me over to some steps so I could sit down. By then I was pretty much done with my stunt, but he was taking his job very seriously and asking a gazillion questions about my well-being. Then another woman--who actually had passed out--grabbed his attention and I got away. And then I felt guilty about my behavior.
|Not getting sick on the plane ride there!|
|The Washington Monument in distance, early race morning.|
|A very cool paratrooper stunt, pre-race.|
|Pre-race photo--we're cold! Wait, where's Nicole?|
|There she is! We're about to get trampled--the race started!|
|I finished! And I'm in pain. And the sun is in my eyes. But it's all OK.|
|We reunited! Wait, Nicole's missing again!|
|Bonus picture: the "Exorcist stairs" that we visited the day after.|
|And of course, a sweet reward from the famous Georgetown Cupcake.|