What a day. What a race. Where to start? The beginning, I guess. But, as one who finds it hard NOT to read the final page of a mystery novel before beginning it, I will disclose the end first, since this is bound to be a multi-part recap. My time: 3:47:14. I’m still on cloud nine. But there was so much more to this experience than my time, so back to the beginning we go…
3:10 AM. October 27. I wake up and cannot go back to sleep. Tossing & turning becomes my warmup. At 4, I give up and turn the TV on (very low, since I have a hubby and 3 kids sharing my space…).
4:30 – up and at ‘em. Get ready, pack my bag, out the door. Head downstairs to the hotel lobby, where there are lots of runners waiting for Starbucks to open. One woman (kindly, I think) mentions that I have so much energy that it is waking her up before she even gets her coffee. And here, I thought I was dragging from being up so early. I think of how incredibly annoying it must be for someone to stand near Colby & me before the start of a race – kinda like lining up next to a Cat 5 hurricane in terms of energy rush? ‘Cause let me tell you, I felt slow moving and tired when I hit the lobby on Sunday morning. This lady got off easy.
5:15 – off to the Metro. Easy ride to the Pentagon and then I head out in a steady stream of runners toward Runner’s Village, in the north parking lot about 1 mile away. Talk about surreal. It was still completely dark out. And here we are, walking around the perimeter of this massive, incredibly important building, with an amazing view of a fully-lit up Washington Monument to our right. I start to get really excited. Luckily, the lobby lady is nowhere around me – I don’t think she could have handled it.
Pass through security run by some very friendly marines, and here we are. Runner’s Village. Porta Potty Central. Damn, those marines do a good job with the porta potties. Lined up as far as the eye can see. I’m impressed already. I make porta potty stop #1 and then head over to one of the massive tents to keep warm.
Temps were a little chilly race morning. Around 42 when I got to Runner’s Village, though it felt colder with no sun yet. Temps expected to climb to the upper 50’s by the afternoon; partly cloudy skies. PERFECT running weather for me. Not quite perfect hanging around waiting weather, but I’ll take it.
Of course I heeded the advice of runners everywhere and the MCM officials and wore some extra layers to shed for donation at the start of the race – the marines kindly placed huge donation boxes along the starting corrals for just this purpose.
Rather than wear old clothes (if you read this blog, you know I get a wee bit attached to my workout gear), I went to Walmart and bought new warm sweatpants and a sweatshirt. Nothing fancy – they looked like the types I wore to soccer practice in 1981. Before the advent of lycra, spandex, luon, workout wear fashion and the like. I think people used to run in sweats like this, but I honestly haven’t seen it in years. Tres warm but muy unfashionable. Not that I cared.
But I did notice a few things. There I was, decked out in my Walmart ensemble, with my hair pulled back in pigtails (for functionality reasons – started rocking the pigs when I noticed that pulling my not-so-long hair into a ponytail for 3 hour runs necessitated pulling it so tight that (1) I got headaches and (2) I was in danger of ending up with a receded hairline like Sade), and people definitely looked at me like I must have gotten off at the wrong Metro stop. Or showed up 30 years too late. I kid you not that I got the head to toe lookover by more than one Lululemon clad chick. And the guy wandering around begging people to take their picture for the MCM website walked by me 3 times desperately trying to avoid making eye contact. I think he was afraid I might ask him to take my picture. Yeesh. As if.
I sat down under the tent and tried to busy myself getting my Garmin set up…and then it died. Approximately 1 minute after I turned it on. I KNOW I fully charged it before leaving Connecticut, so it must have turned on in my bag. Not much I could do about it, but there I was – cold and antsy, shunned by the running community at large plus one desperate photographer, and I didn’t even have a clue as to what time it was (left the phone with my cheering squad back at the hotel). Not an auspicious start.
And then…a Marine Chaplain came to conduct a non-denominational service in the tent. How cool. I was psyched. A practicing catholic who has not made it to mass in a while (I plead the 5th on how long in case my mother reads this), I was happy to get a dose of spirituality on a Sunday morning. It felt right. And even if you aren’t a diehard when it comes to religion, non-denominational services usually have something for everyone. Based on the number of people who gathered in the tent for the service, I wasn’t alone in being grateful for the spiritual pep talk.
At the conclusion of the service, we streamed out of the tent, most (including me) headed to the porta potties, the UPS trucks to drop off bags, and then it was time to head to the start!
I was just walking up to the starting corrals when I heard gasps from the crowd. And looked up to see what I had read about in the MCM magazine: a group of 11 veterans – including a wounded marine and 10 other Army & Marine veterans – parachuting out of the sky carrying flags – a massive American flag and flags for each wing of the armed services. That image was so awesome, and so powerful – it will be with me forever.
After that incredible sight, it was all I could do not to start running to burn off some adrenaline. Fortunately, Grasshopper remembered that she would need every ounce of that adrenaline later in the day and waited (somewhat) calmly at the start like a good girl. The lovely marines also had porta potties lined up along the starting corrals, which was awesome. Having probably drunk half my weight in water since I first awoke at 3, I decided to pay one last visit for good measure. Nice short line and I was back in my corral with a few minutes left to the start.
Howitzer blows, and we’re off.