The Marine Corps Marathon...One of the fourth largest marathons in the country...The Peoples Marathon...A must do marathon in my books...30,000 signed up…about 24,000 showed up…and less than 21,000 finished. The marathon starts at the Arlington Cemetery, winds through Rosslyn, across the Key Bridge to Georgetown, through Washington DC, looping around Haines Point, back to the Virginia side by crossing the 14th St Bridge, then looping through Crystal City, passing the Arlington Cemetery again, looping back up to Rosslyn and back and finally charging up the hill to finish near the Marine Corps Monument Iwo Jima. Packed with sights and sounds of our nation’s capital and surrounding cities and it was all that it's billed to be.
I've wanted to do this marathon way back when I was still in the Navy…I was a Navy Corpsman for 23 years and served with the Marines (the Marines…a Department of the Navy…use Navy Corpsmen and Navy Medical staff) as a FMF corpsman for the first four years of my career and again with them during Desert Storm. Some don't know that one of the six men raising that flag on Iwo Jima is a Navy Corpsman...'Doc' John Bradley. I first started training for this marathon about six years ago, but a knee injury, while cross training on rollerblades, ended that hope then. With some self-rehab and slow, steady progression in running, I was finally running, knee pain free for the last couple of years. I picked up a registration form from the Shamrock Marathon in March to ensure that I would be registered. I mailed in my registration in April and in June got my confirmation email stating that I was registered in the MCM...Oh Happy Days! The last week of June started my MCM training cycle which was filled with ups and downs all coming down to this day...Sunday 28 October 2007...the 32nd Annual Marine Corps Marathon.
I booked a room in Alexandria...about six miles from the start of the marathon...in June after receiving my confirmation. My wife and family were not making the trip so I shared my room with another runner, Brian. I drove up to the Expo Saturday morning with rain coming down in buckets, but half way there, the rain stops and the sun comes out. I went to the Expo first, which is in the Armory in DC, and got my race packet and shirt and then wander through the vendors picking up free things...sports beans, couple of different flavors of Clif Bloks...the one I was interested in was the Margarita flavor because it has extra sodium because I cramp a lot in long runs and I need all the help I can get...and it was free...plus there were other free stuff and samples. Then I drove around the starting area trying to find places to park for the next day and checking out Metro stops and parking areas next to them...I wanted to have a plan to get to the race the next day. I got back to the hotel at 3:00 in time to meet Brian for check in and we are told our room isn't ready for another 20-30 minutes. He gives us both complimentary parking because of the wait...Yeah, it was normally $10 per day for parking...amazing...having to pay to park at the hotel that your staying! We also find out that the hotel is providing transportation to the Pentagon...where the start is...and back from Pentagon City Metro when we are done. We finally get our rooms and Brian has to still go to the Expo and I have a dinner get together (FE) with a bunch of runners from the Runner's World forum. I have printed Google maps with directions and head out to find the place. I make two wrong turns, the first one which takes forever to find a place to turn back around and the second takes me to a traffic backup near the Kennedy Center with the river on the left and no exits to the right. I call and tell them I'm stuck in traffic and not to wait for me...45 minutes later I tell them there is no way I can get there before it's even over. Finally I get out of the traffic jam and go back near the hotel to find something to eat, get back to the hotel around eight and start preparing for the next days run.
Sunday dawns...well it was actually still dark at 4:45 in the morning when two alarms and the phone wake-up service wakes us up...we wanted to make sure we got up in time. The temperature forecasted for the day is in the low 50's in the morning with it warming to the low 60's for the high, with a bit of wind 10-12 mph in the morning building to about 15 mph around noon. It's not going to be hot and it's not going to be raining...what more could we ask for?
We get showered and dressed and go down to catch the van. We were told the service would start around 6:00 but we find out they have already been running since 5:00, but no big deal...the race doesn't start till around 8:00. We jam into the next van and which takes us the Pentagon City Metro and are told we should take the Metro to the Pentagon but we convince the driver to just drive us to the Pentagon and he lets us off there. We get out and join a long line of people walking around the south side of the Pentagon to the east and then north. It seemed like ages before we get to the staging area with tents, UPS trucks for our gear drop off and of course the all important port-a-lets...hundreds of them...so while we were there, there were no long lines. We explore to find the starting area and finally after asking directions find it. Both sides of a four lane road next to the Arlington Cemetery are roped off into corrals according to expected finish times. We go back to the UPS trucks and dump off our warm jackets and hoodies...it was cold with the wind and low temps...and then head back to the starting corrals. Brian wants to run with the 3:40 corral and I want to run with the 3:30 corral so we get in the middle so we can start together. It's about 7:40 now and we decide we need to make a pit stop so we walk back about a hundred yards to some port-a-lets, do our thing and get back to the corral. The wheel chair's go off about 7:45 and I get the urge to go again so I climb down to the trees on the right where a whole bunch of other men are 'watering' the trees and bushes. I get back in the corral and at about 7:55 I feel the urge again and go back to the trees. I get back in the corral just as the ropes separating the corrals are being released and everyone surges forward crowding together.
The starting gun goes off...well, I don't even remember if there was a gun or horn, but the runners start walking forward towards the start line. Near the start line we start to trot and then stop again, then start walking and then trot again. We finally get to the start line in a trot and I start my watch as we cross the beeping starting mats and we're off...still jogging, dodging, slowing down, speeding up...but we're on our way. Brian and I stay together for about the first half mile and I tell him that he will probably catch me later if I should cramp up. I then steadily make my way to the 3:30 pace group...I can see the balloons in the distance about 200 yards away and by the first mile, I had caught up to them. The first mile stripe, I hit the pace button on my watch and it says 9:19...and I am puzzled that it is soo slow, even with the slow pace at the start line, and everyone else is too...we think it was a long mile. About the one mile mark we even passed a woman doing it on crutches and we give her encouragements as we pass her. I see the balloons for the 3:20 pace group...which is the one that I really want to be with and I steadily made my way over a period of about 3 miles to them. The first 8 miles had two hills that even challenged a few of the wheelchair/hand bike participants as we passed a few who were struggling. At the 10 mile mark we pass the road that goes between the Kennedy Center and the Potomac River…the same place I was stuck in traffic for 45 minutes the night before…imagine that…I’m running faster than I was driving the night before. We loop through the Washington Mall area with the Washington Monument and all the other monuments, historic buildings and the Capital building. I pass the 13.1 timing mat in 1:37:38…faster than my Rock n Roll half time just two months ago, but still at the pace that I wanted to be and still feeling good…but I had to go…even with all those pre-start pit stops…I needed another and bad. I had been searching for a spot looping around the mall area but didn’t really want to stop and water a tree with our Nation’s Capital in full view. I finally see two port-a-lets just before the 14 mile mark and wait about a minute till one is vacated. It seemed like every thing slowed down at that point…I couldn’t find my pace…the stop seemed to have messed me up. By this time we are entering Haines Point and I feel my lower legs telling me that they are not happy…I try to alter/slow my pace so they won’t cramp, but after making the turn at the far end of Haines Point, the calves start cramping bad. I stop to massage and stretch and continue on for about a quarter of a mile and cramp up again. I have to stop to massage and stretch about four more times coming out of Haines Point and I am asking myself why I am doing this…I swear that this is the last marathon I do…I can’t stand cramping every time and that I am just going to stick to half marathons and shorter races…No.More.Marathons…then I hear the roaring crowds where the road circles around to get on the 14th street bridge. The crowd makes me want to get my pace up and I do a bit but when I am almost to the top of the ramp to the bridge, my legs cramp again. I do my stop to massage and stretch the cramps out about three more times on the bridge. At about the 20 mile mark my roommate Brian catches up to me and he is having ITBS problems too. We run together until one of us has to stop to massage/stretch and then catch up to each other as the other has to stop. We finally get off the bridge and again into a roaring mass of crowds lining the road looping Crystal City. We can also see all the runners coming back from the Crystal City loop on the other side and the line of runners seem to stretch out into the distance…with no end in sight. We finally make the turn around at the 22 mile timing mat and head through the cheering crowds out of Crystal City. Exiting Crystal City I am having my doubts and self pities again and plan to just jog it in…heck I’m barely running as it is! Just then Jon yells Charlie and tries to give me a bear hug as were running. Let me tell you about Jon. We ran our first marathon last year…Richmond…I was trying to find a person to drive with to Richmond for the marathon because I didn’t know if I could drive back after. We drove up together ran the marathon…well, he ran and I had to walked most of the last half…I was ill prepared to run a marathon and it was really hot that day…and of course I had cramping problems. We have been marathon running buds since. We ran Shamrock and when I ran Frederick, he was having leg problems but was up there as a volunteer with Kale Running. He had told me he was doubtful for MCM and I didn’t know he had even registered. Now here he was full of joy and enthusiasm…just what I needed. I found new energy running with Jon and Brian was still with us and the pace quickened a bit. Even Jon was having leg problems so now here the three of us are each with their own problems, each stopping now and then to massage and stretch and then catching up to the group. We run pass the Pentagon and back to the Arlington Cemetery…where we all had started a little more than three hours ago…it seemed so surreal…the starting corrals were gone, the starting mats and huge air filled red starting gates were gone…but we had been here before. I cracked that we were being force to do the marathon again because we were too slow…it was the Marine way…Do it again! But we knew we only had two more miles to go. We lost sight of Brian during the down hill loop that takes us to the morning start line…the down hill makes his ITBS worse and he has to stop to stretch. Back up to Rosslyn we go and do the final loop and finally head back to the finish. We get to the right hand turn going up hill to the finish and Jon starts yelling as he charges up the hill…THIS AIN’T NOTHING…We make the final right turn and see the finish line and charge to the finish, giving each other a low five across the first set of timing mats and then raising our arms in victory as we cross the finish. A great ending to a great marathon! We get our medals from the Marines and then are herded to the food/beverage line. We want a picture at the Iwo Jima Monument and realize we have to go back the way we came to get there. We are like salmon going up stream as we try to weave through the runners coming the other way through the food line. We finally reach the monument and get our pictures taken and head to Rosslyn…he to find his father in the crowds and me to the UPS truck and to find Brian. I also want to get back to the finish line to see if I can see the finish of some of the people that I was hoping to see around the 4:30 mark and get there just as the announcer is saying the 4:30 runners are coming through…I don’t see them and wait another five minutes or so and still don’t’ see them and think I must have missed them. I go back to the UPS trucks to get my stuff and see if Brian is there but I miss him too and with all the runners and crowds, it’s hard to meet up with anyone. Later I found out that Brian was only about 20 seconds behind us when we finished. I make my way to the Rosslyn Metro and find it crowded with people trying to get back down to the Pentagon area or Crystal City. It takes more than 45 minutes to get through the pass gates and to the escalators. We get to the escalators that take you down to the tracks…looking down it looked steep and seemed to go down into the bowels of the earth. We get on the escalators and had just started down when it lurches to a stop. The up escalators are still running but ours…the down escalator was stopped dead. We had to walk down the steps…when you have just completed 26.2 and your legs are cramping, the last thing you want to do is go Down some steps…especially down a lot of steps. We make it down but find we still need to get to the lower level of the tracks to get to our ‘Blue” line to take us to the Pentagon City Metro stop. So down we go again.
My watch splits and timing mat splits are as follows:
Mile 1 in at 9:19...I think was a long mile
Mile 2 I don't see the mile marker
Mile 3 in at 22:37
Mile 4 in at 29:15
Mile 5 in at 36:43…Timing mat time was 37:15
Mile 6 in at 44:25
Mile 7 in at 51:34
Mile 8 in at 58:55
Mile 9 in at 1:06:26
Mile 10 in at 1:13:50…Timing mat time was 1:14:22
Mile 11 in at 1:21:31
Mile 12 in at 1:28:53
Mile 13 in at 1:36:46
The Half in at 1:37:38…Timing mat time was 1:37:50
Mile 14 in at 1:46:36...I had to take a pit stop
Mile 15 in at 1:54:49…Timing mat time was 1:55:22
Mile 16 in at 2:03:22
Mile 17 in at 2:12:15
Mile 18 in at2:23:18…Timing mat time was 2:23:51
Mile 19 in at 2:35:02
Mile 20 in at 2:45:41
And then something went wrong with my watch and I have no other splits from my watch but the 22 mile timing mat was 3:07:10
The finish is in 3:47:28.
I think the discrepancy between the timing mat splits and my watch splits was the difference from gun time to actual chip time...the mat times seemed to be gun times...except for mile 18…and I think it was here that the Marine that was calling out the time said the time on the clock was wrong. But anyway...overall pace was a disappointing 8:40 per mile. But the finish although 12 minutes short of a BQ was a new 8 minute PR from my best of 3:55 at Shamrock...so...something to be pleased about.
There were 1147 finishers in the Male 50 to 54 age group and 20631 total finishers.
Overall finish place was 2837 of 20631
Age group finish place was 120 of 1147
Time: 3:47:28 for an overall pace of 8:40 per mile
Next stop...Richmond? or OBX?