Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Marine Corps Marathon 10/31/10

AND Restoring Sanity 
AND 1,000 Running Miles for the Year

Let me start out by saying that ALL I have ever known about the MCM race was that it was in DC and it was super well organized.  I repeat, everyone that I talked before I had ever done a marathon told me that this was the one marathon you had to do because it was so amazingly organized, no-one ever mentioned any other marathon. NYC Marathon was never mentioned and Chicago never mentioned either. This is all that I have been hearing for at least 10 years.


But let us start at the beginning of the weekend. We had originally planned to drive up Friday after work, but after Obama’s last minute announcement that he was coming to town Friday night to stump for a local politician then plans quickly got pushed back to Saturday morning. I couldn’t get close enough to see the speech but I saw and filmed the motorcade go by standing at the hospital. The security people said that they could not say for sure that it was the route, but it sure looked that way.

Saturday we head out before dawn, I want to go to the expo and then on to the rally on the mall, plus avoid the associated traffic. So we stop to use the restrooms 3 times on the 3 hour drive due to coffee and pre-race hyper hydration.  Gorgeous sunrise en route.

The expo went off without complications and was nice to wander around before the crowds, however, 1 hour into day 2 of the expo and they were already out of several sizes of the jackets, so I therefore did not give them $80 like I wanted to, sorry Brooks, but I still love your shoes.

Entrance to Expo

Brook's "MASH" Mock up Gait Analysis Tent

Marine Band

Wandered down the street to the Mall for the rally next. I wasn’t totally sure which direction to go, but I didn’t need to, I just followed the masses. The energy was amazing, costumes amazing and creative (Chilean miners, Ira Glass, Tea Cups, etc.), and creative signs everywhere ranging from silly to mocking to seriously political (“I like Ice Cream,” “I am pro-Gnome and I vote,” etc.). Young and old people and everything in between were in attendance. Caught the parade heading to the rally and I fell in behind the dragon bus thing leading the way. I staked out a spot in the grass next to a middle aged couple doing the same, and used my mylar wrap from the Mount Desert Island Marathon a few weeks prior. From that location I could hear the pre-rally music so I figured I would be able to hear the rally, unfortunately this turned out not to be the case.  After 20 minutes of hearing nothing but random applause and cheers I gave up and started to head out back to the expo to meet up with some friends, including Laura, with whom I would be staying with the following weekend in NYC for the marathon. Due to high volume of cell phone users on the mall, my cell phone did not work again until I was several blocks away at the expo.

Dragon/Bus Float leading the March

Crowds following the Dragon

Chilean Miner's Costumes

Back to the expo, meet up with Laura and a whole gaggle of other Marathon Maniacs. After a group photo I found a dark, empty hallway to lay down, chill out and recharge my phone. I was "peopled out" and needed a break to recharge my batteries.

Monika, my host for the weekend eventually makes it to the expo after fighting post rally traffic, we make another loop around the expo, but this time they are giving out whole bottles and bars as samples as the night is coming to a close. Earlier in the day they were giving out little cups of tea and cut up pieces of bars, gels, shot blocks etc. Dinner at Bus Boys and Poets in/near Arlington, fro-yo for desert at near by shop, then on to North Arlington to prep for the race and get some sleep. I had met Monika and her friend Liz at the Hatfield/McCoy Marathon in WV/KY mid-June near the half marathon point in the race, I ended up running the entire second half with Monika, with Liz and her speed demon legs running ahead.


5:30am wake up for Keurig brewed Green Mountain Roastarie Coffee (YUM!!!), oatmeal, and clothing decisions all a flurry.  

Getting into an NYC mindset for next week.

Not realizing that we had a mile walk to the start from the nearest place you could get to by car due to road closures, we take our time calling for the cab. En route we realize our logistically challenge, and I realize that I will not make the Marathon Maniac pre-race photo. We make our way to the start, past the runner’s village with a bank of port o potties and gear check, and continue on to the NOT VERY ORGANIZED START. It was a split road with a small median, temp fencing placed in between, pace group signs for every 15-30 min increments. We made our way up to the 4 hour pace group on the left side and awaiting the canons to mark the start. Lots of costumed people surrounded us including several super heroes, Mario Bros, and TONS of Where’s Waldo (was there a movie recently released about him or something?).  

The gun goes off, the right side is moving, we take a few steps forward and stop. The right side continues to move forward, so Monika and I decide to jump the fence to join the other side. Good decision on our part. While it was a chip timed race, it is really annoying to spend the first several miles of a marathon weaving around people who are a much slower pace than you or walking.  In generally I am feeling pretty run down overall so I am quiet and introspective from the start, in other races I can be quite chatty to the runners around me, but not today.

We are running along, pretty nice scenery, I run into Dana dressed as pirate whom I have seen 2 weeks prior in Maine at MDI marathon, she is running 52 marathons in 52 weeks to raise money for charity.  She passes me by and I don’t see her again. We run past Georgetown University and it’s beautiful old brick buildings on the hillside, we also get to see the Washington Monument from every angle.  The aid stations are pretty good except for the one on the dirt path alongside the mall in a really narrow area for runners and the first several tables were out of Gatorade. What was weird is that I saw the captain guy for the aid station and he was just standing there watching instead of shouting instructions at runners that there were plenty of cups of Gatorade and water a few tables in, runners around me, including myself, were getting a little panicky.

We get almost to the finish, it starts to go uphill for the last half mile or so, then the last 0.1m you really earn your medal on the steep uphill finish. Once done, we were given mylar wraps then walked a ways to get into lines for our medals (often this order is the other way around) and then it gets bad. We then get corralled into a tight fenced off space where they have allowed spectators to come into, and this continues to make us go uphill to the family meeting area, now still with no post-race water or Gatorade (very bad). There are times where we are not making any forward progress and a few people fall to the side in need of medical attention (very bad) due to the lack of water and forward progress. Eventually we go by the marines that are handing out bags of water, bananas, etc. a little further up the hill.

So, for the record I am not attacking the Marines and what they have sacrificed for our freedom and our country. However, from a person that has done more than 1 marathon, logistically this one needs some work, specifically the start, finish, and better placement of the aid stations in wide open sections. Also, go back to the classic finisher’s medal with the globe and eagle.  I believe I would have been less disappointed had this race not be explicitly known for organization, when Chicago had several more runners and went much more smoothly.

However, I will be back in the Spring for the National Marathon, I still need DC added to the tally for 50 states (MCM technically does not count as it starts and ends in Virginia) and I hear this one is well organized.


I hit 1,000 running miles for the year about 10 miles into the MCM race. Sweet! Now, I have never kept track of my yearly running miles since I started running 15 years ago, so no idea if this is a record year, my guess is that it is....

1 comment:

  1. Great job! Four marathons in less than 30 days is awesome. Mad respect for you, and to have a 4:17 in your fourth one is just unreal.

    Sorry about the organizational problems. Race day is already inherently unnerving (for me anyway) so to have the race itself place some challenges in your way can be frustrating. Glad you were able to overcome it.