Monday, October 31, 2011

Marine Corps Marathon Recap

Last week, after exchanging approximately 857 emails with my friend Jackie trying to plan for our arrival at the Marine Corps Marathon, I started to really want a medal for making it to the start, not the finish. This was a tough marathon, but the logistics of the travel to and from was even tougher.

MCM was by far the largest marathon I'd ever done, with 30,000 runners (for the full marathon). That's a lot of freakin people trying to get to DC by 6am on a Sunday morning when the roads are shut down.

My alarm went off at 3:45 am, and I left my house at 4:15. When I got to my car, I realized I was going to have to find my snow brush, because it was entirely encased in ice. Chiseling ice off my car was not a good sign of what was to come, because we anticipated waiting outside in our running clothes for nearly two hours before the race.

I guess in terms of waiting in the cold, the way things went was a positive. Jackie drove us to the metro station.

The metro was nothing but runners

Masses of humanity waiting to take the elevator out of the metro station

Batman couldn't expedite the arrival process
 Between accidents and waiting for trains, we didn't arrive at the Pentagon until nearly 7am, and then had to walk about a half mile to the race, and wait in line at a security checkpoint. We finally entered Runner's Village around 7:30, and still needed to wait in line for the porto-potty and check out bags – and the race started at 8, and we still had to walk to some other location to find the start line.

I almost didn't find Kara, even after a good ten minutes on the phone trying to locate each other “uhh....I'm really cold and jumping up down” “well...I'm wearing blue and standing in a huge line of people at one of the 800 porto-potties”. After a dead sprint to the UPS trucks that were holding on to our bags while we ran, I nearly just started hysterically screaming her name, but thank god, she was there, and we sprinted to the start, vaulting over concrete barriers on the way. Just a typical warmup before a 26.2 mile run.
Parachuter dropped down at the race start - I had plenty of time in line to take pics

Finish area in Arlington
 They were announcing two minutes until the start when we arrived, and we lined up way too far back, around the 4:30 group. After all that, my nerves were completely shot, and I couldn't wait to start running just to relax. I probably would have taken off like a shot and burned out my legs, but luckily, we were packed in and could barely even move, and the first three miles are up steep hills.

Kara and I were chatting for the first ten miles, and I managed to see Mike, Jackie, and Mike's son Conor and his friends. Just to give you an idea how crowded it was, a guy we were chatting with accidentally tripped me while we were talking. Like, he completely knocked my legs out from under me and if he hadn't used both arms to grab me around the waist, I would have face planted on the asphalt. The entire race was spent jostling, bumping, and even kicking people. There were a few spots where it opened up, but those were the exception.

Around mile 18 we stopped to use the bathroom (which shows how much we'd basically just given up on this race) and I was pretty much just ready to sit down on the mall and call it a day. I couldn't believe I had 8 more miles, mentally, I was over it. Around 20, we spent about 2 miles on a huge, bridge, and that was just terrible. There was nothing to see, almost no spectators, and it was just horribly boring.

The last six miles were the typical last six miles of a marathon. Exhausting, tough, every mile seemed longer than the last, and I honestly considered walking. Finally, at 25, my I knew we were almost done and I felt much better. I saw a friend at the finish line – in Baltimore, I was cheering and waving to friends at this point – yesterday I could barely croak her name out so she could see me. I knew there would be a hill at 26, but I was shocked by how steep it was – who the hell puts a mountain at the end of a marathon? That was absolute cruelty. Plus, it narrowed like crazy and everyone slowed way the hell down, and at that point, going slower than your natural stride is so painful. I told Kara it was a good thing we weren't gunning for a PR here, because I would probably have killed someone.  
Yet again, waiting in line for medals
 Finally, we crossed the finish, and a marine put our medals around our necks.
 The organization at the finish was impeccable – we were given bags, boxes of food, and Gatorade so quickly it was unbelievable. Unfortunately, no amount of organization can move thousands of shuffling post – marathoners up a narrow hill any faster, so we took slow, painful steps out of the finish area. On the bright side of this grim march, we saw Lily.
 Kara said we looked like refugees – covered in our space blankets, clutching our snack bags, and shuffling along.
 That became even more so when we got our bags and saw everyone just laying in the street. Like everything else that day, using a bathroom required more than a half hour wait in line, so I changed my clothes in the middle of the street. Guess who else did that? EVERYONE. That was what MCM reduced us to. Don't worry, I managed to keep everything concealed, so I can still run for office one day.

We wandered aimlessly, calling and texting, trying to find out rides, until we finally parted ways. I still couldn't find Jackie, so I gave up and just sat on a curb for awhile. Eventually, she collected me, and we headed to the metro.

The guy who tripped me is on the far left

To take the DC metro, you first have to swipe your metro card in a machine, which then opens it's gate to let you in. We waited more than 45 minutes to swipe our cards for this privilege. Have you ever been to a concert and stood in the front, by the stage? That was the experience of waiting to swipe our cards.

Jackie and I had planned to go out to lunch after the race. Well, that never happened, because when we got back to her car, it was nearly dinner time, and I still had over an hour to go before I'd get home. I'd eaten a banana, an airline – sized bag of pretzels, and a bag of dried edamame from my race packet.

So let's review – left home at 4:15 am, and barely made the race start at 8am. We arrived at the metro station at 2:00, and it was nearly 6:00 when I walked in my door. The race is 60 miles from my house. More than 7 hours spent traveling, which doesn't count the 2.5 hours the day before, picking up my bib. That's one of the reasons I would never do this race again.

As tough as it was, this race actually seemed to fly by (that doesn't count the last six miles, if you've run a marathon, you know that's a completely different race). I was so excited to see the monuments, but other than MLK and Jefferson, I couldn't remember seeing any. On the metro back, Mike kept talking about seeing all the monuments, and Jackie and I just stared at him in confusion, wondering if we'd run the same marathon. The whole thing just seemed like a blur.

I do consider this race a success because I didn't end up in the emergency room. With people bumping me, ice on the bridges, and the genius idea to give away orange slices (which made the ground a slippery mine field), the fact that I didn't fall and suffer a concussion is a miracle. We also finished in 4:05, which, two weeks after a marathon, I'm pretty impressed with. All in all, I felt decent, and nothing terrible happened, but let's just say we weren't our sunny selves from previous races.

 I'm glad I did it, but, lesson learned – if you want to see the monuments, just take a day trip into DC.  

And no marathon is complete without some incredible dessert.
Chocolate/peanut butter whoppie pie assembly

Oh, and I have broomball tonight, which means I need to run around on the ice. Sweet!


  1. I had forgotten about the orange slice mine fields. I really thought that would be the way that I'd die and my obituary would read: "This was her favorite hobby"

    I still can't believe we almost ran a sub 4 when we both pretty much gave up on "racing" it at mile 10. :)

  2. Way to go!! That's awesome to do two marathons in one month! BTW you won something over at my bloggity ;)

  3. Parachuter! What a sweet way to arrive at a race. Sorry to hear it wasn't the best marathon experience. At least you and Kara got to run another race together! It's crazy it took that long to get to and from the race. I imagine that is what it would be like for me to get into NYC for a race, too. Philly is much more accessible for some reason. Your post race dessert looks amazing!

  4. Congrats on the marathon. I hear the same story from a lot of people that they would probably not do this marathon again.
    That whoppie pie looks like 'da bomb!! yummy!!

  5. WOW! That sounds insane! I've always wondered what it would be like to run a big race, and after reading your recap, I think I'll stick with my decision to pass. A few thousand marathoners/race is enough for me.

    Congrats on another amazing marathon!

  6. I need to start running marathons just for the dessert rewards ;) Great job on the marathon!

  7. seriously I love you americans. I have never even WATCHED a race where we have desserts after....we get apples, and whole grain bagels. LAME> I LOVE the marines face = priceless. and kara is right you DO look like sad refugees lol space blankets :P

  8. You guys do look like a bunch of homeless. Ridic.

    Those desserts look amazing! I need one right now!

  9. Congratulations on your finish! As I told Kara, I think you guys would have had a different experience if you started in the 3:40-3:50 corral. Yah - marathoning isn't hard enough, that they have to throw oranges and bananas on the ground. Ha! Time for the taper!

  10. Fantastic recap! but don't forget our new best friend - the security guard at the metro who let us use the "secret" bathroom. I'm pretty sure I will never forget his face for the rest of my life - he was definitely sent from above!

    and thanks for the fantastic deserts!!! perfect post race recovery food :-)

  11. People keep asking me why I didn't want to do MCM. Yes, let's get together 30,000 of our closest friends, run 20 miles and THEN RUN OVER THAT 14TH ST BRIDGE. YES LET'S DO THAT.

    At least there was good dessert after.

  12. It really does look like a refugee camp. This recap is exactly why my first marathon has 1,000 in a scenic battlefield. Because I hate people when they show up in big groups.

  13. ugh, that does suck. the metro and trek to the start line is pretty stressful (something you don't want before you haul ass for 26.2 miles)!

    another great race though! next up, 50 miles :)

  14. Way to pull through - I think I might have thrown in the towel!!

  15. wow that is insane, i have a girl I am helping in a beginners running class and she wants to do this race next year! i am totally going to point her to your blog and Kara's so she gets an idea. Especially since she live out here in MO and would be traveling. CRAZY but great job!

  16. I just can't imagine why they'd think 30,000 people in a race is even a good idea! Wow! I am glad that you guys survived and made it through though! What a fantastic time!!

    I can't believe it looked like that after the race - I just can't imagine waiting in line for a medal, food, etc. Crazy!

  17. Excellent report, it's like I was there with you (a sign of good writing). How were the baked goods?

  18. your whoopie pie was delicious- I ate it tonight after returning from broomball- guess I was craving a dessert after those 13 minutes on the ice. :) Thanks for letting me sub in! Just so you know, I was really concerned about which cookie I should get at first & what to leave for John) because I thought one was all chocolate & one peanut butter. Didn't realize till after I picked up the chocolate on top- what a pleasant surprise!
    Nice job on the marathon!

  19. Ok next time you must follow my plan!!!! I am glad I at least got to see you :D I missed your dessert yet again..... now lets look forward to our 50miler yay!!!!

  20. Wow, you did great, but I am never running this race! I can't believe Kara didn't end up punching someone in the head. Lord knows I would have. Great job, though, you two are going to rock that 50 miler!

  21. I'm completely blown away that you did two marathons and props to you for not killing anyone. Call me crazy but I just don't see the fun in doing a race with 30,000 people. That sounds miserable to me!

    Your whoopie pies look yummy just like all of your other desserts you post on here!


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