Marine Corps Marathon Recap.
We woke up at 0415 and had coffee and granola. Strapped on our gear and headed out to the metro at 0500. Just missed the first train and caught the second. Rode to the Pentagon and got in the porta potty line. 40 minutes later, we got in the security line.
The security line was an uncontrolled scrum. We stood without moving for 40 minutes. Rumors of needing to go one way or another flickered through the crowd and I became genuinely concerned, then frightened, that there could be a crush or stampede. It was not a safe situation. Finally there was a break in the lines and some people jumped the fences rather than go through the metal detectors. We hurried to the start, well late.
We missed the howitzer and the national anthem. We didn’t even get to the start until 0813, 18 minutes after the gun, and after about two hours of standing in lines. I was disappointed to miss the pageantry, but we did see the parachuters and the Osprey flyover. And realistically, we’d only have gotten out a few minutes earlier if we had been at the start on time.
We began running in a thick crowd that only barely let up ever throughout the race. BB wasn’t feeling great at the start and it took several miles before the anxiety of the security fiasco wore off. Finally we fell into a rhythm around the 6 mile mark and started feeling better.
We paced really well. Perhaps a bit slower than we could go, but very steady at about 11:25. We kept that up without much variation through the whole race. But it got harder and harder. By mile 12 my feet hurt in a way they hadn’t in a long, long time. Standing around is hard. And we’d walked about 2 miles before the race start.
I just decided that it was going to hurt for a long time. It did, and I kept running. We slowed to a walk through all the water stations but nowhere else. And we took a couple of potty breaks and shoe tying pauses. Other than that, we ran and ran and ran. Great crowds. Great marines.
Mile 13, I think, is called the “blue mile” and is lined with pictures of marines killed in action. Then, you run under a tent of American and marine corps flags. It’s haunting and beautiful.
By mile 16 both of us were in a lot of pain. Much more than in our training runs. My quads were burning and my feet were absolutely wrecked. And we had ten miles to go. The bridge at mile 21 is a crucial landmark. If you don’t get there by 1315, you don’t finish. It reopens to traffic, and it’s an interstate. We got there with plenty of time to spare. And began running further than I’d ever run before.
By this point, I was out of gas, in a lot of pain, and ready to walk. BB said, “We can do five miles in our sleep.” She was running a gutsy race. Neither of us felt at top form. But we kept running because we had to keep running.
At mile 25, there were doughnut holes. One of the marines handing them out, a young African American Seargent, looked at me as I slowed to a walk to take the emergency energy. He looked at the picture of Phillip on my shirt, looked up at me and said, “You better be running, boy.” I got it. It’s about honor. If I’m honoring a fallen marine, I’d better run like a marine. I ran.
Right at mile 26, I heard my mom shout at me. I looked and pointed and saw mom and Aunt Julie beaming with pride.
The last few yards of the Marine Corps Marathon are called “taking Iwo Jima”. You turn the corner and run straight up a steep hill to the base of the marine corps memorial, a statue from the famous picture of the flag raising. It hurts. It’s hard. It’s cruel. We ran. We crossed the finish hand in hand and raised our fists. And finally stopped running.
Four hours, fifty-nine minutes, and twenty-three seconds. Those thirty-seven seconds mean the world to me. I did it, and I did it in less than five hours.
I am many things. I am a doctor of systems engineering. I am a researcher. I am a son and a brother and a partner. I am a sober member of Alcoholics Anonymous.