The Final Week
We flew into Washington DC on Wednesday. I had run both Monday and Tuesday evenings, about 4 miles each night, and planned just one more run for the week. This run would be in Virginia, on a beautiful trail near where my daughter lives. But before that we were going to have a full day on Thursday taking care of our Granddaughter Vivian. We took her to her favorite lunch place, the Silver Diner, then to see ‘My Little Pony – The Movie’. Then we walked through the mall to the toy department at Target and found her a My Little Pony toy and coloring book. I brought all my drawing stuff with me but never used it because I spent a good portion of the remaining days coloring in the coloring book with her. The ponies in My Little Pony are very distinct one from another, and she knows what color each one should be. She was not happy when I wanted to make one of them polka-dotted and another one striped, but she let me do it. Then we carved her pumpkin together.
Saturday we went to her Tae Kwon Do lesson that she gets from her Aunt and Uncle, who run a Martial Arts Academy. It was way cute to see her do her routines. We then went to a quaint little village called Occoquan for lunch and some shopping. As you can tell, playing with a 4 1/2 year old is a great way to distract oneself from an upcoming anxiety-inducing event. I was happy for that since there wasn’t much to do besides fret over the race if I wasn’t distracted.
I did do my final run on that Friday. I got out the door at exactly 7:55, the time the race was going to start in two days hence to see how the temperature would be. I had run this beautiful forested trail before and it did not disappoint. It was deeply wooded and cool, with the sunrise slipping through the trees as I ran. I did four miles and called it good.
The Marine Corps Marathon has about 30,000 participants. It’s the largest marathon without a cash prize in the world. That meant it was much wiser to take the Metro than to try to drive to the start in Arlington, Virginia. My wife was doing the Marine Corps 10k so we went together. I awoke around 3:45 and didn’t really go back to sleep. We left my daughter’s house at 5:45 and made the first Orange Line train at about 6:05am. We were the second stop from the end but there already was a crowd of runners coming in. Linda had a different start location than I did so we said our goodbyes when I transferred to the Blue Line. By the time I got off at the Pentagon Station it was wall-to-wall people. I then had about a mile long walk to the start line. Luckily for many there was a long line of bushes to one side. That meant men (and a lot of women too) were running off course into the bushes to pee. The alternative was waiting way too long in a line for some nasty Porta-Potty. I feel bad for the grass that died for me, but oh well.
I knew of at least 6 or more runners from here in Tulsa who were running it but the logistics of trying to find people in that crowd was not on my side. But I did run into one fellow runner, Jennie Louck from Tulsa, at the bag check line. It was great to see a familiar face. But we weren’t going to be running the same pace so we parted ways at the corrals. I went into the 4:00-4:15 corral just as the gun went off. But it took probably another 5 minutes or more before we started to move forward towards the actual start line. I could see the 4:15 pacer ahead of me, he was carrying 3 balloons with 4:15 on it. My plan was to keep him in sight with the hopes of eventually catching up to him. How crowded was the race? it was impossible really to weave ahead for at least the first 2 miles. Eventually I was able to move in and out just enough to catch up at mile 5.By then we were over the river into Washington, and into Georgetown, on our way into Rock Creek Park. I went ahead of the 4:15 pacer at that point hoping to finish between 4:10 and 4:15. The park is a gorgeous, deeply forested area that goes through the Northwest area of DC. It was cool and quiet since there was no room for any spectators, with rock cliffs on one side and a creek on the other. I was feeling great and my pace was on target. I had one mile under 9 but that was a downhill mile. All the rest so far were right where I wanted them to be, about 9:15 – 9:30.
Miles 8 – 13
We then returned to the river and hit probably my favorite stretch. The Kennedy Center is right on the Potomac and it has a second story cantilevered over the parkway along the river. We went under the building for a while then came out to a big crowd of spectators. This included an amphitheater type setting at the base of the Lincoln Memorial’s river facing side. A long set of steps up from the river were filled with a cheering crowd. It was exciting to see after the quiet of the park.Then we ran through the most solemn and profound part of the race. It’s called the Blue Mile (mile 11) and consists of photographs of fallen Marines along both sides of the road every 10 ft for an entire mile. This was also along the Potomac, on a very small park road. There is no crowd, just the river and a quiet golf course on the other side. We proceeded along the entire mile and I didn’t hear anyone speak. The pictures went all the way back to 1944. At the end of the mile there was about a quarter-mile of people holding up large American flags that we ran under. It was quite impressive and moving, to say the least.
Backing up a bit to mile 9 or 10 I started to notice something not good in my run that could completely and utterly mess up everything if it continued. What was it? In spite of putting on a very generous coating of Glide (the anti-chafing stuff all runners use) I started to notice my left nipple was getting very sensitive. If you have ever been to a big race you may have seen a guy with ‘bullet holes’ on his shirt. the tell-tale red spots meaning his nipples had chafed so much they were bleeding. It’s just about the worst thing that can happen beside falling down. And it was now happening to me! YIKES, this could be a very bad thing indeed.
Luckily I knew that somewhere around the halfway point there was going to be an aid station for medical emergencies. While they obviously are there to help those in distress most of what they do is hand out Vaseline on a stick for those who are chaffing. In this particular case they just had it in their hands. I swiped a bit from a gooey hand as I passed and, with great relief, smeared it all over my chest. Whew, crisis averted! Of course my hands were covered in Vaseline at that point which made holding my phone to take pictures a bit of a challenge, but I did it. I was still on pace for the finish I wanted during these miles and feeling strong.
Miles 14 – 19
This is where the crowds got really big. We ran parallel to the reflecting pool down to the Lincoln Memorial area, then turned around and passed the Washington Monument. The last time I was in DC I was there at night so I hadn’t seen the latest addition to the museums along the mall. There is now a huge building housing the National Museum of African American History and Culture right at the western edge of the mall, near the Washington Monument. It is covered in what seemed to be dark brown lattice surrounding inverse and truncated pyramid shapes. It is solid and big and at first seemed jarring and unsettling because of it’s uniqueness. But that is part of the point of the building and it’s message. The African American experience is jarring and unsettling for many. But it needs to be seen and known by all Americans for us to truly understand and appreciate who we are. I stared at it for a long while as I approached. It was in stark contrast to the Monument it’s so close to in both style and message. And that is a good thing. It was as much a part of the profound nature of the race for me as any other part.
From there we went up and down the mall, passing some of my favorite museums, especially the National Gallery of Art’s modern building. Passing the Capitol, gleaming white, we came to the National Museum of the American Indian. Another building that seeks in its look and it’s content to open up America to who we are in totality. These Smithsonian buildings, while not ‘monuments’ per se, really are what I consider to be some of the best, most profound monuments to who we are as Americans in principle and action. They make me proud and I believe these are just as much what our Marines fight for as anything else.
Still on pace at this point but starting to feel the miles add up.
Miles 20 – Finish
At mile 19 we are headed over towards ‘THE BRIDGE’. This is the big cut-off point for the slower runners and walkers. If they don’t make the 14th St. Bridge by 1:15pm they get shuttled back to the finish line and don’t get to complete the race. Luckily it’s a very liberal time and it wasn’t an issue for those around me. This brought us into Crystal City and huge crowds. Then the scariest moment of the race – I almost fell! And I mean it was really close. I lurched forward having caught my toe on something and had to stride out 3-4 times not sure if I was going to fall or not. I caught myself just barely and was back up running. But the near fall made my left quad freak out a bit. I wasn’t sure if it was a cramp or an injury or what for a few seconds. I kept running and just hoped it wouldn’t affect the rest of the run. Luckily it didn’t.
Then all there was left was a 2 mile long stretch out of Crystal City, past the Pentagon and Arlington Cemetery. The sun was up high, the heat was up too and there were no shade in sight. It was the only part of the race that I really felt my energy and strength start to wain a bit. I slowed down about 30 seconds per mile at that point but kept running. And then another unexpected thing happened. Remember that 4:15 pacer who I passed at mile 5? He passed me at mile 25.5! I really wanted to make 4:15 so it had me worried. But I trusted my Garmin watch’s time and calculated he was running just a bit fast and I would still finish on time.They advertise the end of the race as being a true test because it is uphill. But looking at the elevation chart I knew it wasn’t THAT much of a hill. I mean really, how bad could it be, right? Well, it was actually a VERY steep final 200 yards uphill to the finish line! But with the finish in sight I wasn’t about to let some stupid hill slow me down. Plus there was a huge crowd at this point cheering us on. I hoped to find my family but it was just too loud and too crowded.
I crossed the finish line strong and fast in a time of 4:14:49. I had made my 4:15 goal and a new personal record by 22 minutes!After
A Marine Lieutenant gave me my medal, I collected some water and food and saw my family on the other side of a chain link fence. That was when I made my only real mistake of the race. I didn’t keep walking it off but instead went over to their side of the fence, found a grassy spot in the shade and laid down. Big mistake. I didn’t get up again for probably 45 minutes. My calves and feet went through some intense cramping that really did make me scream out in pain. I think I traumatized my granddaughter Vivian. She was not expecting to see Papa Marty looking or acting like that!
Eventually I was able to get up and we walked it off, going over to the baggage claim and finding a place to eat. I was still pretty wiped out and incoherent at this point. We made our way back to the Metro and were able to get seats all the way home. I took a nice long nap and was up and at it later that afternoon. The next morning we got up just as early to catch a plane back to Tulsa. By Monday afternoon I was back at Fleet Feet showing off my medal, telling race stories and leading my runners in their active warm up before their run. No, I did not run!
After All That
And so, 31 weeks of surgery recovery (including running) and 19 weeks of intense marathon training led to a successful race. A PR by 22 minutes, a new found love of long distance running and most importantly, renewed love among my family and new goals into the future.
My family made this shirt for me to run in. It shows my ongoing goal, to run a marathon in every city where I have a sister or a daughter. I’ve done 3 and have 3 to go; New York, San Diego and San Francisco bay area. And somewhere along the way, if all goes right, I might just be able to qualify for the Boston Marathon. But that is a whole other story!
Here are my stats for the race:
- Distance – 26.54. It’s accurate. I ran 1/3 of a mile farther than required (and probably everyone else did as well). They measure the course from corner to corner but due to the crowds no one is really able to run that exact same route. The runners had to go around corners much wider than is most efficient.
- Time – 4:14:49 (PR by 22 minutes)
- Average Pace – 9:36 (according to my Garmin, accurate for my true distance) 9:44 – Official race time (for 26.2 miles).
- Age Place (60-64) – 38th of 396 – top 10%
- Gender Place – 2,925th out of 10,757 – top 30%
- Overall Place – 4,187th of 19,993 – top 25%
Thanks to all who supported me at home and from afar.Thanks for reading these posts over the summer and fall and cheering me on. I hope this journey has been an inspiration for you and will help you on your fitness journey. Remember, if I can do it, you can too.
See you running,
If you would like to read the rest of the Marathon Training posts simply find ‘Marathon Training’ from the Series drop down menu on the upper right. If you have questions or comments, I would love to hear them.