#MissionAccomplished #RaceRecap: 2014 Marine Corps Marathon

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Well that sums it up! Mission Accomplished!

I don’t know if a blog post on the MCM will really do it any justice. It was just so well done in my opinion. People have also asked me to compare it to my first marathon, the Cincinnati Flying Pig, and I just can’t. Both really are great races.

Now to recap it! I apologize if it’s a long read ūüôā

I entered the lottery for the Marine Corps Marathon having not even run my first marathon. A marathon friend of mine thought I was a bit crazy. What if I didn’t like it? It was a chance I was willing to take and I guess I just knew in my gut I’d enjoy myself. I know there are people out there who don’t like the lottery system at all. I’m not one of those people. There are races where I understand the need to qualify, like Boston, but the Marine Corps Marathon isn’t called “The Peoples Marathon” for nothing. On another note, it gets rid of the technological issues that arise when so many people try to register for a race at once. Finally, it’s random so it’s fair. Everyone has a shot. There’s always the option of running for a charity, which can be more expensive, but is for a good cause and may be more rewarding.¬†Anyway, I thought the¬†registration process went smoothly and that their communications were clear, effective, and timely leading up to the event.

I got to D.C. on Saturday morning after spending the night in Maryland with my family. Gabe and I headed straight to the expo at the Armory. Apparently entry into the expo improved since last year, but the line was still quite long. It wrapped almost the entire way around the building. On the bright side, it moved fast and security was efficient. Once inside, there was no line to get your bib, bag or shirt.

I saw these graphics throughout the weekend and found them pretty helpful.

I saw these graphics throughout the weekend and found them pretty helpful.

The expo had a lot of great vendors. I ended up buying another shirt from the Brooks Marine Corps Marathon official store. The official shirt this year was brown and I initially was not thrilled. However, it’s a really nice shirt that will be great to run in during the winter and even use as a layer while skiing. The graphic on the back is cool and I guess brown is a legitimate color to pick when you’re talking about the military. Regardless, I also bought a pretty pinkish tech shirt with “Beat the Bridge” on it with these pretty roses on the back. The check out line for that part of the expo was streamlined and fast.

One of my favorite exhibits (totally not the right word) were the service dogs for soldiers suffering from PTSD. GE was sponsoring them and there were at least 6 there and all were different breeds. I got a picture with this cutie!

He was working so I couldn't pet him, but he was so sweet. It's so wonderful there is an organization to provide these dogs for soldiers.

He was working so I couldn’t pet him, but he was so sweet. It’s so wonderful there is an organization to provide these dogs for soldiers.

After the expo, we headed to our hotel in Arlington. I booked at one of the partner hotels for the race as recommended. While I didn’t take advantage of it, they offered a shuttle to the metro race morning. In addition, we got a reusable bag at check-in, and they also opened their breakfast earlier than normal and had goodies for runners, including water bottles, apples and bananas.

I ultimately decided to use Parking Panda¬†to guarantee me a spot in a garage. I picked the garage at the Hilton in Pentagon City because it was a block from the race shuttles. It couldn’t have been more perfect. We didn’t have to wait long at all to get on a shuttle¬†to Runners Village, and after the race we also got right on without much of a wait. Everyone said the metro was a pain because it gets¬†really crowded and you end up standing forever to get on it after the race. I would definitely do the shuttles again and highly recommend it. Apparently there was free parking near the shuttle pickup, but I didn’t want to chance it and my parking spot was only $8.

We were dropped off near the Pentagon, although I couldn’t tell you where because it was dark. We then walked to security. It was a long line, but the Marines and law enforcement officials were efficient and I thought quite thorough. Once through, I decided to hit a port-a-potty. There was so many! It was a runner’s dream. I might have been in line behind 2 people. Granted it was only like 6:15 a.m. and the race didn’t start til 8 a.m. However, there were already a great number of people there.

After, Gabe and I sat in the parking lot for a bit before heading to the corals to meet our two running friends and their wives. The pre-race events were pretty cool. They had parachuters with American flags coming down and landing at the start line. They also had a flyover by what I think were Ospreys…military aircraft of some sort…and they flew¬†really low. Also very cool! They definitely get you excited to run.

I thought the course was beautiful. Having grown up visiting D.C. often, I forgot how nice everything is near the monuments, the Capitol Building, in Georgetown and Rock Creek Park. The course was pretty flat throughout. There was a long hill early near mile 4 that was no big deal, plus it was followed by a downhill right after. While running into Rock Creek Park, I felt like I was running downhill. But, on the way back out the same way I don’t recall feeling like I was running uphill so it must’ve been a really gradual incline. The other hill I remember was literally within site of the finish line. After you pass where the¬†start line had been you make a sharp left and go straight up a short, steep hill to the finish. Seems a bit cruel, but honestly you’re just so happy to be done that I don’t think most people were even concerned.

Despite checking my bag with the UPS trucks at Runners Village, I kept my phone with me in my new Spibelt. I took a chance and ordered one the week of¬†the race (gotta love Amazon Prime) and didn’t test it out before…unless you count jumping around my hotel room to see if it would move as an official test. I only stopped to take two photos during the race because I decided to just enjoy it without technology impacting my experience. Below is one of those photos. By the way, the Spibelt was awesome. It didn’t move, it didn’t rub, it didn’t bother me one bit. LOVE IT!

Heading up the mall toward the Capitol Building. Some major work going on I'd say!

Heading up the mall toward the Capitol Building. Some major work going on I’d say!

Throughout the race I thought the water and food stations were well staffed and organized. There were tons of tables at each station and they were all working very hard to make sure everything you needed was ready and available. I really appreciated the orange slices at the one food station. I normally don’t enjoy oranges, but during a marathon they taste so much better!

Another thing to highlight would be spectator support. The only place I felt it was quiet was heading out around the point. Instead of spectators, Wear Blue had lined the road with signs of fallen soldiers on one side with tons of American flags. It was incredible to see. The other side of the road had fun signs about running, and while some were made for specific people, a great many were really for anyone. It kept you occupied and entertained. I got to see Gabe and my friend Jen at mile 16, one of the recommended spectator spots. That was a nice boost with 10 miles to go.

In addition to spectator support, I was also pleasantly surprised by how friendly everyone was on the course. I had a nice conversation with a fellow runner during the few miles in Rock Creek Park, as well as another man near mile 25. We were both excited to be so close to being done.

I loved coming into the finish area. There were tons of spectators, at least one band, and tons of Marines high-fiving you and cheering you on. After you crossed the finish line you had a short way to the shoots to receive your medal from a Marine. They were all so incredibly nice and congratulatory. I felt very honored and humbled.

He was kind enough to take a photo with me.

He was kind enough to take a photo with me.

After you received your medal you could get in line for a finisher photo with the memorial. There were numerous photographers here so the lines went pretty fast. I like mine and might purchase it.

Such an inspiring memorial.

Such an inspiring memorial. I took this while waiting in line for an official photo.

Finally it was on to Hospitality. Water came first, then Gatorade protein drinks (not a personal favorite as I would’ve preferred chocolate milk haha), and the official Marine Corps Marathon snack boxes. Oh, and we can’t forget bananas. This was actually a really nice change from most races. Most races have a ton of food and a lot of it is junk food from cookies to chips and more. I’m honestly not normally hungry at the end for more than a banana. The snack box was filled with a variety of healthy snacks including these blueberry crisps, a fruit cup, a granola bar, corn chips, and a few other things. There was also a wet wipe too! I saved the box and have been eating the snacks over the course of the past week.

From there it’s a bit of a long walk to the family meet up area. On the way I picked up their official finisher’s jacket that’s biodegradable. They also had the foil blankets, but the jacket (which I’d liken to a really nice paper towel) was nice and I’ll probably reuse it at another race. GE was also passing out some things, including a mini first aid kit that I’ve since added to my gym bag. It had chapstick, sunscreen, bandaids, and a few other small items.

After finding Gabe, Bill and Jen, they headed off to lunch and I picked up my bag from the UPS truck and we headed toward the shuttles. It was uphill, but that’s ok! It gave us a chance to pass by the entertainment!

Who knew the Marine Corps had a rock band?

Who knew the Marine Corps had a rock band?

I don’t think I remotely did this race justice in this post. I just hope that you takeaway is that it’s incredibly well done. I’m so proud to be a finisher and I’d definitely enter the lottery again. It was truly a special, memorable experience. A big thank you to my supporters, Gabe, Jen, Joyce, Bill and Norm (who both ran), my family, friends in State College and afar, race volunteers, and all the Marines, other military members, and law enforcement who made the day one I’ll never forget.

I dedicated my race to my grandfathers, both WWII veterans, my uncle who fought in Vietnam, and my cousin Scott who has had one heck of a career in the Army. I know they were all proud of me.

 

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