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Friday, November 1, 2013

Running the Marine Corps Marathon

As many of my Facebook and Twitter friends know, I ran the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) last weekend.

It was a delayed goal (a 101 goal, in fact) of mine. We'd signed up to run last year, then I broke my foot and was out of the race. We still went to the race so The Boy and J could run the race. It turned out to be The Race that inspired an excellent travel story of outrunning hurricanes and snowstorms in an epic all-night drive.

But still, I didn't run that race. And I wanted to.

When I backed out of the MCM, I was able to defer my registration to this year's race. all we had to do was sign The Boy and J up to run it again as well.

Easier said than done. The MCM sold out within two hours, with the entire registration system crashing during the process. It was stressful.

And somehow in the madness to get them both registered, trying all sorts of registration alternatives when the primary system crashed, we ended up with two registrations for The Boy.

(Perhaps he was meant to run 52.4 that day? Kidding.)

We got that cleared up - sort of. A refund for one registration was issued but we still had two race bibs with his name associated when we went to the race (and last I checked on the race results page, "Kelly Hayley" will return two racers from Texas - one who ran and one who was a no-show).

If last year was the epic storm, this year was the epic hiccups.

Even the packet pickup process was affected - all of the power went out, slowing down the process and creating an hour-plus wait line that stretched from the DC Armory back to RFK Stadium.

All that being said, I've still never been more excited and less-stressed about a race. The weather was nice and cold (though humid), the new course layout was less hilly and I was going to run the race with a member of my Dallas-based training group.

My running buddy, S, is in the center.

Plus I didn't have a broken foot.

And double plus, the Marines sent out the most awesome video at 2:30 am the morning of the race. It still makes me laugh. (You have to click on the link above to watch it - I can't embed it here.)

We had a nice send-off at the start, with skydivers bringing in massive American flags (I've never seen anything like this before - apparently one of the flags was a world's record-largest) and the much-anticipated howitzer BOOM signaling go.

I'm not one to run a race with my phone to take photos, so I can't show you any of the 2000 Marines who staffed the course, telling us our pacing at every mile and encouraging us all the way.

But let me tell you: Marines won't lie to you while you run. I appreciate this - there's nothing worse than being told "You look great!" (No I don't) or "You're nearly there!" (Nearly where? To the water? To the finish line? To death?)

Marines tell you "Keep going!" and "You're a runner!" and "Don't let that bridge take you down!"

That's one of the reasons why this race was such a great one to run. Honestly, I didn't care one iota about the scenery by the time we got to the Lincoln Memorial (mile 10ish) or when we hit the Mall (mile 15ish) and most certainly not at the base of the Capitol (mile 18ish). Not.One.Iota. I was tired. My running buddy was a little sick. My legs were feeling heavy. We already knew we weren't going to be able to hold our goal pace.

However, we were running and we were still performing well and, by golly, we were going to "Keep going!"

So we didn't let The Bridge (mile 20) take us down. We didn't cave to the temptation to turn off towards the hotel at mile 24 and call it a day.

We also didn't take The Hill at the base of the Iwo Jima Memorial at the finish line - we had to walk that.

But we DID run the last .2 to cross the finish line in style.

I got a PR (personal record - another goal for me this year!). It was 12 minutes slower than I was hoping for, but it was nearly 20 minutes faster than my last race.

Keeping things in perspective is important.

And I was more than pleasantly surprised to see that I didn't look like death when S and I posed for our "We finished!!" photo. I actually, shockingly, looked pretty good.

This photo - snapped by J's wife S - about 45 minutes later is a much better reflection of how I truly felt:

Totally wiped out and ready to eat everything in sight. Seriously, I'm licking the peanut butter out of the container because I needed the calories. was a great race and tons of fun.

One of my students (a former Marine) told me what the Marines say about having to go on longer runs. I think it's a great way to wrap up my MCM experience:

It's just a little run, just for fun.

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