I think I am finally ready to write about the Marine Corps Marathon. I should be. It’s been just over three weeks now. At the moment, it’s difficult to believe it’s been that long. Partially because it was 73 degrees in Washington, D.C. that day, and right now there’s about a foot of snow on the ground here.
And partially because the memory of the race still seems so alive.
First off, the expo was incredibly cool. We had to wait in line to get in, which was just weird to me (so many people, I’ve never had to wait in line just to get into an expo before. It was kind of amazing, actually, that there were so many people that we had to wait)! Luckily the line moved quickly.
Inside, there were Marines everywhere, checking you in, getting you shirts and bib numbers and everything else having to do with the race itself. It was very neat to see. After number, packet and charity packet pick up, Jeremy and I got to walk around a little.
There were so many vendors. This is by far the largest expo I have been to (as it was by far the largest race I’ve done). The two coolest things to me were the GE booth with the Dogs for Veterans, and the Marine Corps Band.
The day of the race was an exceedingly early day for me. I got up at 4:30 a.m. Mostly because I was kind of terrified about having to figure out the Metro and about how many people were going to need to take the metro (small town girl here…). The lovely Washington Area Transit Authority partners with the MCM and opens the rail system early that Sunday, at 5 a.m. So, I got on a train at 5 a.m. and was one of maybe 5 people in my car up until the second to last stop where we gained maybe about 10 more. Turns out, I needn’t have worried.
We all got off the train at Pentagon Station and then walked in the dark to Runner’s Village. I got to chat with a few fellow runners on the way (it’s about half a mile to a mile from the station to the village). Once we got through security and into the village it was time to wait…and wait…and wait and freeze. Yeah, I got there a lot early. Better safe than sorry, I suppose. It was kind of cool to see the sun rise over the space, and watch all of the people start filing in.
I sat (and froze) for a couple hours before checking my bag and heading up to the starting line.
The start festival was incredible. There were so many people everywhere just waiting to begin. There were fly overs by military helicopters, and coolest of all, people parachuting in with American Flags. It was incredibly inspiring and beautiful to watch them come in over Arlington Cemetery.
After all that, the Howitzer sounded and the fastest took off. For me, it was about a 10 minute walk to the actual start.
The first five or so miles of the race were hilly, but it wasn’t so bad. There was so much to look at, and the first mile or so was lined by smiling marines giving high fives and shouting encouragement. I don’t think I’ve ever said thank you so many times in a row in my life. It was amazing.
There were Marines at every mile marker, every aid station and sometimes in between. It is an awesome and humbling thing to be encouraged by so many who sacrifice so much for us on a daily basis.
The most memorable parts of the race were the blue mile, where pictures of fallen soldiers lined the path, and their families formed a line along the path as well, each holding an American Flag.
And of course, running through the National Mall was awesome. Seeing so much of the city and surrounding areas on foot as we did was a completely unique experience.
And finally, there was the finish line. Crystal City is where the crowds really begin. There are a lot of people on the mall, but there are so many more through Crystal City and up to the finish.
The last .1 is uphill. It’s not that big of a hill, but after 26 miles, it seems like a mountain. But at that point, it doesn’t matter. There are so many people surrounding you, so much cheering, and that darn line is in sight. I was hurting by this point. This was my second marathon in a week. But it didn’t matter. I wanted that line.
It took me 4 hours and 31 minutes over all. It was a struggle, and it was a challenge, but I made it.
Marines lined the path after the finish, shaking your hand, giving high-fives, and congratulating you. This is all leading up to the chutes that you walk through to obtain your medal. A Marine places the medal around your neck, salutes, and congratulates you. Seriously. Again. A humbling experience to be congratulated and saluted by those who give and sacrifice so much to this nation.
All of this was made so much more for me by running for the charity TAPS. I had the honor of running for a fallen Marine, Nick Manoukian. I carried his picture, pinned to my back, for the entire race and thought of him and his mother, still living in Michigan, often. TAPS is an amazing organization, and I am so grateful to have been able to run and raise funds for them. It truly made the day so much more meaningful and wonderful. Being able to accomplish something for someone who sacrificed everything for us and for the US was so emotional and inspiring. You can still donate to my page in honor of Nick through the end of the year (http://www.tapsrunandremember.org/mcm2014/alfox112886). For more information about TAPS and the programs that they have for survivors, you can go here: http://www.taps.org
After the finish line, I finally got to go find Jeremy (a miracle in and of itself, as there were so many people waiting around)! We wandered around the finisher’s festival for a bit. It was so cool to see so many runners and their families. There were people everywhere! There was a small section of the Marine Corps band playing Beatles music on a stage, there were booths and food and still so many people.
Overall this was a wonderful experience that I am hoping to repeat next year for the 40th running of the MCM.
As for what’s next for this little runner? Right now some rest, some training, and choosing races for next year!
Until next time, friends.
See you out there running.