Monday, October 26, 2015

Marine Corps Marathon Review

This was the 40th running of the famous Marine Corps Marathon (MCM).  About 25,000 of us lined up nervously just north of the Pentagon building in Virginia, ran through a little of Virginia and much of Washington DC, and finally finished back near where we started in Virginia.  It's a great marathon, one of the best.

My Race:

The 40th MCM was also my 90th marathon, all but one of those since my cancer diagnosis.  I finished in 6:32:37, within the 7-hour time limit by 27 minutes, number 51 of 67 in my 70-74 age group.  Mostly I walked, with a little running in the early miles, especially downhill.

My girls met me just after Mile 5 to cheer me and collect a few items that I no longer needed:  Extra shirt, gloves, and ear cover.

Handing the shirt to Sunshine

The MCM has a special feature called "Beat the Bridge," a race within the race, requiring runners to reach the 14th Street bridge in Washington sooner than 5 hours and 20 minutes after the starting gun.  If you lined up in front and crossed the start line in the first minute you could do this with a pace of 16 minutes per mile.  If you were the last runner to cross the start line, however, you would have about 23 minutes less and you would have to make a pace of 14:51, including all nature breaks, photos, whatever.

The race does not force runners into corrals at the start, as some races do, but has signs indicating where runners should line up, according to their expected finish time.  I lined up with the 4:30 group, even though I didn't expect to finish with them, because I was quite concerned about beating the bridge.  Indeed, I eventually arrived at the bridge with 17 minutes to spare, but if I had started at the back I would have had only about 3 minutes to spare, much too close for comfort.

After the bridge I slowed a little, feeling pain in my feet and legs.  My pace up to the bridge was 14:25 including all nature and photo stops, the pace after was 16:46, and the overall pace 14:58.  Toward the end of the first 20 miles I was passing almost everyone, even though I was walking and some were running.  After I slowed down I still passed quite a few.  I suspect that many runners had gone out too fast, concerned about beating the bridge, and now they were dragging even more than I was.

Whining: The only problem was pain in my feet and legs.  In most of my previous races my legs would ache a little toward the end, and afterward too, but I didn't experience that ache as pain.  It just felt as though those parts had been used a lot.  That feeling changed in this race, and I think it is neuropathy from the most recent myeloma treatments.  It did go away a few hours after the race and after a short nap, changing back from pain to ordinary muscle aches, a feeling that I really don't mind at all.  It comes with the territory.

Patients Rising and TNT:

I ran in support of Patients Rising, a new organization that fights for faster regulatory approvals for new medications, and for insurance coverage.  New, targeted medications don't do us patients any good if we can't get them.   To get into the race I also had to team up with a charitable organization, and I chose Team in Training (TNT), a fundraising wing of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS), which also supports myeloma research.  I loved running with them, cheering the many TNT runners and being cheered and supported by them as well.  Almost all of them are running because of a family member or friend with blood cancer.


Through the efforts of Patients Rising, my story was reported on the internet and on the air by Washington DC station WTOP-FM several times over the weekend, and by WJLA TV Saturday night.

The Marine Corps Marathon:

It doesn't get any better than this.

Except for the first four miles it's a flat race, winding through Virginia and Washington at the peak of fall color, almost as picturesque as cherry blossom season.  They close a lot of Washington on MCM day; we ran along the Potomac, then up and down both sides of the mall.

The race is extremely well organized, with hundreds (thousands?) of Marines and other volunteers making sure that every runner has the best possible chance of making it.  They've done this 40 times now, and they're getting good at it.  23,297 of us actually did cross the finish line.
Don looks happy at the finish

Just before the start, six parachutists dropped out of the sky, each flying an enormous American flag.  Soon after that a vertical takeoff & landing aircraft flew by with its two propellers facing up & down to make it a helicopter.  Soon it returned, flying faster, with its props facing forward & back like an airplane.  Cool stuff to an aircraft nerd like myself.  After that, until we got too close to Reagan National Airport, rackety military helicopters of various sorts flew overhead, as if to remind us that this was the Marine Corps Marathon and not just some ordinary, namby-pamby marathon.

I'd like to do this again some time.  I did it in 2011, so a third time.

Along the Way, Worth Mentioning:

  • Sign: "I'm well over 30, but I'm feeling 26.2."
  • Sign: "You run better than Congress does!"
  • Sign: "Free Advice."  As I ran by, I heard the man by the sign shout "Call your mother!"
  • There were other cute signs - I never can remember them all.
  • A man passed me skipping rope.
  • Another man passed me juggling 3 footballs and carrying a sign advising that they were fully inflated!
  • I cheered and was cheered by dozens of runners and spectators wearing purple shirts like mine.


41:21 (3 mi), 13:49, 28:15 (2 mi), 13:58, 13:24, 18:17 (nature break), 13:25, 14:04, 13:55, 14:09, 15:37 (nature break),13:31, 15:57, 14:31, 29:27 (2 mi), 14:39 (4:48:19 at 20 mi), 16:12, 17:30, 36:16 (2 mi & nature break), 15:33, 16:20, 2:43, total 6:32:53 on my watch, 6:32:37 on their clock.  I like their time better.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Three Runs, 13 Miles

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Tapering again - today I went five miles, almost all walking, very little running even when I felt like running, and still finished with an overall pace of 13:02.  It felt good, no problems with the right ankle, in fact no whining at all.

36:53 (2.9 mi), 27:07 (2 mi), total 1:03:59, 4.91 miles, pace 13:02.

Friday, Oct 16

Four miles at a pace of about 12:30, I think.  I forgot to record the splits afterward.

Tuesday, Oct 13

My right ankle twitched in the first mile, decreasing to no twitching in last mile.  I think that's a leftover effect from the recent chemo.

Two-mile splits: 26:20, 24:07, total 50:27, four miles, pace 12:37.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Eight Miles

Less mileage, but equal or greater intensity.  This was a taper run, of course, just half the distance of last Monday's longish run.

What a beautiful morning it was, cool but not cold, sun shining, with the trees now really beginning to showboat their dazzling fall plumage.  I stopped briefly a few times for photos, and stopped my watch for those moments as well.  I love fall color, and Minnesota color is as good as any in the country, better than most.

This was mostly a walk again today, but I did run now and then when I felt like it, usually downhill but uphill a few times.  I wouldn't do that in a marathon, but this was a training run and sometimes an uphill haul is fun.

Whining:  (1) Both feet hurt a little on the bottoms, from the current myeloma treatment; and (2) The right hamstring twitched a few times, painfully enough to make me drop from a run to a walk, but I think it was a nerve and not muscle injury.

Nevermind the whining, on the whole this was a delightful run.

Two-mile splits:  23:32, 25:10, 25:10, 23:32, total 1:37:24, pace for 8.04 miles 12:07.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Taper the Distance

But not the intensity.  That's my training after the long run leading up to the marathon.  Today I went only four miles, mostly walking as usual, but I ran whenever I felt like it, usually down hills but sometimes up too, just for fun.

The result was a pace of 12:23, more than good enough for today.  I'll try not to go that fast in the early miles of the upcoming marathon.  Steady as she goes.

Two-mile splits:  24:03, 25:29, total 49:32, pace 12:23

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Sixteen Miles, No Problems

Well, almost none.  Mostly walking, with occasional short runs, I achieved a pace of 12:54 over 16.02 miles.  I'm very happy with that.

I stopped at our house every four miles for a nature break, to shed clothing, and to refill the water bottle.  I stopped my watch during those breaks, something that I cannot do in a marathon.  The temperature was 39 at my start and 54 at my finish.  I took a clif shot gel and a salt tablet at miles 4, 8, and 12.

At the end I actually may have been speeding up a little; the last two miles were the quickest.

In three weeks I will have to get to Mile 20 of the Marine Corps Marathon in about 4:57, before they close the 14th Street bridge to runners.  If my pace is consistent, that means I'll have to get to Mile 16 in 3:57.  Today I did that distance with 30 minutes to spare, so if the marathon goes as well as today's run, I may have time for two or three nature breaks if needed.  After  Mile 20 the required pace will relax to 16 minutes per mile.

In the last six miles of this run I did have a little trouble with the top of my right foot, right at the opening of the shoe, as if my shoelaces were too tight there.  I re-tied the shoe a couple of times and it got a little better.  These are the same shoes that I wore in the last two marathons, and the same feet, but the socks have changed.  I use Wrightsox Running Light sox, to avoid blisters, and these are the same model, but they are a brand new pair.  Hmmm.

Two-mile splits: 26:07, 26:16, 25:09, 26:28, 26:59, 25:08, 25:55, 24:34, total 3:26:34, distance 16.02, pace 12:54.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Hello October!

Life is wonderful.  Leaves are turning, the air is clear and brisk, it's a season to celebrate.  My run (walk) today was magical.  I walked just as fast as I could, and ran a little too, for an overall pace of 13 minutes per mile.

Setting up for a long run Sunday or Monday, three weeks before the marathon.

Two-mile splits: 26:08, 25:55, total 52:03, 4.01 miles, pace 12:59.

We sold our house yesterday!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015:

After eight months on the market we handed over the keys and garage door remotes, and we are down to just one house.  It feels great.

Today's run (walk) was pretty good too.  Just 4.05 miles, but in 52:23, for a pace of 12:56.  I did run just a little of the time, but 95% walking.  This was DEX (dexamethasone) day, and sometimes those runs aren't so good, but this one was fine.  I enjoyed it.

Two-mile splits: 26:06, 26:17, total 52:23, pace 12:56.