On Sunday, October 25, 2015, I ran in the 40th edition of the Marine Corps Marathon. For me, this was my third time in this great event. I felt that I had to back after my disappointing performance last year. I was joined this year by fellow Running Free teammate Jeff van de Pol.
We arrived in the DC area mid Friday afternoon. After checking into the hotel we made our way to the expo. As part of the great job that the Marines do in organizing this marathon they partner with a number of great hotels in the area that offer discounted rates. The hotel we were able to book was right on the Metro Blue line. And I mean right on the line. We did not have to leave the hotel to get into the Metro station. There was a connecting tunnel.
The DC Metro is a fabulous subway system that puts the TTC to shame. The expo was also conveniently located on the Metro. We had to make one change to get on the Yellow line, but we were still there in under half an hour.
After many years of having been located at the DC Armory the expo was moved this year to the DC Convention Centre. This was a huge trade show with hundreds of vendors. Brooks is a title sponsor and makes all of the official race wear. Once again this year they were offering VIP passes to anyone spending over $200 at their area of the expo. These VIP passes boasted of a special area that had its own porta potties. No standing in line with the thousands of others who had been hydrating all weekend. By the time got to the check out that the passes were all sold out. The expo had been open for a mere five hours before we arrived!
We did not get to take in the entire expo as it was closing at 7pm. If you ever get into this marathon, leave yourself plenty of time to take in the entire expo, and get there early. Already by late Friday they were out of some of the most popular sizes. I was told that they replenish the stock over night, but in order to avoid disappointment shop early.
Saturday morning we once again hopped on the Metro and made our way to the National Mall to join a group from Runner’s World who were doing a 5K shake out run around the Mall. Check the next edition for a photo of Jeff and me with the group in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
We later made our way over to the Runners Seminars and listened to two discussions about marathoning in general and the MCM in particular, the second was an entertaining discussion led by a very tired race director, Rick Nealis.
We were staying in Arlington, VA. Crystal City to be exact. To my mind, this is perfectly located for this race. You are only a few subway stops from either the start or finish of the marathon.
On race morning we made our way to the Blue Line. The entire Metro system opens up early for the crowds going to the race. Once arriving at the Pentagon station the flow of the crowd carries you to the security checkpoint. This was the only snag for the entire race. It seems that the rain we had in the morning affected the metal detectors we were lined up to pass through. After just barely making it to the corrals before the start of the race last year we had given ourselves an extra 30 minutes to get through security this year. Good thing that we did as we had just checked our bags, found a lonely looking bush and hustled to the corral as the US Air Force Ospreys flew overhead which was quickly followed by the firing of the Howitzer. It is not a gun, not a cannon, it is a Howitzer.
Like many large races, I found it difficult to hit my pace due to the congestion. It got a bit easier after about 5K and certainly by the time we got to 10K, I was able to hit a comfortable stride.
The most emotional part of the race remains the Blue Mile. This is a stretch just before the half way mark on a fairly desolate section of the course. One side of the road has signs with photos of fallen heroes on each one. Then just a bit further along are members of these heroes’ families each proudly holding an American flag. It just amazes me that these people are out here, thanking us for running. There is just no way you can go through that stretch of race and not be affected. This is the only area other than the bridge just past the 20 mile mark that takes you back into Virginia that does not have screaming and cheering spectators lined 2-3 deep encouraging you on. The support you receive on this race is just phenomenal.
The last quarter mile of the race remains uphill. As explained to me once by the race director, this is intentional. At the top of the hill is the Marine Corp Memorial. It is a sculpture of the iconic photo of the Marines raising the US flag on Iwo Jima. As Rick told me, the Marines took that hill, if you want your medal, you have to take that last hill on the course.
This race remains my favourite marathon. If you get selected in the lottery I suggest that you enjoy the amenities of Crystal City, book a hotel from the website early. Get to the expo early in order to take it all in. Check the website as the expo site for next year is moving. Leave yourself plenty of time to get to start of the race and through security.
Strom the District, Beat the Bridge and Take the Hill. Oorah!