Holy shit, I ran a marathon. Sorry for the language, but that’s what I keep thinking and what I kept thinking along the course of the 41st Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC on Sunday, October 30, 2016. Holy shit, it’s freaking hot out here. Holy shit, that’s a lot of people. Holy shit, is this a hill at mile 2? Holy shit, people keep leaving me messages! Holy shit, that’s a lot of cups. Holy shit, that’s The Capitol. Holy shit, it’s hot. Holy shit, my toenail just fell off. Holy shit, that was hard. Holy shit, I did it.
I got up a little after 5:00 a.m. after a crappy night’s sleep. I got dressed, had half a cup of hotel room coffee, used a wooden coffee stir stick to smear peanut butter onto a cinnamon raisin bagel (it was all they had at CVS) and tossed it, along with a banana and some Cheerios, into my clear plastic gear check bag. Then I continued to check and double checked my gear check bag, trying to make sure I had everything I would need for the day. Flip belt. Water bottle and holster. Headphones. Ziploc baggie. Kleenexes. Target bags. Shot blocks. Sandals. Pretzels. Cliff bar. Sunglasses. Dry shirt. Metro card. Money. Hotel room key. Trail mix. 5:45 a.m. Let’s do this.
I took the elevator to the lobby and joined the throng of other runners who were walking from various hotels to the shuttle stop just a block away. I could see a line of 9 or 10 nice chartered buses all in a row with some Marines in uniform standing next to them. Score. I’m in the right spot. I saw a short line near the parking garage next to the shuttle stop. I figured I’d hop right in the back of that line and then hop right on a bus. Nope. Underground line fake out! That short little line I saw from a distance snaked its way down and all throughout the parking garage, engaging a tiny flare of panic as I kept walking and walking, trying to find the end. Turns out the Marines and their well-organized fleet of plush chartered buses had us moving in no time. I waited maybe 10 minutes underground and soon boarded a bus to the Pentagon, with Mike from Savannah, GA, who was running his first marathon, and thousands of other runners.
It was a quick ride over to the “Runner’s Village”, where we disembarked and then walked the half mile or so to what is really just a series of parking lots with hundreds of porta potties, a few wedding reception tents, and a sound system featuring a way-too enthusiastic-for-6:15 a.m. announcer yelling over techno music.Getting through security was a breeze. It seriously took me 30 seconds (and I totally ditched Mike from Savannah, GA because I didn’t have the energy for more small talk). I guess last year security was a nightmare with 2 hour lines, broken metal detectors, and people missing the start of the race.They got that fixed. So once inside the porta potty pavilion, I got in line for a bank of just a couple that were kind of out of the way. This was a great move. I waited mere minutes; it was not stinky, and there was TP and hand sanitizer. Score.
Then it was time to stake out my piece of pavement for the hour plus wait until the start. Ugh. I settled on a spot near some chain link fence so I could have something to lean up against. Turns out the fence was to separate the VIP area, where those who paid extra at registration gained access to a large tent and a “private” set of porta potties that weren’t accessible to the rest of us regular bib bums. I spread out my Target bags and set up camp. I slowly choked down my breakfast despite not being hungry. I tried desperately to resist passing the time on my phone because I didn’t want to waste any of my precious battery life before I got onto the course. I didn’t want to waste precious energy trying to socialize with strangers either. And I wanted to save my podcasts to listen to on the run. So I just sort of sat there and stared. Alone with my thoughts. Like in the olden days. Just waiting and doing nothing. I tried to take it all in and marvel at the magnitude of the event, or be present and appreciative and meditative and zen-like or whatever. But mostly I just wanted to get this show on the road.
Announcer guy was really into it and finally started calling for people who were planning to go sub-three hours to start heading to the starting line. Sub-three marathoners? These are not my people. Not even close. With the scary warning emails they were sending about the anticipated high temperatures, I figured I’d be doing well if I finished sub-five. So I stayed on my Target bag for a while longer.
I don’t know what time it was when I finally decided it was time to leave my homeless encampment on the pavement. At this point I did briefly visit with the man sitting next to me, who had run 19 Marine Corps Marathons before, but was actually doing the 10k that day instead. His race didn’t start until 9:00 a.m. and he was there already!! Wow. When I asked him if things had gone more smoothly this year as far as security and getting there and whatnot, he said yes, but that with this race, “It’s always something. There’s always a glitch.” He said sometimes the finisher’s chute, sometimes the start, sometimes security, etc. There’s always a glitch. So with that less than encouraging thought reverberating in my skull, I headed off to the squadron of UPS trucks that were ready to haul my gear to the finish while I tried to haul my rear to the finish. Found truck 16 and handed off my bag. Got in line for one last potty stop. This line was considerably longer
And then more walking to get to the starting line. Because why not? So a stroll under a bridge and down the road and…Holy shit, that’s a lot of people. And where do I go? Guess I’ll just follow these folks. Are we filling both sides of the road? Yep. Ok, we’re moving. Go with the flow, Tiff. Ok, so now I’m passing the 4:30 pacer over there on that side of the road. Dudes are just peeing over there, huh? And now I’m cruising past the the 4:00 pacer over there. This doesn’t seem right. Why do we keep moving up toward the start and the other line over there is standing still? Am I in the right line? Those people look serious. I look like this.
So there’s no way I could have tried to line myself up in the “correct” corral or whatever at that point. There weren’t corrals anyway. Just yellow banners with finish time ranges on them that really didn’t apply and I still don’t know what the hell happened, but there were 2 starting chutes. Race started with a flyover and then the cannon fired at 7:55 a.m. I crossed the starting line at 8:10 a.m. And I felt tired already. Here’s a link to a quick video of the start of the race. https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fcsnma%2Fvideos%2F1319977268036456%2F&show_text=0&width=560” target=”_blank”>