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.


  1. Sounds like you left it all out there. I love your style of race reports. Great job, makes me think I am thinking correctly for next year. Except that 14th Street Bridge. groan

  2. you're my hero. for real.

    (I'm really glad you didn't punch that marine.)

    Isn't it funny how you can go from hate to love so quickly in this race?

    Next year I am GOING to conquer that bridge!!! (What am i saying...?!?!?)

  3. oh and LOVE the schwag photo!! i've still got it scattered all over my dining room table!

  4. Wow, I can feel every step of your last 6 miles. I didn't know you had that tough of a time getting to the finish; I thought you just breezed on in! Still, you had a terrific run and it's inspiring me to go after it again!

    BTW - you're schwag photo left off a couple of beers and a few glasses of wine! C'mon now ;)

  5. Enjoyed your reports. I can't believe you actually remembered what happened every mile..

  6. What an effort! Great report, Bex. I only wish I could have been in 4 places at the same time--I would have loved to give you a hug at the finish:)

  7. You captured the internal thoughts --conflictly, most of the time -- of those last six miles so well. Great job coming through the chute with such an impressive time on the clock. I wonder who finished behind you, still trying to shake those Jolly Ranchers on their shoes!

  8. Great report, and time :)! My wife and I ran the Marine Corps this year. It was a lot of fun and we'd like to do it again next year. Great "loot" photo.

  9. Great job Bex! You totally rocked this marathon.

  10. Wow - I'm beat just reading that. I so know that feeling of wondering if there really is a finish line. But then you cross and Ahhhhh.... what a feeling.

    Excellent race report!

  11. Great job!! I felt like I was there with you!

  12. This is a most excellent race report! I love the mile by mile account!


  13. "A veritable sea of the halt and the lame."
    Those were some of my close personal friends. I thought I was doing well when I was still able to run/shuffle on by those on the roadside stretching their cramps out. It's just a matter of time before you crash and burn. Thank goodness for you the finish line was only 1/8 mile away when you had your freeze. Good for silver.

  14. Fantastic time! In my dreams I run a sub 4 hour marathon... I'm still working on a sub 5... I loved your marathon report. Thanks for visiting my blog. :)

  15. Congrats. Sounds like PR's were plentiful last weekend, as I also finished in record time. (Although not quite as quickly as you did!) It was a good race.

  16. Woooow. It's amazing to me that you were able to maintain the pace that you did for 26.2 miles! That you did stop at the very end was reassuring in that it showed that you are actually human, LOL. Congratulations on an amazing race!

  17. Awesome series of posts! Congratulations on a great marathon. I've always wanted to do MCM...

  18. Oh and your right... Punching Marines is probably a bad idea.... LOL

  19. Awesome report!
    You rock!

  20. Love your debriefings. I also love that you ate a full breakfast before the race. Iron stomach indeed! I can usually put down a bagel or two but that's it.

    Again, way to go, Bex.