Marine Corps Marathon
Arlington VA and Washington DC
“I complained that my feet hurt, then I was passed by a runner who had no legs” Eric T. Olson
Fall Marathons are the best! I always look forward to the end of summer events with cooler temps, low humidity and fall colors. Marine Corps Marathon has been on my list for years. The lottery registration makes it a little tough to get into, but this was my year! And to cross the state of Virginia off of the list.
I flew into Ronald Reagan Airportevening and immediately hooked up with my Massachusetts friends. The three of us have conquered Marathons all across the country together. From mountains to huge cities, ocean shores to desolate desert, we’ve even run together in towns as small as 900 people. Nothing could ruin the friendships we’ve created and what the future holds.
We checked into our hotel and immediately headed down to the lounge to get this trip started off the right way. The World Series was on the Big Screen, the piles of appetizers were served and the beers just kept flowing. As I've said before, these are the greatest times!
The next morning came way to early but we were up and ready to hit the Race Expo and explore this great Historic City. This is another place I’ve never been to before. The Expo was a close walk from where we were staying so we checked into that as soon as it opened to try and beat the crowds. 30,000 runners to be exact! We got in and out in record time, then it was time to find our rental car and head downtown.
If you’ve never been to DC before, you wouldn't believe the traffic... Probably comparable to New York City. Or maybe Los Angeles? If you’re planning a trip to DC, plan it out first and look into Metro Transit. The Trains will always be on time and traffic doesn’t effect them. We got downtown and tried to find a parking spot. Unfortunately that was almost impossible as well, our friend had us bail out and he drove several blocks away and found a Parking Ramp.
We started out at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. It recently opened its doors for the first time just one month ago. There were crowds of people lined up to get in and the sidewalks all around it were full of people. We tried to get in but there was no tickets available. Next time for sure. We walked over to the Washington Monument and the Reflection Pool. To view the 500 plus foot structure up close is amazing! To think that it was started in the 1840’s (long before cranes) and halted several times during its construction from lack of funding, the Civil War and quarries running out of stone. The position of the Reflection Pool is perfect with the Lincoln Memorial placed on the other end. We visited the WWII Memorial which was special to be as both my Grandfathers served in that war as Marines. We went from there to the Vietnam Wall and then the Korean War Memorial. This was all interesting to me and very touching.
We then headed to the Downtown IMAX Theater and watched the latest release of the National Parks Adventure. It was excellent and a good way to stay off of our feet for an hour or so. We followed the movie up with a nice dinner at the District Chophouse. Piles of Calamari Squid, Steamed Muscles and Tap IPA’s kept us happy before the main courses showed up. We always want to be well prepared for the Marathon!
The next morning came with awake up, followed by coffee and doughnuts. The bus service to the Start Line was only a block away so we had no problem getting boarded on one of the nice Greyhounds. We got dropped of near Arlington VA. about an hour before Start time. This Marathon is known for it’s dramatic start. Large Military Helicopters flying over head, the Marine Corps Band playing the National Anthem and as some races use a Starting Pistol, this event gets going with two 105mm Howitzers.. BOOM!!!!!
So we were off.. The crowded field of 30,000 runners started moving forward. Like cattle leaving the barn, you can only move as fast as the crowd. It was interesting to see the many Amputee Runners and Wheelchair Athletes. Everyone seemed to give them the space they needed. Kim, Bill and I made the agreement to stay together. “We start together, we finish together” she informed us. It was a good plan because this was also Bill’s last and final Marathon (he says) but we will see how he follows through with that. This was #118 for him by the way, he’s earned my respect.
At about mile 10, we got to the Blue Mile. This a full mile of large individual photos on each side of the street honoring Solders killed in action. Thousands of them. It was incredible and all of the runners were completely silent as we passed through this area trying to hold back the tears. Each photo was on a “sandwich board” style pedestal and stated their name, death date and their age. Very very touching and important part of the Marathon.
Shortly after the halfway point, the presidential helicopter Marine One flew past. Not sure if the President was actually on board, but we ended up seeing it 3 different times throughout the day. It was very close and really cool to see! Military personnel was everywhere and thousands of active duty Marines where on the course high-fiving the runners.
The race course continued through all of the Monuments, the Jefferson Memorial, right past the Capital and also the Smithsonian Castle before heading back to the State of Virginia. Because this event starts and finishes in the same State, it counts as Virginia for the 50 States Marathon Club. At around mile 23 we ran past the Pentagon and then headed toward the finish at Arlington National Cemetery. The temps were almost reaching 80 degrees and it was time to be done! Our finish line photo couldn't have been at a better place, the Iwo Jima War Memorial.
It was another great day. Great running with friends that prove to stick together, even when one of us had to walk the last 2 miles (Eric T). This is one we will defiantly do again. Until then we will keep Living the Dream. Meeting up in interesting parts of our great nation competing in these crazy Marathons together. I wouldn’t have it any other way.