Marine Corp Marathon Race Recap

I am gonna start this post by saying I am glad I did the Marine Corp Marathon. It was an amazing opportunity to run through the nation's capital in beautiful fall weather. I was happy to have family there to cheer me on and the medal, I got to say, is top notch. All that being said I would not choose to do it again. Wanted to get that out of the way cause I have a feeling things are about to get a bit whiny. 


The Expo
The expo was held at the convention center in D.C. There were signs marking where packet pick-up was held plus employees pointing people in the right direction. All good there. The 45 minutes of waiting in line to get into the Expo was less than awesome but fine. Security was tight. For the whole race. Which I am okay with. Better safe than sorry. Finally break on through to the other side and get into the expo and bam another line. A way huge line to buy anything Marine Corp Marathon related. Shirts, coats, pint glass, anything. Brooks was the main sponsor so they had a ton of clothing and keepsakes for sale but I didn't really look at any of it cause I was not standing in line for the next two hours. Once I figured out how to get out of the Brooks area I looked through the other vendors but it was just packed, PACKED, with people. I was not naive. I ran Chicago. Huge marathon. Bigger than Marine Corp. But the expo area was probably three times as big so it didn't seem so crowded. After about ten minutes at the expo I basically wanted to punch my way out of there.  I bought a Run D.C. shirt cause Marine Corp swag was not happening. Grabbed a few free samples. Watched the Marine Jazz band for two minutes and fled. 


Race Morning
I am lucky enough to have family outside of D.C. My mom and stepdad toted me around and came and stayed with me the night before at one of the race hotels, the Courtyard Alexandra Pentagon South. Not too far from the shuttle pick-up area to get to the start. Thanks to my stepdad I got curb side service to the shuttles. Winning at life! The down side is that it is apparently right next to a fire station, and apparently there are many fire calls a night. So not my most peaceful night before a marathon. Back to curb side service, when I got dropped off at the shuttle buses I saw a line and that line kept on going and going and going. Got in and after about 15 minutes was on my way to the start. The Marines know how to load a bus. Once I got to the start line, another long line to get through security. 

Again I do not mind security. I would rather be safe than a headline. But standing in line for an hour and forty five minutes in drizzle is kind of a bummer and a little bit tiring. I guess there was some issues with the machines (basically like going through TSA at the airport- metal detectors, bag checks, wanding, pat downs) breaking down or malfunctioning so that slowed things a bit. Yay finally got through security walked for another 15 minutes to......the bathroom line. That actually was quick. I will say this, they had plenty of porto- potties. Then it was on to the start line. A bit of a recommendation here, wave starts might help the congestion factor that was the entire race. You line up on the honor system by finish time, which apparently was a big lie. I lined up in the 4:30 to 5 hour area and was stuck behind what seemed like a million run walkers who were significantly slower. Then there is the start and everyone goes out together. No official corrals, no wave starts, just a mass of runners. 

There was some amazing fly overs before the start and that was pretty cool. I crossed the start line about 15 minutes after the official start. I had stood so long at the start line waiting to start I basically had to pee before the race even started. I should have jumped out before starting and visited one of their plenty facilities but when you are stuck in such a giant mass of people you just kinda go with the flow. 


The Course
The course for the most part is really pretty. Fall leaves, monuments, beautiful buildings. Except from miles 21ish or when you get on the bridge and then into Crystal City. That part sucked big time. Concrete and uphill with minimal spectators and nothing to look at I was totally over it at that point. Running past the monuments was awesome, the best part really.

One of the difficult things about this race is that the course is on pretty narrow streets so the race never thins out. You are pretty much surrounded by people at all times except for a short time near the Capital Building when it widens a bit. And that is super frustrating and hard to deal with for 26.2 (or 26.8 which is what my watch said when I finished) miles. This marathon is pretty big with the run/walk Jeff Galloway program which is fine but people instead of getting over to the side would just stop and walk right in front of you. I crashed into a few people who did that. Not on purpose but there is just nowhere to go. I also noticed some would put their hand in the air to signal they were stopping and then again just stop in the middle of the street. NO. NO. NO. Move over to the side. I am not saying don't take a walk break. I took many. But get over to the side out of the way so you don't get trampled. 

By mile 3 I pretty much gave up trying to run my own pace and just went with the flow. I had a rough start (my heart was pounding and I was out of breathe after like 4 minutes, I think I was just kinda tired after all that standing around, traveling is hard, been under some stress lately or something random who knows) so took it easy and then realized easy was what it was gonna stay cause I wasn't gonna fight the crowd the whole way, didn't feel that hot, and 26.2 miles is a long ways. Didn't have anywhere else to be so got my money's worth. I finished in 5:37:24. Way slower than I would have liked mostly because it meant I had to take a few bathroom breaks....which meant standing in line. So chalk up about 15 minutes of my time to standing in loo lines.  

The real downside of a race being this crowded is three or four times I couldn't get over to the aid stations cause there were just too many people bunched all around. The other totally crappy thing is that some people are total shits and basically shoved people out of the way to try to get through the crowd....cause you are gonna win....I don't know why. I got slammed into pretty hard four or five times by people doing this and thought it was pretty damn rude. Long story short if you are running a race this crowded don't be a shit. 

Finally some breathing room while running along the national mall

This smile is totally not fake

Do you see all those people at the finish!! So crazy. 
The Finish
Always the best part cause hallelujah amen you get to stop running. The finish is up a really steep hill so thanks for that. I stopped at the bottom of the hill to help a women who was having some hamstring issues. She was in tears holding on to this poor marine who was like I don't know what to do and I was going nowhere fast so I grabbed her arm, told her she had come this far what was one little ole hill (horrible is what it was, and not so little but lying is okay sometimes) and we jogged the last .2 in together. Apparently I don't stop coaching others ever. Even if you don't sign up to get coached by me apparently you are going to get it. Sorry random stranger but we did make it to the finish.

I was very happy to be done. Got handed my medal by a marine and saluted, a nice touch and then herded into another huge long line to get a box of snacks, a jacket warm-up thing, and water. Because there was so many people in such a tight area I pretty much came to a stand still and promptly almost passed out. I think from running for 5+ hrs and then suddenly coming to a complete stop. I sat down on the curb real fast, put on my coat and drank the fruit juice out of the snack box and this seemed to help. After a few minutes of curb sitting with my head between my legs I was fine. Got up, joined the mass of finishers and made my way out to the family link-up area to find my cheer crew.

The Best Part
I also found some gelato. Totally worth the 26.2...not really but almost. The best part of this marathon was seeing my family around mile 19. That totally perked me up. And having them at the finish was awesome and helpful as I was pretty brain dead and would probably still be wandering around D.C. if they hadn't directed me back to the car. The blue mile was also amazing. They have pictures of those killed in action and volunteers holding American flags and it is amazing how silent and respectful everyone gets (as silent as runners can be with all the mouth breathing). I saw some of my husband's fallen friends and it was a very nice way to honor their sacrifice.

Of course running past the national monuments and don't forget the race shirt and medal. Those are top notch. 

Final Thoughts
Overall I am really glad I did it but wouldn't do it again. I have learned that giant races are perhaps not my cup of tea. I am just not that much of a people person and I am not that great of a runner that I can not run my own pace for 26.2 miles without dying a little inside. It was a bucket list race and I know some things did not go right on the race organizers side but what can you do other than be thankful for the opportunity to run it. 



Next stop....Philadelphia Marathon with my friend Kelcey. A weird feeling of being pumped to see your friend but kinda dreading another marathon is happening. I am sure three weeks of recovery will help that feeling turn to just being PUMPED. Kelcey can't wait to run with you!

Comments

  1. Good write-up - liked both the honesty and the gratitude (and the nonchalant dropping in of the word 'loo' for which I take credit). SF also has a mile lined with pics of fallen soldiers and giant flags. I ran through it and started crying (even though I'm not American) and then my throat closed up (crying) so i couldn't breathe. Had to think about kittens or something at that point!

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  2. I think we have almost the exact same feelings about MCM; I ran it in 2013 -- i.e., glad I ran it, but never again. It's insane to me that so many people make this their "goal" race -- even though it's flat, this is not an easy PR course. And I totally agree about the crowding on the course and the crappy last 5 miles from Crystal City to the finish. I was SO done at that point. It's awesome that you helped that runner out on the last hill - I bet she was really grateful for your help. Good luck in Philly! I've heard great things!

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