Why MCM? I really like large crowds and big events when it comes to marathons. I love the energy and the support that is given for races of this size. However, when selecting the MCM, it was more about reputation and destination, than anything else. The People's Marathon is well known for military precision and marine pride. Starting in Arlington, VA and running through the Capital, it is easy to imagine what a super cool route this is. Additionally, my brother and I decided to meet up in D.C. to run it together. So in early Spring, we signed up, (fortunately in the first 24 hours as it sold out in less than a day!), and training officially began on June 29th.
|Pre-race with my brother|
The only other comments about the MCM expo is that you do need to take the metro to get to the Armory, and with sleet and ice coming down, the transit outside the metro station was a bit messy and cold. The expo hall was extremely crowded and the process of going through one building to get the bib and another to get the packets, was a bit confusing. Again, pick up the stuff, speak to Mr. Hall and get back to the hotel.
|Official Starter - Drew Carey|
The pre-race ritual stayed pretty much according to plan. In the 37 degree, pre-dawn morning, we remained bundled up and awaited the T-minus 1 hour warning. It came, and so did the sunrise. We made our way to the starting line, of course by way of a porta-jon line and some time in the warmth of said pj to prep the glide, the bib, the fuel belt, etc.
Race: The race plan called for a few improvements to the prior marathon; 1) get a better start - the first mile needs to be as close to the 8:30 pace as possible; it was. 2) stay consistent on pace for the first 20 miles; I did. 3) negative splits; yes, as always. Other than that it was to run my race, enjoy the scenery and have fun. The highlights included:
* Crossing the bridge from Arlington into Georgetown
* Passing the monuments, up close and personal
* The warmth of the sun with the chill of 40 degrees - Perfect!
* Running strong back across the river around mile 20
* Fear of a hamstring starting to pull in mile 22
* Grabbing chocolate from one spectator angel and orange slices from another
* Rounding the final turn and facing the final hill to finish at the Iwo Jima monument
Rather than bore you with race strategy and mile-by-mile commentary, I’ll just say that the race played out perfectly. I knew I was on to a really good time after my hamstring issue started to work itself out around mile 23 - 24. I crossed in 3:43:39 and felt really strong. I left it all out on the course and am certain that for that day, it was all that I had.
Regarding the course, it is not flat. It seemed as if the entire first 7 miles was uphill. From there it was downhill and then a few more elevation changes that you definitely felt. I think that was part of the issue of the hamstring tenderness. Another consequence of the course is that because of the hills, the wheel-chaired competitors, despite a half hour head start, were constantly leap frogging the runners. So up the hills I would pass several that were struggling to go the next yard. Then downhill there would be shouts of “to your left” or “down the middle”, and you would need to clear the path as they sped by. It seemed sort of dangerous and I’ve never been in another race that this situation was present the entire route.
Recap: The Marines really do make this marathon a must-do event. From organization to aid stations to hanging the medal around your neck, the marines take care of you. The crowds were pretty good as well. There were some lonely miles along the river and into Arlington, but the populated areas were loud and the signs were great. The most inspiring one I saw, or at least the one that struck me at the right time, was around mile 19, it read, “Think about it, what would Pre do?” I answered, “keep running hard!”
I was very fortunate in 2011. I ran Disney on a trip with my wife - we had a blast. I was then able to run the Marine Corps with my brother and nephew along - we had a blast. In March, it’s on to Wrightsville Beach with the family - we will have a blast. As I have said over and over, the marathon, to me, is not as much about the 26.2 as it is about the 650 miles to get there, the crowds, the destination and the sharing of this experience with others.
If you are planning on running the MCM, let me know if you have any questions or would like to know more.