This past Sunday, on October 25th, I was very lucky to have run the Marine Corps Marathon which was also the 40th anniversary of the race.
This race has a rich history. But it was notably made more famous when Oprah Winfrey ran it one year with a sub-4:30 finish time. Since then, a lot of runners have made this the “standard” to their marathon times, particularly for this course.
The marathon started in Virginia and finished in Washington D.C. So arguably, we had run in 2 states. Very neat!
The Marine Corps Marathon has been on my marathon bucket list for a while. I was so excited when I planned to run it almost one year ago.
This year the expo was at the downtown convention centre. The entrance into the expo must have been a solid one mile walk. Once inside, I was able to pick up my bib right away. But I noticed the cashier line for the expo merchandise was 45 minutes long. People were just frantic about buying souvenir items.
Apart from how busy the expo was, I got to meet Jeff Galloway in person. I even got a picture with him and he signed my bib – see pic! I considered this to be a “good luck charm”! Jeff was very friendly and personable. This weekend was his 203rd marathon, and I basically told him that someday I hope to be able to match his number of marathons.
Leading up to race day, carbo-loading was a breeze. The night before, my husband and I went to a restaurant where there were no long waits at all. After we were seated, our waiter came and he was wearing a name-tag. Making conversation with him, my husband told the waiter “I know your name, but guess ours”. I ended up as “Jennifer” and my husband as “Tom”! So funny! Even a little bit of humor can help ease your nerves before any big race.
On race morning, it was quite a challenge getting to the start. Many roads were closed, so we parked quite a distance from the start. From where we parked to the start line took us almost an hour and 45 min. There was heavy security everywhere. Every runner had to pass through metal detectors. As I passed through the security checkpoint, the rain started pouring. Not the perfect scenario before the marathon. There were 2 lines to get through to the corrals, but a huge bottle neck had formed around the security point. By the time I made it through security, there were tons of runners already packed into the race start area; I was focused on making it to my corral but I was disoriented by then so I had to ask runners around me if the line was for the marathon or the 10km race.
Not the best way to start a marathon…but with almost 24,000 runners, there’s not much you can do. I swear this marathon could easily be called a 28.2 miles marathon given all the navigation just to get to the start! I guess that’s the trade-off with large-scale marathons like this.
The race started at 7:55am. I crossed the starting mat about 8 minutes after. Not bad, considering we were moving thousands and thousands of runners. Two lines merged into one big line. Except for the Chicago marathon, this has got to be the second most crowded race I have ever run.
During the first 5k, we ran past the Georgetown shopping district, which had nice, quaint shops. The “run blue” mile was at mile 12. We ran past placards of all the fallen soldiers while on duty – I found this to be very touching. Then at mile 16 we passed by the Lincoln Memorial and the Capitol Hill landmark; the Pentagon was at mile 24, and shortly thereafter we routed back to D.C. for the finish. The entire course was lined with spectators. It was so loud and energetic for all 26.2 miles. The Marines were working all the aid-stations.
The coolest part of the race must have been the finish. As we approached the finish line, both sides were lined with The Marines congratulating every single runner. To put the icing on the cake, each runner received their medal and put around their neck by a uniformed marine. When I approached my line, it totally caught me by surprise as I was being saluted. Wow! That, to me, was the MOST memorable. I felt so important! What a high!
Then as we walked towards the race exit, we were handed these cool jackets instead of the traditional space blanket, which said “Mission Accomplished” on the back! Indeed, after all, each marathoner came with his/her own mission, and we all accomplished it when we crossed that magical finish line.
I met my husband at the exit; he was so happy for me. I am so grateful for all of his support.
Back at the Runners’ World “retreat” at the Hyatt hotel, I ran into Bart Yasso. See the picture below. We met his whole team of staff – very nice people! I recognized them from my Disney Dopey Challenge which I ran last January, and surprisingly, they all “remembered” me! We chatted with a few runners and one guy at our table came in and declared “I beat Oprah’s time today!” Everyone was in good spirits and the food was yummy at the retreat. What a way to wrap up a marathon – “the people’s marathon”!
I will carry with me the beautiful memories of this marathon forever! To all the Marines who made it special, thank you!