Monday, October 31, 2005
Marine Corps Marathon: RUUUUN!!
Just a few feet away from the MCM finish line: Me exhorting Jeanne to "RUN! This is it! You've got to beat me!" Which she did. Photo credit: S.
I got a taste of the Marine Corps Marathon yesterday. I jumped in at the 20-mile marker to help my friend, Jeanne, cross the finish line. It was her first marathon.
It was a beautiful fall afternoon in the high 60's. The sun warmed my legs and shoulders as I looked for her at the 18-mile marker. But I somehow missed her while cheering on other race participants. I clapped and yelled encouragement to the run/walkers, who by then were looking either okay or plain exhausted. "Doing great! Looking strong!" I said. Most smiled gratefully. I only got one dirty look.
Jeanne's entourage: So I ran back to the 20m marker and hoped that the Marine who kept looking my way wasn't going to collar me for banditing the race. I saw Jeanne as she rounded a corner. She smiled as I joined her and another friend, Naomi, who fell in with her at mile 15 to cheer her on.
Mile 20 was tough for the runners. It's on the 14th Street bridge, a bridge that crosses the Virginia and D.C. borders. We're talking a six-lane highway with no shade in sight. We baked on that bridge. And by the time we were on it, at around 1:40 p.m. or so, cars were streaming across the other side.
Jeanne was doing the Galloway method - running for 2 minutes, then walking 2 minutes. Her watch beeped every 120 seconds as a reminder. But as the race wore on, she started walking through her running portions.
*$%&!@!#: So Naomi and held hands with her and started race-walking and did a countdown of 10 big steps: "10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5 ...." we would chant, while taking long strides. That went on every 10 minutes until Jeanne got sick of it and started cursing at us. Then would apologize a few seconds later. Then would start cussing at us again. I just giggled.
At around mile 23, we saw Jeanne's nemesis. Let's call her B. As in blowsy. As in big butt. No, I don't have to be charitable. She was in Jeanne's weekend running group. Apparently she complained every step of the way during those Saturday morning long runs. About how the pace group was too fast for her (this from a woman who didn't bother to run AT ALL during the week). About how Jeanne got injured because she was pushed herself too hard. About the sun. The moon. The stars.
Well. We saw her ahead of us at mile 23. She was squeezed into shiny black spandex tights (must've been hot!) and a skimpy black spandex top. He shoulder-length frosted hair was loose - apparently she didn't mind it getting in her face.
I gave her the once-over as she shuffled along. "We can beat her," I said to Jeanne. She threw water on herself to cool down. She was looking a tiny bit peaked. But determined.
"I don't care," she replied, setting her jaw.
Oh, but she did. Just not right then. Noames and I pushed her to jog. And soon, B. was behind us. After the race, after she finally had a chance to sit down, I told Jeanne, "We smoked that woman's ass." She was quite happy with that.
Iraqi wounded: There were about 50 racers in the wheelchair division. Many were soldiers injured in the Iraq war. A handful of runners were also missing a limb, usually a leg. One injured young man had a 12+ strong group of fellow soldiers with him to for the entire marathon. We saw him at mile 25. He looked very, very tired. He had slowed to a painful walk. But he looked incredibly determined.
High-Five!: I didn't mean to cross the finish line. I really didn't. But I was afraid Jeanne would stop running and balk at that last short but steep hill to the finish line. But of course, she didn't. No thanks to me.
With 20 yards to go and people cheering her on, I started raving like a banshee, screaming,'This is it! This is really it! You've got to run it in!"
I'm surprised she didn't reach up and cuff me behind the ear, I was so annoying.
I kept up the maniacal screaming. Then I started running, and yelled,"You can do it - you've got to beat me to the finish line! C'mon! Come ON!"
And she did. Jeanne crossed finish line at 6:30:41. I was right behind her, much to my discomfiture (I so totally bandited this race) and more than a dozen Marines, standing on either side of the finish line, roared encouragement and high-fived me across: Slap, slap, slap, slap. Boy, were they cute.
Then they started steering me towards the medals, and I ducked out right quick. I did NOT earn a medal, and most definitely not one handed over by a hunky young soldier. I'd pretended long enough that I was a real MCM runner. I then hied to the food/drink tents to meet Jeanne and the rest of her friends.
She told me that she hugged the Marine hard who placed the medal around her neck. Then she gave him a big kiss. "Why, thank you," he said, grinning.
I'm so impressed with Jeanne's effort and accomplishment. It's made me want to run a marathon of my own. Mardi Gras Marathon, here I come.