2016 Marine Corps Marathon

I hardly know where to start. Way back in March I added my name to the list to be among the people hoping that our name would be selected to be able to register for the Marine Corps Marathon. I didn't have to wait long...

I was shocked and excited. Thrilled at the prospect of traveling to our nation's capital for what would be my biggest birthday race ever. There's so much to say... I'll give a more formal review and then gush at the end about my personal experience.
Travel to: Without a doubt, the majority of us are traveling into DC for this race. I flew into Reagan and it was a little eerie at first... not many people at all and very fast in and out of the airport. So easy, in fact, that I was convinced that I was in the wrong place.

The Expo: This was one of the best organized expos that I've been to. Everyone walked fight into the bib pick-up area, then right around to the shirt (a sweet long-sleeved, fleece-lined one) and packet pick-up. Staff was helpful and friendly. And Marines were everywhere, politely wishing everyone luck and posing for pictures. The expo has tons of vendors selling everything from nutrition and hydration to clothing to fancy gadgets and products that make life on the run a little more enjoyable.

Given the amount of people traveling to and from the area, parking and navigating in and out of the expo (shuttles were recommended, but we drove in and parked in a garage) wasn't too bad. The expo was quite crowded, which made me increasingly anxious and claustrophobic, so my friend and I didn't stay too long.

The Start: I made use of the "Kiss and Run" drop off area. The area was easily accessible, but I was dropped off about 2 hours before the race start. I had plenty of time for the long walk to security, stopping to use the port-a-potty. Security was good and pretty quick. And suddenly, I was there. Runners seemed to be everywhere. There was the VIP tent, an informational tent, and a tent where prayer services were held. Plenty of port-a-potties were available.

I sat in one of the prayer services where a chaplain gave some inspiring words. He told us the hard work was done-- all those hours of early morning miles. He told us it was time to experience the joy of the race. And so I headed to the Starting Line inspired.

The Course: Simply amazing. From the National Anthem and the fly over to the run by Arlington National Cemetery, it was clear from the beginning that this was not just any marathon. This would be a time of reflection and celebration of all the people who have given their lives in service to our country.

We ran through Georgetown, along a beautiful river and across a bridge. We ran along the Potomac, where we experienced the Blue Mile-- a mile full of photos of soldiers who lost their lives in active duty. We continued past the Jefferson Memorial, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Washington Monument, the new National Museum of African American History and Culture, the US Capitol and the Pentagon.

There was so much history, so many people lining the course and cheering us on. And so many clever, encouraging signs ("If Trump can run, so can you!"). The course concludes at the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial with Marines at the end offering high fives and a race medal.

The Conclusion: Coming from super flat South Florida, the beginning of the race felt hilly to me. I made the decision to run without MapMyRun to conserve my iPhone battery. And I hadn't packed my watch. Throughout the entire race, I had no idea how fast or slow I might be going. Marines were on the course at major mile points, calling out times. But the with marathon brain fog clouding my already math-challenged mind, they might as well have been speaking Pig Latin.

I ran by feel and it worked. Instead of focusing on splits and pace per miles, I took it all in. My fellow runners, the beauty of the changing leaves, the monuments... every moment. I looked for my friend, Barbara, who inspired me to begin this running career in the first place. She promised to find me, while on sidelines cheering for her husband. I found her, or rather, she found me, and I stopped long enough for a tight hug, which boosted my spirits and kept me moving ahead towards two other friends who were along the course as well.

Around mile 18, my biggest cheerleader, Cindy, sent me a text of encouragement:

And I did continue to run strong. By the time I reached the finish line, I had set a new PR of nearly 7 minutes: 4:23:29.

The Secrets: I had logged more miles for this marathons than the others. I missed only 2 short runs, subbing in a bike ride instead. I didn't really do any hill work, opting instead for overall distance. During the race I held tight to my fueling plan-- I didn't fall for the free orange slices, gels, sport beans or animal crackers. I fueled only how I had trained, and it kept my blood sugar steady and predictable. At around the half marathon point, I drank water and walked quickly through every other aid station. I stopped for 2 hugs from my friends and 2 selfies in front of monuments. I really took time to feel the joy of this race.

I'm not sure if I'll ever do the Marine Corps Marathon again, not because I didn't have an amazing time, but because it was so very special. 


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