Saturday, December 31, 2016

Marine Corp Marathon Recap

Race information


AHave funYes
BNo injuriesYes
CBreak 4 hoursYes


I arrived in town on Friday morning for the Sunday race. I was able to check into the hotel early and then grabbed some lunch before heading to the Gaylord National Convention Center for the expo. Picking up packets was easy. The line for official race gear was not. Luckily there was an "aid" station midway through the 45 minute line. On Saturday I hit up the National Mall and did way too much walking checking out the Smithsonian, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Memorial and other sites. I was back to my hotel by 5pm and has logged 21,000+ steps on my fitbit for the day. That's how much I usually get during a half marathon. I grabbed a couple slices of pizza and watched as much of the Cubs game as I dared before finally getting some shut eye.


Race day started far too early. Everyone warned of long security lines and the need to get to the start area early. I headed over to where the shuttle buses were and waited in line for about 30 minutes to catch a bus. I realized that it was already getting to warm for the mylar blanket I had with me. For further entertainment I got mixed in with a group of Danish runners. The security line at the start area was nearly non-existent. It was quicker for me since I didn't even bring a gear check bag. I only had to lift up my hat. I found a spot to chill for awhile until I eventually spotted Mike and then Lauren. Finally after much too long waiting around it was time to head to the start. There's no corrals for Marine Corp so they go by an honor system with the faster runners being told to line up earlier. With "beat the bridge" on the back of the packers minds', well no one listens. I was further delayed getting to the start since I had to get in on the Marathon Maniacs group photo. The start ceremony was pretty cool with a cannon being shot off and a flyover from some Ospreys. A runner had fallen during the start and the Marines lined up into a human wall to allow the medical crews to get to and treat the runner. I thought that was pretty cool as well.

Miles [1] to [9]

I started the race pretty slow. It was quite crowded and hard to find room to stretch the legs out. I just went with the flow since I had every intention of trying to negative split. The early hills helped keep the pace slow as well. They weren't terrible climbs, but still sizable for anyone coming from Chicago. The first signs of trouble was how much I was sweating in the early going. It was humid already and it was only going to get warmer as the race went on.
Miles [9] to [17]
The roads opened up a little later in the race. Still a little on the crowded side, but I no longer felt like everyone was on top of me. Mile 10 was the "Blue Mile" and featured memorials to all the Marines lost over the prior year. I saw many runners stop to pay their respects to loved ones. I also saw someone dressed as Mr. McGibblets which was either so wrong or completely awesome given the nature of The League. The race then runs around the National Mall area. You don't get a great view of any of the monuments, but do get to see all the Smithsonian buildings and run right in front of the Capitol building. There was a race photographer right there who got a good shot of me in front of the dome.
Miles [17] to [23]
The race moved up the bridge this year, yes the bridge that had a cutoff time. I was no where near in danger of missing that cutoff so I finally gave in and walked for an extended period across the bridge. Someone had given me a jolly rancher before the bridge too so I wanted to suck on it without choking. In order to make the bridge earlier the course was altered to add loops around the Pentagon parking lots and bus depots to get in the extra distance. This was certainly dull. Things got livelier as we headed into Crystal City and saw larger crowds again. Unfortunately the course also narrowed and felt crowded again. I was at a point where I was having trouble staying hydrated so I kept taking walk breaks. I kept playing leap frog with a duo dressed as Thor and Hulk. They had to be so hot in their costumes.
Miles [23] to [26.2]
We finally left Crystal City and made our home stretch back towards Arlington for the finish. I was just trying to hold things together and get through the race. I saw one runner stop at a bus station to rest only to collapse when they tried to lean on a post. Luckily spectators there rushed to his aid and a course marshal was across the street and immediately ran over. There were 2 first aid workers who rushed to the scene with water. When I got to the aid station I checked with them to see if they knew what was going on and if not to send a cart over since the guy didn't look to be doing well. As the race end drew near the crowds picked up again. This race has a tough finish. For those familiar, it's like running up "Mt Roosevelt" during the Chicago Marathon or Shamrock Shuffle if that height was condensed into a quarter of the distance. You want to just say hell with it and walk it, but you don't because there are so many Marines there yelling you on to the finish. You suck it up, yell "Oorah!" and charge that hill.


You don't have to wait too long post race to collect your medal. There are Marines ready to hand them to you right after. The finish is also right in front of the Iwo Jima Marine Memorial which makes for a great post race photo op. The post race area was huge with all sorts of stuff going on. I skipped the finisher gear store since the line was already huge. I grabbed my beer and waited for others to finish. Eventually I was about to give up and head back to the hotel, but met up with Mike and Lauren again at the last minute before parting ways again. The marathon wound up being my 2nd slowest, but it was a hot day, reaching the 80s, as well as being my 3rd marathon in October.