Woo Hoo! Not only did I actually finish the entire Marine Corps Marathon course, but I managed to accomplish my personal goal of finishing under 5 hours. My stats were 13,458th overall -- out of 20,890 finishers -- and I was 453 out of 875 in my female 45-49 age group. I also got an age grade of 51.4% (kind of like SAT scores for runners, I think). All of which I can live with. Especially because I can walk today ... almost without pain.
So, here are the gory -- somewhat boring -- details.
We all arrived in DC happy and prepared for we were not sure what. My law school friend, Lauren -- now officially Auntie Lauren -- travelled with us for the weekend, helping to keep the weekend lighthearted and in perspective (that's her martini glass in the photo). We stayed at the Ritz Carlton Pentagon City, which was perfect for the race; not surprisingly, the hotel was entirely booked with runners for the weekend. Friday night we met my niece, Bridget, and her roommate, Grace, for dinner at an Asian restaurant on Pentagon Row. Easy, fun, with the added bonus of surprisingly good curry.
We then spent a rainy Saturday on the move. First, Will traveled with me to the DC Convention Center to pick up my number and race package. The MCM Expo turned out to be like a Disneyworld adventure for runners. Lots of cues, exhibitors, and running paraphernalia hawkers all jammed into a huge hangar-like auditorium. We went early to avoid the rush, and rewarded ourselves with lots of Official MCM goodies.
We then made our way over to the White House for a tour. Unlike years ago when we took the boys as toddlers, these tours are now self-guided which is good and bad. Good because you can go at your own pace and linger by all the photos, artwork and furniture; bad because you don't learn much more that what's in the little brochure you receive while waiting in line. The most memorable part of the tour was the heavily armed guards outside the White House. In fact, I saw more guns this weekend than I have seen in my entire lifetime. Not sure what that means, but it can't be good....
Left the White House, had lunch at Bullfeathers on Capitol Hill (yummy burgers), then received a private tour of the Capitol courtesy of Bridget, who is an intern this semester for Congressman Mike Pence. This tour was a lot more fun, and interesting, mostly thanks to Bridget's knowledge and sense of humor.
After that, it was back to the hotel to quickly change out of wet clothes and meet up for pasta dinner with, in no particular order: my brother's wife, Jen, and her three children; my niece Andrea, a freshman at Georgetown U.; our friend Jordan, a senior at GWU; and Jen's cousin, Amy, and her daughter, Mackenzie. Also along for the Entire Ride were my law school friends, Lauren and Mary Kate, who were both AWESOME to be with the entire weekend. Despite my best intentions, by the time we got back to the hotel, packed and prepared for the next day, it was 10:30 and I fell into bed.
Not that I got a good night's sleep. I'm pretty sure that's impossible when you are traveling to a Marathon. I woke up almost hourly, before finally giving up on sleep at 5:00 a.m. I finally got up at 5:45, dressed, grabbed breakfast-to-go downstairs with dozens of other runners, then headed out to the Metro to meet Jen and her friend, Bill. It was very cold, and we shivered together while waiting over an hour for the Start. By the time we got into the starting corrals -- yes, like cattle -- I had to go to the bathroom and I was exhausted (no cofffeeeee).
Which you could tell, because it took me almost 1.5 hours to go a little over 6 miles. I was Totally Dragging. Lauren and MK picked me up, though, as they hit the bullseye and were at mile 7 with bananas, Gatorades, and hugs. With my Ipod securely attached, I started feeling better and made it past all the memorials and monuments with little if any problems. Out of nowhere, at some mile, I'm don't remember which one, Bill and Julia appeared, yelling loudly to catch my attention. I'm not sure if I've ever been so happy to see them! Once I got over to them, though, Bill promptly said, "Hi. Don't Stop. Your pace is 5.01, you've got to pick it up!"
Wow. That's all I could say. Wow. Thanks, honey.
Soon after, I found myself craving salt -- though it was a cool day, the sun was beating down and I had neglected to wear a hat or visor, so my face and arms were becoming salty with sweat. Then, as if from nowhere, an unofficial bystander magically appeared on the side of the course, not with margharitas or beer (yes, there were both of those being handed out unofficially) but with tortilla chips and mini pretzels. I grabbed a handful of pretzels, said "thank-you" no less than 10 times, and literally sailed on wings to the bridge.
Somehow, I managed to Beat The Bridge. In fact, I made it to the 20-mile Bridge in 4 hours, and promptly got very emotional. I had been so worried about not making it, about having to take the bus to the finish, that getting to The Bridge seemed like my own victory. Looking back, I guess it was. And, a good thing I took a minute to enjoy it, because ... that was the longest f-in bridge I have ever been on In My Life. It was a least a mile long, seemed like it would never end, no shade, no spectators, lots of walkers, a long swath of concrete bathing in the DC sun. Thankfully, the 21-mile marker was visible on the other side.
The last 5.2 miles were truly grueling. At mile 24, a lightbulb went off and I realized perhaps I should put some water Over my head instead of just drinking it. That small act managed to put a little life in my step, and actually helped propel me up the hill at the end (past the 20- something on a stretcher only 500 yards from the finish line) to finish just behind a mother-son combo waving their arms in victory. Nice.
I was still standing. Still smiling. Trying not to cry, to not break down. Searching frantically for my family, for any familiar face in the crowd. 26 miles in 5 hours is a long way to go by yourself, even if your Playlist is a familiar friend, and even when you know family and friends are not that far away. I pulled the MCM metallic cape in close around me -- I was actually cold when I took it off -- gratefully received my Finisher's Medal from the marines at the finish line, and then finally met up with Jen, Bill and the kids at the "S" Family Link-up. It seemed like hours later we were back at the hotel, showered, and taking victory pictures like the one above.
And now for the $64,000 questions: First, Would I do another one? Maybe. I'm not planning on doing one, but I won't write off the possibility. I won't do another marathon alone, though. Second, How Do I Feel Today? Answer: Great. Proud. Happy. I set a difficult goal for myself, and accomplished it. Believe it or not, completing a marathon was not on my bucket list (I don't even have one). I only signed up for the MCM because Jen asked me to do it with her; she needed something to work towards, to train for while Rob is on deployment. I always knew I could back out if I had to. And, I almost had to, when I hurt my hip. At that point I wasn't sure I could even run. Taking two weeks off during crucial training weeks was a big risk, though I had no choice; if I didn't take the time to heal, I couldn't run.
Above all, I feel Lucky. So much of my marathon journey had a lot to do with Luck. The hotel, the weather, the healed hip, the right sneakers (no blisters at all!) -- each one of those could have gone badly, but didn't. Lucky to have such a supportive family, lucky to even be able to do such a relatively small thing to show my brother how I feel about what he does on a daily basis for me and for our country. Lucky to not be running in memory of someone, like so many of the runners were. Lucky to have the opportunity to show my children that it's possible to set a difficult goal and achieve it. Lucky to have my father with me, if only in spirit. Just plain lucky.