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.


:) said...

The Football Guy is called the Joggler. He was at Twin Cities Marathon too.


Don said...

Thanks :) - I've seen a juggler at some other marathons too, maybe the same guy.

Randy Boler said...

Great job, Don! You're in inspiration to all of us for your hard work and determination. Whew, 90 marathons? You rock, buddy!