Sunday, for the fifth time, I joined more than 31,000 other runners in one of the largest running spectacles in the country– the Marine Corps Marathon.
Now that I have run multiple editions of this event, I treat it like a 26.2-mile tour and fun run. I don’t worry about time, and this approach helps minimize any distress about the moving throngs of people all around me.
I don’t say this to underplay the significance of the distance, as a marathon is a long way for me. But over time I’ve evolved into a bit of an endurance fan, and the marathon plays well with my preferences. In addition, I’ve now run enough of them to manage my effort and expectations fairly effectively.
I delight in this annual two-footed takeover of areas normally forbidden to runners. Tree-lined spaces normally owned by cars, such as Spout Run and Rock Creek Parkway, are optimal for running through this time of year, decked out in the transitional glory of fall.
For mid-pack runners like me, the field is congested from beginning to end. This marathon tests any personal space issues one might have.
People once going your pace slow down in front of you. Someone behind you suddenly decides to run faster. A group of three who are all running side by side slow down and inadvertently block you. You pause for a water stop, and those behind you who have to deal with that.
Somehow everyone finds a way to make it work, but as my friend Kirstin said, this marathon requires more lateral movement than any other in which I’ve participated. Also, I spend a lot of energy managing my own space amid everyone else’s.
So, as I say, the best way I’ve found to make it work is to remove concerns about overall time. This approach has to be balanced with steady forward progress to avoid stiffening up, as well as my body’s fueling needs, but it’s the method I use to enjoy all that Marine Corps offers.
The energy exchanged between spectators and participants lifts my spirits and reinforces positive perceptions of people in general. Why do people choose to spend a chunk of their day holding homemade signs and clapping for runners? Runners like me who aren’t even fast?
We aren’t celebrities. We’re just regular people out running 26.2 miles. While many spectators come out to cheer on someone they know, others are there to be part of and to cheer everyone on.
Early in the run, I decided to make time to document this parade of humanity. I tried to capture a little something of everything that makes this marathon what it is– the Marines, the seemingly endless stream of runners, the scenery, the spectators, the clever signs that highlight the political nature of our town, the moments when I saw people I knew along the course.
As I started my loop around Hains Point, I passed a man wearing a series of Marine Corps Marathon patches. After the run I looked up his bib number and discovered that, at 73 years old, he had run 39 out of 40 Marine Corps Marathons. So many things must come together for that kind of accomplishment.
If I had tried to run Marine Corps for time I would mostly likely have reached the finish in a frustrated state. My decision to do the event as a combined tour and fun run freed me to observe and appreciate this marathon’s many unique aspects.
I don’t know how many times I’ll line up for Marine Corps— likely less than 39. But as long as I continue to be inspired by the people running, as well as those rooting for us, I’ll keep coming back.
I agree with a lot of your assessment of the race. Your photos do a great job of capturing the spirit of the Marine Corps Marathon. Happy running!
My first thought reading the end of your post is, “There is nothing ‘fun’ about running a marathon, MG!!” 🙂 Okay, maybe that’s just me because I do think there are those out there who actually enjoy this distance – the endurance length runs, as you’ve said. I am definitely not one of them.
I have to say, the one (and likely the only) marathon I ever ran, I was so grateful for random strangers on the roadside, cheering me on (despite my snail-like pace). I know for a fact I would never have finished if not for these kind souls. I remember taking food from one of them toward the end and thinking that never in real life would I accept unwrapped food from someone I didn’t know, but I was never more grateful for it.
I try to remember that feeling when I’m at bike races or foot races and I’m tired of standing around waiting or cheering. Sometimes those brief moments make a huge difference to a racer, and hopefully it’s a small repayment to those who have been there for me.
I love all of your photos – I can almost feel the energy – and am glad you were able to look at this as more fun and less of a must-finish-in-‘x’-time type of event.
Love all your race photos! Thanks for posting these. Its easy to forget all the interesting/unique things you see along the course and when you’re in a bit of pain running, you really start to block things out 🙂
[…] two marathons in a season is really hard. Two marathons in a month is crazy. Today she finished the Marine Corps Marathon (her fifth MCM) just two weeks after running a marathon in Shepherdstown WV. Double […]
I always admire your approach to things. You have the best ideas! Marathon tour, I’m totally going to try that for my next one.
My son is a Marine, so if I did another marathon this one would definitely be up there on my list. Love all the pictures!