Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Running The Marine Corps Marathon, Part I

Is it odd that I find writing a blog entry about my marathon experience is proving tougher than running the marathon, itself?

There is SO much I want to say, to explain, to share, that I hardly know where to start. Writing chronologically seems the best approach, though it means I am chomping at the bit to get to the great stuff.

My marathon weekend started with an uneventful plane flight out on Thursday, Oct 27th, from San Diego to Washington, DC. My husband and I came in mid-day, then headed back to the airport at midnight to pick up my running buddy, Jerry. On Friday morning, hopped on The Metro and headed into DC.

After a quick trip, we split up, the husband playing tourist on The Mall and me and Jerry going to the Fitness Expo at the DC Armory. Wow, what an experience. The packet pickup was quick and easy, so we were in great spirits to wander around and check out every vendor inside. We tasted beans and gels and blocks and chomps, tried on clothes and oogled high-tech gear. We shopped, browsed, and of course, bought cool Marine Corps Marathon jackets. Sure, the jacket was a bit pricey, but I decided that it was my once-in-a-lifetime experience and souvenir, and it was worth every penny. We walked out of there a couple hours later with swag bags filled to overflowing. (Thanks, Marine Corps Marathon and Semper Fi Fund for all the great goodies!)

After that, we headed back to the Mall to meet up with Ric. After a bit of outdoor sightseeing, we went inside and toured the National Museum of American History. It was a welcome break from the quickly-falling temperatures outside. (And yes, the weather will be a big part of my story still to come.)

Then it was Saturday, and we needed an indoor activity that wouldn't wear us out. We decided to visit the Marine Corps Museum in Quantico, and it was an amazing day. I could spend forever in there, surrounded by the amazing stories and histories of the bravest fighting men and women this nation has ever seen. And it seemed right to be there, given that we were running the Marine Corps Marathon the next day.

Soon enough, it was time to return to my friend's apartment, prepare for the marathon, and get a good night's sleep. Fat chance of that. As soon as we walked out of the museum, we knew we were in for a crazy running experience. The rain was coming down hard, the temperature was still dropping, and snow was on its way.

Snow. Seriously. The day before the marathon. So much for "expected race day high of 55 degrees," right? We got back to the apartment and my friend started digging around for warm clothes we could borrow. We found sweatshirts, long sleeve shirts, and running pants. Whew!

Sunday morning. After a night of very little sleep (nerves? excitement? fear of the cold?!), we were up early and ready to go. We walked the mile and a half from my friend's place to the Pentagon, and there we hurried and scurried around, anything to keep warm. With wind chill, the pre-dawn temperature was 25 degrees. And Jerry kept glaring at me, saying, "oh, it will be warm... perfect running weather... you'll love it!" Thank goodness we have been friends for so long that he will forgive me anything, right?

Soon enough, we changed out of our comfy top layers of clothes and dropped them off with gear check. We then walked the quarter mile or so to the highway and got in our corral. At this point, the event became real for me. I knew that soon enough, I was going to hear the cannon fire, start moving, cross the line, and be running my very first full marathon.

There was an amazing spirit and energy before the run began. People were laughing and dancing around (to stay warm, I think), and there was a great "we're all in this together" vibe. There weren't strangers, just running buddies that we hadn't met, yet. And mostly, those around us that had already run a full marathon were supportive and encouraging. They said all the right things to let us know that we were going to be just fine. They really helped put my nervous mind at ease before we started.

And then we were off. It took a full twelve minutes to get from our corral to the start line. By then, we were ready to move and shake off the cold morning. The 26.2 mile journey had begun.

To Be Continued...

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