Virginia: The Marine Corps Marathon 2011

  • Location: Virginia: The Marine Corps Marathon
  • Date: October 30, 2011
  • Age: 45
  • Time: 4 Hours 42 Minutes and 26 seconds.

va-marathon-2011

(Heather, my niece, and I after the race sporting our “bling”)

I registered in February for this one – it sells out in ONE day! Heather, my niece, and her boyfriend Aaron will run this marathon with me. I am running in honor of Mr. Lionel, my friend who is a retired Marine – SEMPER FI!

August, 2011: I’m starting my training – as of 8/14/11, I am up to 14 miles. At this point, I start to wonder why? With two under my belt, I know the reasons why: there is just no event like a marathon.

October, 2011: Done all of the training! First year I trained at 20 & 22 miles! Now my favorite part – taper and eat. I am excited and of course, nervous.

October 29 – Saturday evening @ 10 PM: I should be sleeping; instead, I am drinking herbal tea and wide awake. Heather and I intend on joining the 4:30 pace group. Aaron, Laurie and Rick (my sister and brother-in-law) will be cheering us on. (Footnote: Aaron was supposed to run but is now cheerleading.) It almost snowed today – instead, we got sleet and freezing rain. Temperature for the marathon will be a low of 36 degrees (at the start time of 8 AM) to a high of 46 degrees at the finish. This is Sacramento all over again!! It is supposed to be sunny so at least we have that in our favor.

This marathon experience will prove to be a bit of a melancholy one. My friend, Mr. Lionel, who I am running this in honor of, is sick. He may have liver cancer. I am so glad that I am running this one for him. I am also thinking a lot about my mom who is still hanging tough in her fight against breast cancer. I thank God that I am able to run, that I am healthy and that all is well with my family. Amen! Amen! Amen! I can’t wait to run one with Jasmine (my daughter), Mourad (my hubby) and Laurie someday. I better try to sleep.hahahahaha.

Sunday October 30 @ 5:54 AM: Woke up at 4:45 AM ahead of my alarm – I don’t think I really went to sleep fully until 2 AM! (Typical pre-race nerves) Weather seems to be holding tight between 36 – 46 degrees. My fellow racers seemed to be broadsided by this change in weather so atypical for this time of year. No complaining allowed in the Marine Corps Marathon – our soldiers endure far worse.

6:15 AM: Heather and I waited in a vain attempt for our “morning constitutional” but no such luck so we’ll have to deal with what lies ahead. After my normal pre-race breakfast of Power Bar, coffee, banana and water, Heather, Aaron and I are off to the shuttle for the start line.

Approximately 7:30 AM: After a port o’potty stop, we are moving towards the start line. What a HUGE marathon! (21,000+) Talk about herding cows! The weather is sunny but cold. It feels tolerable – better than Sacramento.

Heather and I worm our way up to the 4:30 pace group. The leader is speaking but I can’t hear a word she is saying. We are squashed like sardines. If you are claustrophobic, this is not the race for you. We meet a very nice and TALL guy named Pat from Syracuse, NY and a gal named Jennifer from Richmond, VA. Everyone is pumped but it is a somewhat low key feeling compared to the other two marathons.

8:00 AM: After a quick goodbye to Aaron, we are off! The pace leader is WAY ahead of us even though Heather’s Garmin says our pace is ahead of 4:30. I told her just to stick together and we’ll catch up to her.

Approximately Mile 5 – 6: Guess what I NOW have to do??!!? As Heather seems to be fine, I tell her to go ahead and Jennifer and I will catch up to her later.

Somewhere between Miles 6 – 8: My shoe comes untied and I lose Heather while fixing it. Jennifer and I remain together.

Somewhere between Miles 9 – 11: I can’t remember in which order this happened but let’s start with the “cone” incident. I stopped to get water and tripped over an orange cone. I went straight down on my knees – some blood, not bad. (Remember no complaining – Marine territory). The next incident was the second “shoe” incident – untied again! At this point, I tell Jennifer to go ahead and I’ll try to catch up. What a comedy of errors! I still feel good – all things considered.

Right before Mile 12: The best highlight of the race – “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond is being played by the band alongside the route. This song was my Dad’s trademark on the guitar. It always pops up on the radio or on my IPOD when I ask him to let me know if he is thinking of me. The night before the race, I had asked him to be with me during the race and to send me a sign. It was hard not to tear up but instead, I smiled and carried on. Thanks Dad!

Mile 15: I’m starting to feel like I have to go again! What a day! By now I know that I am not going to make up the time. This will not be my best race but I am going to concentrate on enjoying it nonetheless.

Footnote: A grand and glorious perk is passing by some of our country’s grandest landmarks: the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and Arlington Cemetery. Due to the crisp, cool nature of the weather we are able to see all of these sights and more in their splendor.

Mile16 – 19: My left foot is starting to hurt but I am going to ignore it as I watch several people in hand propelled wheelchairs pass me by. I know when I get to mile 20 I can talk myself through. I am a bit lonely at this point because interaction is virtually nil. My cohorts are probably trying to breathe and are going through their own pain.

The signs you see being carried by the supporters are funny, encouraging and downright creative. Here are some of my favorites from this race:

  1. “I don’t know you but I’m so proud of you.”
  2. “Beat Oprah!” (She ran the MCM in 1991.)
  3. “You have no other f—ing option but to finish.”
  4. “Do it for Chester!” (Pulley – Google that one)
  5. “Chuck Norris never ran a marathon.”
  6. “You are the 1% of the population that has run a marathon and I am part of the 99%.”
  7. “My wife runs marathons and I drink beer.’
  8. “I thought you said it was 2.62 miles!”
  9. “You are my hero!’

And last but not least, all of the wonderful pictures on the backs of the runners honoring loved ones. God bless them all.

Mile 20 – 22: Going over the bridge – I was warned this area would be a lot quieter because spectators are not allowed. What an understatement. In the end, however, you have to run the marathon for you – and no one else.

Mile 23 – 25: Here comes the part where I talk incessantly with myself. I’ve got some energy left but I’m tired. I just keep saying “Do another mile – keep going.’ The crowd thickens. We are going to make it. That’s good.

Mile 26 to the end: OK – I know this is it! For some reason, I don’t get the usual euphoric rush but in general I feel really good. I start smiling. This has to be the end – I’m out of GU!

The very end: We run the last quarter mile UPHILL to the finish line. It is a lot smaller than I envisioned it would be. I am still thrilled to know that I did it! Number three under my belt! We come to a dead stop right after crossing the finish line. There is definitely a bottle neck due to the distribution of foil blankets and the coveted finisher’s medal. I was honored to shake the hand of the marine as he slipped my coveted prize over my neck. I feel as if I should shake his for the job he does for us each and every day.

It takes a long time with all of those people to get to the meeting point. While we received a lot of nice goodies at the end, I had the opportunity to strike up some conversations with my fellow finishers.

Thirty minutes later, I find Heather and Aaron. I am so proud of my niece! She finished ahead of the pace group at 4:26 and never stopped once! She was awesome and even though we didn’t run “together” we created a fabulous memory.

As for Laurie, Rick and Aaron, what a great supporting team! (I’m thinking of paying them to come with me to the next one.) They tracked us via some system from the race that updated them on our whereabouts. They waved, cheered and braved the elements just to be there – another fabulous memory!

In conclusion, the MCM was its own unique set of adventures and memories. Even though it was my slowest time, I’ve come to realize that it’s not about whether you win or lose but how you play the game. As long as I am willing and able, I will be in the game ready to embrace and take on the next challenge.

As for next year, I am not sure. I am thinking about Colorado but if my mom is still here, I will go back to the East Coast again. In any event, look forward to the next installment of the “Marathon Diaries.”

Thanks for listening,

Pam November 1, 2011