By Melissa Peak Burton
Mile 6 was straight up hill again, all the way to mile 8. It was a long tough hill. I chose to walk it. Robbie was with me here. It’s where we first started “bonding” on the race. She was just one of those chipper runners you just enjoy being around. Having someone to talk to helps the miles go by, that’s for sure. She was just going on and on about how great the sights were, although, I quickly learned she was talking about the Marines on the course. I guess I’m kind of “immune” to those sights since I spent every day for four years around them and dressed like them. LOL
So I’m somewhere between miles 6 and 8, everyone along the course are yelling, “Just one more mile and the hill is done! Just one more mile!” There are a few flat spots in residential areas. I’m focusing on the environment around me. I really wanted to remember every moment, savor every bit. The streets, the houses, apartments, lofts, the trees… This isn’t an every day run. I’m trying to focus on the external, not what my body is saying to me. I’m past my “achy warmup miles (miles 1-3)” and I really feel good. (Have I ever mentioned I HATE 5k’s? It’s because it take 3 miles for me just to feel good.) I sail down the steep incline that I passed 3-4 miles earlier, but this time, there is no one on the other side. Me and my “friends” are bringing up the rear. I see the sweep vehicle on the way out at about mile 4.75. I’m a little over mile 8. I’m happy to see no one struggling to stay in front of the vehicle and no one in the sweep vehicle. I’m also happy there’s a pretty good space between me and the sweep vehicle…. Well, for now anyway.
As I come into the area of The Shoppes of Georgetown, I hear the crowds getting louder and louder. I see spectators spilling into the streets. There’s a water station right the beginning of the Shoppes. For the first time, I’m really paying attention to the Marines on the course. Almost all Marines working the water stations are brand new officers from The Basic School (TBS) or Officer Candidate School (OCS). It warms the heart of a former enlisted Marine to see young lieutenants on working parties, sweeping up the messes the runners left behind. Lord knows I did plenty of these kind of working parties as a young enlisted Marine myself… but I digress.
As I head out of Georgetown, I pass mile marker 9. I check my Garmin. Wow! I’m making great time…. until I realize my Garmin is stopped. See, I wear my Garmin 205 upside down, on the underside of my wrist. When I have to fight with a particularly stubborn water bottle, I sometimes bump the start/stop button in the process. I did that here, but I don’t know how long it had been when I discovered the issue. UGH! From this point on in the race, I realize how “dependent” I am on my Garmin. I’m a numbers person so I want to know what my splits are, how my overall pace is, etc.
I try to shake my Garmin issue off and go on. I come to the first food stop. I was expecting Sport Beans on course, but I always carry my own anyway. Imagine my surprise when I started slip sliding on orange peels. Now I love oranges so I happily took a couple of wedges. Big mistake. I ended up with pulp and skin all in my teeth. I can’t stand stuff stuck in my teeth so I messed with that petty stuff for a while. I realize later I totally missed the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts because I was distracted. UGH!
Now we’re running along the Potomac River and the wind really starts to kick up. Of course, it couldn’t be a tail wind. No, it has to be a lovely mix of cross wind and head wind. I see the monuments and bridges in the distance so I keep going. Between mile 10 & 11, I see a runner juggling and take a picture. All I think is “sure, just make the rest of us look bad.” LOL
We come up to the edge of the National Mall. The crowds are thick along the course… going the other way… they’re cheering for the runners that look serious and don’t smile or stop for pictures…. runners unlike me. LOL I pretend all the people with their backs to me are really yelling for us and I keep going. At this point, I know I’m coming to what is known as the most boring part of the course; the out and back through West and East Potomac Parks. A runner I met on the flight down was doing her 10th Marine Corps Marathon. She told me that used to be miles 18-20 for the race, and it was horrible because there wasn’t any crowd support out there. She was glad they had us do that early in the race and saved the National Mall for those miles when you needed the crowd support.
I meet up with my new friend, Robbie, again at mile 12 when she stopped to try to take of picture of her with the “cute” Marine manning the mile marker. She was having trouble with their self-portrait, so I ran up and offered to take it for her. We got their picture done and we took off again. We came up to the next food station and guess what? Clif Shots and they gave the last one to the runner in front of me. Again reassured of my decision to carry my own hydration and nutrition, I keep going.
Remember that wind I told you about? East Potomac Park is on a peninsula between the Potomac River and the Washington Channel. Wind is coming in every which direction but from behind. UGH! I crossed the half marathon point and kept going. Two ladies stopped on the course, said they were done and handed their shot bloks off to anyone who would take them. I ended up with CranRazz… one of my favorites.
Since I was “jonesin’” to know my actual time, I posted on facebook asking someone to look up my chip time. A friend obliged and I was happy to know I ran my slowest half ever, coming in at 3:00 and some seconds. Perfect. Right on track.
Coming back toward the National Mall, I ran by some men who were running a intervals and just chatting a way the whole time. I started watching. They were doing 1:1 intervals, nice and easy and soon they left me in the dust. They weren’t running much faster than I was, but they were well rested and were making good time. Hmmmm… maybe there is something to 1:1 intervals. I think I’m going to try that for the Goofy.
My pace stayed between 13:30-13:45/mile through the first half of the marathon. I kept my solid pace, I had to ‘beat the bridge’ at mile 20 by staying below 14min/miles until then.
I’m coming back towards the mall and the wind is really getting challenging. Cross winds, head winds… it just sucked. Never a tail wind. I’m trying to focus on the sights. To my right, across the Washington Channel is a harbor of sorts with all these HUGE yachts. David and I are getting married on a 100’ yacht in May. I thought “our yacht” was huge. “Our yacht” looks like a little john boat compared to these things. They are massive… impressive. It provides a nice distraction for a while.
Now this is a “respectable” marathon, but we have to remember, it is also Halloween. My costume for the day was to come dressed as a marathoner. Seriously, at this point it was feeling as just that… just a costume. All the “business” marathoners had left me in the dust a long time ago, but I was plugging along. While I chose to costume myself as a marathoner, some went a little further. Especially two ladies dressed in 80’s workout attire, complete with neon leotard, tights, leg warmers, hand bands, etc. They had their own course support dressed in their own form of costumes. I was with these ladies off and own through mile 19. They were quite the distraction. With the bright colors, it was hard to keep your eyes off of them. I’m sure men running behind them didn’t mind the distraction….
About the time we got back to the Lincoln Memorial end of the National Mall, I was near a father and son running together. The father made a comment about not being a marathoner. I corrected him, reminding him that we get the same medal as the person that comes in 4th place. After some encouragement from me, his son, and other runners, he finally relented. He was a marathoner and he was going to finish this race. I didn’t see these two again, but I did notice on the finishers list, there was a father and son, about the age of these two, that finished at 7:23. I’m sure it was the two I talked to. He really was a marathoner.
After we rounded the Lincoln Memorial, we run what the Marines call “The Gauntlet.” It’s the length of the National Mall, the pedestrian area. At this point, I’m tired and I’m hungry. I’m craving something salty. There are food vendors all over the place. Remembering that I had stashed some cash in my belt, I was really tempted to get something salty. I really needed it. Mental note for the Goofy: carry pretzels or something salty. Or at a minimum, my Margarita Shot Bloks with triple the sodium. I had only packed one package that I shared with David before the race because it wasn’t hot. I didn’t think I would sweat as much as I did. The lines were long for the concessions, so I kept going.
David was texting me, telling me he’s cramping and slowing down. Duh! He was probably needing salt, too. Or it was his lack of training. I encouraged him on by text, telling him he had plenty of time to “beat the bridge” while realizing time was running out for me. Yikes. I need to get moving. I press on and somehow completely miss seeing the White House. Now, in my defense, it is a few blocks off of the National Mall, but I know there is an unobstructed view of the White House. I was realizing I was starting to cut it close when it came to beating the bridge to finish this race.
Part 3 tomorrow.