The People’s Marathon Lives Up to its Name

Today I ran and finished the 35th annual Marine Corps Marathon. As always, it was a great day to be an American. Here’s a quick recap:

I took the METRO from Vienna to Rosslyn. It was pitch black out (630 am) but the train was already packed with runners. I got off Rossyln and walked two miles down to the Pentagon race start. I didn’t trust the long wait for the Blue Line.

Got in the runner lineup at 745 am, where I found myself standing next to former Del. Steve Shannon who was running his first MCM. He looked in great shape. About 10% of the runners were in costume. Some of them were classic (more on that later).

At 8:00 a.m., we had the National Anthem and Congressman Jim Moran (!) started us. The crowd of runners surged down Route 110. The first mile is a mob scene and a great chance to people watch as you roll through Rosslyn.

There’s a long uphlll strectch on Mile Two. I ran past Batman, but could not catch Robin.

We ran down to the GW parkway, crossed the Key Bridge and ran along the C&0 Canal. During that stretch, I was tracking a man in a togo and olive wreath (Dionysius?) and also Robin Hood. Feeling good.

We swung through Georgtown at Mile Nine, then ran beneath the Kennedy Center and headed out to Hains Point. This is a hard stretch. It was windy and no spectators. I pulled over behind a pine tree at one point to relieve myself. Good thing the “PETERSEN” on my back was visible to everyone.

I was feeling generally OK at this point and keeping a reasonable pace at 9 minutes/mile. We ran back towards the Monuments, then began a nice long stretch on Constitution Ave. it was at this point that Wonder Woman passed me. And she was moving.

We turned around at the traffic circle below the Capitol and started back. I’ve never been so happy to go back home. Everything was OK as we passed Mile 19 by the Smithsonian. Then I got hit hard by cramps on the front of my thighs and calves. I had to stop and stretch on the 14th Street Bridge, but could not shake them the rest of the race.

We reached Crystal City at Mile 21. I was 3 hours 20 minutes in but struggling. I was trying to keep pace with a team running while carrying an Ecuadoran flag, as well as a pirate (har!) However, I got passed by another Wonder Woman.

Crystal City had great crowd support. They pushed us and I kept moving for Miles 22 and 23. I got to Mile 24 in 3 hours 57 minutes. That was 3 minutes ahead of my personal best in 2008.

Unfortunately, the last two miles slayed me. My legs were so tight that I could not run more than 100 yards without stopping. I finally staggered up the hill by Iwo Jima, where I saw my Mom, Sharon and my three children. I finished two minutes behind my PR, which was 4:22. That’s a major disappointment, as I’ve been training for six months and expected to do better.

But I’m a weekend athlete and I finished the race. That’s all you can do.

I cannot write about this race without mentioning two things . First is the great organization and esprit de corps of the Marines who organize this race and man all the aid stations. They do a wonderful job in making the MCM the best sports event in the DC area.

Second, there are not words to describe the courage of the wheelchair racers and those who run with them. I ran next to one climbing the hill by the Georgetown Reservoir. That’s a tough hill and I can’t imagine doing it in a wheelchair. But the young man with prosthetic legs was doing it. That’s what being a Marine is all about.

Congrats to the 20,000 or so runners that finished the MCM. It is the People’s Marathon.

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