For 26.2 miles this past Sunday, I was a spec in a mammoth event, one of more than 27,000 people who swarmed the Washington, D.C. area for the opportunity to be part of an annual two-footed tour of the city—the Marine Corps Marathon.
For 26.2 miles, people’s cheers and encouragement seeped into my heart, propelling me forward. Spectators use poster board and glitter paint to make clever signs with messages like “I’m Feeling 26.2,” “You’re Running Better than Government” (still a popular one), “Go Random Stranger!” and “Joe Biden thinks your marathon is a BFD.”
People plotted out spots to intersect the course, even if it meant walking to Metro-challenged areas that are typically less crowded, like Rock Creek Parkway and Hains Point.
For 26.2 miles, Marines and other volunteers took excellent care of us, handing out water and other fuel at least every two miles. As the day was warm with full-on sun and a bit of wind, the frequent replenishment was welcome.
Bands and DJs aligned the route. Felkerino came out and met me at various places along the course, ringing a cow bell and shouting my name.
For 26.2 miles, I adored the waning October days of fall color. The tree canopies over Spout Run and Rock Creek Parkway glinted back at us in the morning sun. Those along the National Mall stood tall in their yellow leaf coats.
For 26.2 miles, I wondered about what compels us to the marathon distance. A test of physical and mental strength. Something to check off on life’s bucket list. An attempt at a personal best.
The opportunity to run in memory of a loved one. A way to pay homage to someone who died while fighting for our country. Diverse reasons draw us to the marathon starting line.
For 26.2 miles, people came out to celebrate the simple human act of running. D.C. doesn’t get excited by much, but it believes in the marathon.
You are doing something amazing, spectators tell you in so many different ways. You are part of something great. You can do it. Today is your day. If you let it, that energy will carry you to the finish line.
For 26.2 miles, I was so grateful that Felkerino took time to come out and see me run (in between coffeeneuring). I fought tears as I made my way through the final 10K, caught up in the fanfare of the day, and once again awed by all that our bodies can do.
Have you ever seen the marathon sign that reads “Worst parade ever?” Don’t believe that sign, at least not when it comes to this event. The Marine Corps Marathon is a grand procession.
After 26.2 miles, a Marine placed a finisher’s medal around my neck and I walked off to hitch a tandem ride home with Felkerino. What a day to be a runner, and what a gift to enjoy and celebrate it for 26.2 miles.