Friday, November 03, 2006
MCM Debriefing #3: Miles 17-26.2
Some of the schwag you get at the Marine Corps Marathon expo.
Mile 17, 8:47: A kind soul holds out a bowl of Jolly Rancher candy. I grab a couple and pop them in my mouth. Raspberry and apple. Mmm. Then I start choking and spit them out. People are few and far between here, a long, lonely and extremely windy peninsula of parkland.
Mile 18, 9:05: A. is still talking. The lungs on this girl :-) She asks, "Do you want an orange?" after we run past a bystander with a bowl of citrus slices.
"No," I said. Pause.
"YES!" I said. She runs back to the orange person and returns two minutes later. She runs in front of me and passes an orange slice behind her back. I grab it and greedily chew.
Mile 19, 8:56: Somewhere around here, I have the last GU. I've had a lot to eat in this race. Luckily, I have an iron stomach. A. runs in front of me for a few minutes, trying to block the wind. But I'm scared of running into her, and stay to the side.
Mile 20, 9:10: We leave Haines Point and head toward the dreaded 14th Street Bridge. The crowd roars. I run up a ramp and glance at the time clock: 2:58:10. I look for my friend, H., who's supposed to run with me from here to the end. I also look for work colleagues who said they'd come. But all I see is a blur of faces.
Mile 21, 9:17: The wind, which has been gusty and strong all morning, really gives me a whipping on the sere and desolate 14th Street Bridge, which is also on an incline. A. left me about a half-mile back, having run 10 miles with me. I already miss her.
For the first time, I see scores of runners walking, their heads down, or stretching. These are the folks who went out too fast. I run by them, though my calves are starting to spasm.
My local running club has a cheering section here, and I see one skinny dude holding a tub of orange slices. I recognize him - he's usually flying around the track with the rest of the hares.
I want an orange. But I'm too tired to talk. So I stretch out my hand, point at the oranges, and say, "Uggghh!"
He understands and hands me a slice. I manage to say "Thank you!" before popping the orange in my mouth. I chew madly, then chuck it over the bridge.
Mile 22, 9:21: I run past a woman wheelchair participant that I've seen off and on throughout the race. She looks dog-tired. She's trying mightily to push up the never-ending incline. I yell encouragement.
Mile 23, 9:17: In Crystal City, a neighborhood of restaurants, shops and office buildings. The crowds are back in force. I run through a corporate Target tunnel that blares rock music.
Several women hold out mini-Dixie cups of what looks like apple juice. I'm struck with an overpowering thirst. I run over with a glazed look in my eyes.
"It's beer!" they say. I swerve away.
I see Rich. I shout and wave. He's about a 1 and 1/2 miles behind me now, and walking. He's not smiling anymore. I try to send out good vibes. But I'm not feeling so chipper myself.
Mile 24, 9:30: When is this effing race going to end? For the first time, I walk through a water stop as I drink a cup of Gatorade. Ahhhh. Start running again. I see a spectator holding a banana and I almost grab it. But I'm too tired to peel it. I run past.
Mile 25, 9:18: What. The. F. I hate this race. Then a Marine steps up and says, "Stay positive! You're doing great! You're almost there!" I'm too exhausted to say thank you, but I smile gratefully. I push on.
Mile 26. 9:32: On a long stretch of highway. Lots of folks stopping to stretch. A few sit down, defeated. A veritable sea of the halt and the lame. A military emergency vehicle streaks by, lights flashing and horns blaring, with a runner wrapped up like a mummy in the back.
At the last water/Gatorade stop, I try to grab a cup of water, but the Marine holding it hands it someone else. "Oops, sorry," he says, and chuckles. My outstretched hand turns into a fist.
"Must not punch Marine," I think. "Must. Not. Punch."
I unclench my hand and run further down, where a dozen Marines want to hand me Gatorade. Love the Marines.
I am so tired of running. Every muscle in my legs and back hurt. I close my eyes. Then open them. Yep. Still running. Damn.
Mile .2, 2:26: Spectators jump up and down and scream wildly. I see E. for the first time as I run up that last steep, quad-busting hill. He's yelling my name and pointing a videocamera at me. I wave him off. "Blah, blah, blah," I think.
I am not excited. I am so over this damn race. I dimly realize that this is the exhaustion and glycogen-depletion talking.
With about 1/8 of a mile to go, I stop. Several runners go by and say, "C'mon!" I start running. After about 10 paces, I stop again. Take a breath. Finally realize that the faster I go, the sooner I can lie down.
I start running. And cross the finish line in 3:56:53.
A hunky Marine places a medal over my neck and congratulates me. Then wraps me up in a space blanket. I grab a bottle of water and slowly waddle with other sweaty runners to the Iwo Jima Memorial. I find a small spot of grass and lie down.
I close my eyes and turn my face to the sun. And smile.