Those marines sure know how to throw a party. I will try to keep this brief as I know nobody likes getting lulled to sleep with long drawn out race reports. While my effort at this year’s Marine Corp Marathon was a slow run/walk, it was nothing short of moving and inspirational. This was my first MCM and I now see what all the fuss is about and what makes this “the people’s marathon”. I feel like we got in a week’s worth of marathon “vacation” activity in about 30 hours. Including a great dinner in Crystal City with Team Inspiration where we shared stories of survivorship and remembrance and why we do what we do. It was great catching up with teammates Roseann Dougherty and BethAnn Telford and meeting some new faces as well. I even survived the DC Metro system which for a guy who isn’t the most mass transit savvy, and who is also a bit (ok … very) directionally challenged, is an accomplishment equal to that of the marathon…or close to it.
Race morning started off with some great energy and karma as I just happened to bump into our Eastern PA Team in Training marathon team exiting the metro station. Had I planned a rendezvous like that, it never would have come to fruition. We just “found” each other, which is telling of my relationship with TNT. The race start was one of the most moving things I have ever witnessed. The sky was filled with marine skydivers carrying American Flags descending to the start area. All eyes were fixed skyward as we watched these guys (& girls?!) circle their drop zone with their flags waving in the wind beneath them then hit their mark with laser precision. We were also treated to the impressive sights of two Osprey helicopters flying low overhead and of course the race started with the signature and ceremonious blast of a Howitzer cannon. Truly, truly moving. And yeah, I have no problem admitting, I teared up at that.
The entire rest of the day was more of the same. The weather conditions were perfect although a little seasonably warm for late October in the Mid Atlantic region. I made a few friends along the way, including two marines who were running the same pace as I and employing the same walk/run interval. I only made two social stops along the way. The first was to jump onto the grass to say hi to Runner’s World editor Bart Yasso. It was great seeing Bart at mile 10-ish. I also pulled over to help a guy who I had been running with because his right hamstring went on strike and completely seized up around mile 20. After getting him on his back and helping him stretch it out, he was back on his feet and on his way. And yeah, I have no problem admitting, I teared up at that. I also ran by a marine with a note pinned to his back that read “I run for my fellow marines and fallen brothers”. He was walking, and obviously hurting. As I came up behind him I put my hand on the note on his back and just said “let’s go”. He replied with a “thank you sir” and ran with me for a bit. Nothing else needed to be said. And yeah, I have no problem admitting, I teared up at that.
The sights and sounds of running through the metro DC area are pretty awe inspiring. You pass by so many symbols that represent this country and its freedom. Add to that camouflaged marines EVERYWHERE cheering you on with an abundance of “oorahs” and “sirs” and, well, I have no problem admitting, I teared up at that. The finish was more of the same. I have been through my share of finish line chutes. I am not being critical of anyone who volunteers time to help out anywhere, but let’s be honest some volunteers are a little more spirited than others in some races. At the MCM, we were greeted by a receiving line of marines that you passed through as you crossed the finish line. Each one wanting to not just high five you, put firmly shake your hand, congratulate you and thank you for being there. And as I reached the last marine in the receiving line he shook my hand, congratulated me and asked me how I felt as he donned the most bad ass and stealth finisher medal I have ever received around my neck. And yeah, I have no problem admitting, I teared up at that.
A few thank yous are in order. First to my wife MG. We drove a lot of miles this weekend, and she drove them all. Her love and support is unwavering and I truly don’t deserve that or her. Also to my college buddy Andy Zipfel and his beautiful family who not only opened their doors for us this weekend, but made sure I had everything I needed pre and post race. We were welcomed with open arms and felt right at home. And lastly, to the MCM staff and volunteer nation of many, OORAH. You guys do it right. Thank you.