The Marine Corps Marathon 10k was fun, but I’m not sure that I’d sign up for it again. Which is a shame, because like I said, I really did enjoy myself. The issue is that I’m really not entirely confident any amount of fun to be had on race day can make up for the cluster that was packet pick up. Perhaps it was a fluke that the race, held in our nation’s capital, fell on election weekend, or perhaps it was simply poor planning. Whatever the cause, you can be absolutely certain that I will be researching the date heavily before shelling out my $45 again next year.
I can’t argue against the goodies though–if there’s anything the Marines can do, its provide for an army of people. The expo was large and relatively uncrowded, and we were able to snag our race bibs, packets and premiums without a hassle. For that $45 we got a great long-sleeved, halloween-themed race shirt and a medal shaped like a dog tag. We were also bestowed goodie bags chock full of edible treats (which came in handy on the 3 hour trek home) and coupons to use at vendor stations throughout the event.
After our disastrous metro experience at packet pickup the day before, my sister-in-law Lauren and I (and our doting, cheerleading husbands) chose to ignore the advice issued by race officials and decided to drive into the city for the race. This is where the fun began. Or shall I say the potty adventures?
Kirk and I had stayed the night at his dad’s place in Germantown the evening before, so as to avoid the 1.5 hour commute into DC two days in a row. Lauren and Steve (and his mom– such a trooper!) picked us up at 5:45 and we headed for the National Mall. We found free street parking with such ease that it was laughable, and quickly went in search of a Starbucks on foot. The first spot we came to was still closed, and showed no sign of life, but a small cafe next door had folks inside preparing for the day. We decided to stick around and wait 10 minutes for them to open so that they guys could get breakfast and us girls could pee and avoid the port-a-pots. Too bad life never works out the way you plan.
When the cafe opened, Lauren and I found that there we no public restrooms. Fail. Once the guys were fed, we headed back toward the start, keeping our eyes peeled for bathroom spots. No dice. DC is completely closed at 6:30 am on a Sunday. At one point we passed a port-a-pot at an aid station along the marathon course, but it was occupied and the occupant was showing no signs of emerging any time soon. Not wanting to waste time (and with our bladders about to bust) we decided to make a run for 2 pots we could see across the park. Try again. We quickly realized that not 12 hours before the massive crowds that had wreaked havoc on the metro lines, had done what I can safely argue was an even worse job on the potty’s in the park. No way I was going inside that thing. No way, no how. Seeing a couple more johns lined up another few hundred yards down, we figured we’d see if they had fared the crowds any better. Ummm…. no. Lauren and I ran back to our group (and the orignal toilet we had spied), just as a Marine was emerging. He told me I would have to hover, but hey, as long as I wasn’t in danger of falling onto feces-smeared walls I figured I could handle that. Done and done. Phew!
The five of us headed to the start where our uncle Paul was waiting to meet up with us. Turns out he’d been putting off his own urgent needs until he located us, and so he quickly hopped in a bathroom line after exchanging hellos. And, of course, as soon as someone mentioned peeing again, Lauren had to go again, too. Not wanting to waste time in the lines that were clearing not moving, she elected to head back to where we’d met with success the first time around. Even though she had to run about 5 blocks there and back she still beat Uncle Paul by about 10 minutes. Crazy.
By the time our little family had emptied our bladders (in some cases, multiple times) and re-grouped, the gun had gone off. As we passed under the arch the clock time read over 5 minutes and the crowd was so thick we were barely moving. Lauren had hurt her foot at the Baltimore Half two weeks before, so she was planning to take it easy and Uncle Paul was going to be running with her. I had planned to run all out, but seeing as the crowds were thick, I had family to run with, and I’d never run a 10k before (and thereby had no time to beat), I decided to join in the fun and just run without an agenda.
In spite of the crowds, our first mile wasn’t so bad. We did a LOT of weaving, but managed to keep our time right at a 10:00 minute mile. The first hill was a bust though. I kid you not, as we turned the corner, the runners saw the hill and they just stopped. Stopped!! Seriously folks? It’s a hill, not a blazing fire pit. Jeeze. At that point I knew for certain that my time was not something that I was going to be too concerned about.
The next few miles were pretty uneventful. The three of us stayed together and chatted a bit here and there, but we were still keeping a pretty good clip. Lauren is a pretty quick runner when uninjured, and her “easy” pace during recovery was right around my race pace! She had mentioned she was shooting for 10:00/mi (I had originally been shooting for sub 9:30), but she was going much faster than that, which was great for me!
The race course itself wasn’t anything exceptional. We avoided most the monuments and ran through areas of DC I wasn’t familiar with. However, DC is a surprisingly clean and aesthetically pleasing city to tour, so even though I had no clue where we were, there was plenty to look at. My only complaint is that the crowds were crazy quiet. There were a lot of spectators, but they weren’t cheering at all. I’m thinking maybe they were there to support the full marathoners, and didn’t want to waste their energy on us. Booo….
The quiet crowds continued right up until we were a half mile from the finish line, at which point race officials had music stations bumping Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and the like. That got me moving a bit and when I looked at my watch (for one of the very few times during the race) I realized we were dangerously close to the 1 hour mark. Wanting to see if I could still finish in under 60 minutes, I started to pull ahead of Lauren and Uncle Paul in the last .25 miles. The only challenge? The insanely steep hill in front of the Iwo Jima memorial where we would finish. And of course, what did the guy running ahead of me do? He stopped. What’s with that?? Anyway, I managed to bang it out in 59:32 and Lauren and Uncle Paul were hot on my tail right around 59:50.
We walked through the finisher’s shoot and a Marine hung a medal on our necks and congratulated us, while a photographer (the first I’d seen all day!) snapped a group picture.
None of us we’re carrying cell phones, but we had our eyes peeled for Kirk and Steve and his mom. After parting with us at the start, they had gone back to the car with plans to drive across the bridge and into VA to be at the finish. Lauren borrowed a cell phone to call Steve and learned that they were stuck in traffic and we had beat them to the memorial. Point to point courses are a pain for spouses, but these guys handled it like champs and promised they were on their way. While we waited, we headed to the Iwo Jima memorial for our finisher’s photo.
Turns out we didn’t have to wait. There was a family meet-up area, but as we followed the signs we began to realize that it was ages away from the finish line. Luckily the route was peppered with vendors giving away free samples. We indulged in countless varieties of juices, teas, flavored chocolates, and recovery drinks. We were also each given a bag with a banana, a bagel and a fruit cup, and handed a bottle of water and Gatorade. I’ll tell you one thing, I really liked they way each finisher got their own bag. There were no crowds pawing through the bagel bins, or lines for water. It was super efficient. As I said, the Marines know how to manage an army.
We met up with Kirk, Steve, and his mom a half hour later and I did a quick change out of my sweaty clothes. Nothing worse that freezing after a run! We debated stopping for brunch or going back to see the first marathoners finish, but decided it was best to try to beat the crowds out of the city. And to be honest, even bundled in two sweatshirts, I was miserably cold. So,with a new PR in the bag, we called it a day and headed for home.