Today is the 38th running of the Marine Corps Marathon, and I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all of my friends running in this terrific race a fun and successful day. I’ve run this race ten times over the years and it holds a special place in my heart as my very first marathon.
Even though this race starts and ends in Arlington and is considered a Virginia race, most of the course travels through DC and along the many beautiful monuments of our nation’s capital. I had not started carrying my camera along with me back when I ran this race, so my photos are limited mostly to before and after the race.
The morning of my first Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) in 1997, I caught a ride to Arlington with two very good work friends who were also running their first marathons. We arrived super early and found an open McDonald’s to hang out in until it was time to walk to the start. I remember pulling the MCM program out and reading it to kill time when another runner walked up to me and said very sarcastically, “It’s a little late to be looking at that and planning your race strategy.” I noted his bib number and checked later for his time, and you know what? I beat him soundly!
We walked to the start of the race and I slipped into an open spot near the very back of the pack of runners. My goal time was 3:45 and I quickly realized that I was hanging out with five hour people. Being a marathon novice, it didn’t dawn on me to step outside the pack and walk forward and get closer to the pace I wanted to run. The time for the race came and went and they didn’t start the race. Over twenty minutes slipped by before they finally started us. After the race, I learned that a spectator had fallen to the ground with a heart attack and died, and they were getting medical help to him, thus the delay of the race.
Just as the Howitzer fired to start the race, the rain started. Within a mile or so of the start, the rain started coming down quite heavily and didn’t let up. I spent the first eight miles or so scrambling to stay on pace despite the slower pace of the runners around me. I quickly realized that I had made a huge mistake seeding myself where I did, and spent much of my time passing people by stepping up on the curb to get around much slower runners and even some walkers.
Bill, Daniel, and Bill’s mom braved the pouring rain to cheer me on at several different locations (Joseph was fighting his own muddy mess at a soccer game). My friends Miles and Ed were cheering me on at mile 9, and then again around mile 17. I reached my goal of qualifying for Boston at my first marathon, finishing with a time of 3:45:40, with 4 minutes and 20 seconds to spare. I finished 76th out of 786 females in my age group and 391st out of 4,341 females.
- Cumulative Time at Mile 5 – 46:49 (9:22 5-mile average pace)
- Cumulative Time at Mile 10 – 1:28:33 (8:21 5-mile average pace)
- Cumulative Time at Mile 15 – 2:08:18 (7:57 5-mile average pace)
- Cumulative Time at Mile 20 – 2:50:44 (8:29 5-mile average pace)
- Cumulative Time at Mile 26.2 – 3:45:40 (8:52 6.2-mile average pace)
Home and showered!
Each year the front of the shirt had a similar design with a stitched logo and the word MARINES down the right arm (I’m wearing it in the above picture), but the back design was always different. Here’s the back of the 1997 shirt.
I returned to run the MCM the very next year in 1998 along with about 125 runners that I had coached through the National AIDS Marathon Training Program, a 26-week program using the Jeff Galloway Run-Walk-Run training method. Many of my runners had never really exercised before, let alone run in a race. They were participating to raise money for AIDS research, many because a loved one had been diagnosed with the horrible disease. After I finished my race, I made countless trips running back up the hill with my runners as I encouraged them and cheered them on as they finished their very first marathon. I stayed at the race until the very last runner came in that day, which just happened to be one of mine.
Based on my previous marathon time in Boston, I received a letter from the MCM prior to the race letting me know that my estimated finish time could earn me an age group place and that I should stick around for the awards ceremony. That letter MADE. MY. DAY; however, I came nowhere near placing (I finished 30th out of 589 females in my age group and 289th out of 4,781 females), but had a friend take this picture before the race just for fun!
Bill, Joseph, and Daniel came down to D.C. to cheer me on at a few different places along the course. Joseph jumped on the course with about a quarter mile to go and ran with me for as far as he could until he had to step off the course so I could run through the finisher’s chute.
After the race, I found Miles, Jenny, and Kevin and hung out for a little while. I’m not sure what this silly stretching pose is all about… Maybe none of us could stand up straight!
And before Bill and the boys had to take off for Joseph’s soccer game, Bill got this quick picture of us. Seriously, how did my hair look so good after running 26.2 miles in 3:46:54 (8:39 pace)?
- Cumulative Time at Mile 5 – 41:45 (8:21 5-mile average pace)
- Cumulative Time at Mile 10 – 1:22:21 (8:07 5-mile average pace)
- Cumulative Time at Mile 15 – 2:03:22 (8:12 5-mile average pace)
- Cumulative Time at Mile 20 – 2:47:18 (8:47 5-mile average pace)
- Cumulative Time at Mile 26.2 – 3:46:01 (9:29 6.2-mile average pace)
I returned again to run the race in 1999 with a time of 3:48:55 (8:44 pace; 39th out of 705 females in my age group and 383rd out of 5,656 females). This was one of many marathons that Miles and I ran together.
- Cumulative Time at Mile 5 – 44:05 (8:49 5-mile average pace)
- Cumulative Time at Mile 10 – 1:28:01 (8:47 5-mile average pace)
- Cumulative Time at Mile 15 – 2:10:40 (8:32 5-mile average pace)
- Cumulative Time at Mile 20 – 2:53:55 (8:39 5-mile average pace)
- Cumulative Time at Mile 25 – 3:38:17 (8:52 5-mile average pace)
- Cumulative Time at Mile 26.2 – 3:48:53 (8:49 1.2-mile average pace)
Here’s the back of the 1999 shirt…
In 2000, I ran with my first group of runners from the Worldgate Sport & Health marathon training group that I coached. It was through this group that I met Terri. She and I ran several other marathons together (including Steamtown and Georgia). This photo was taken on the Metro (D.C.’s subway) on the way down to the race.
After the race I found Miles and some of his MilesRun members in their regular post-MCM spot. Being brilliant opportunists, they always met right next to the huge Reston Runners sign so they could easily be found! My time was 4:40:58 because I was running it as a training run for Marathon in the Parks the following month.
Here’s the back of the 2000 shirt…
In 2002 I ran again with my Worldgate team, and Bill joined me for his first MCM.
Before the race I took a picture of the Iwo Jima Memorial with runners milling around preparing for the race. Near the end of the race as you’re running up that never-ending hill toward the statue, you don’t think that it will ever come into sight, and when it finally does, you have to run around the back of it to the finish line. I think it’s one of the longest seeming finishes of all of the marathons that I’ve run, but the spectators are absolutely cheering like crazy carrying the runners up that final hill.
Here we are before the race with the sun behind us silhouetting our picture.
Crossing the starting line together!
This picture was also taken early in the race. You can see that there are still many runners crowded around together and that we hadn’t thinned out yet.
Post-race we’re pretty happy to have another MCM behind us, my fifth. My time that year was 3:56:39. That fall I ran three marathons in four weeks, all in under four hours, all BQ’s, and checked another goal off my list.
Here’s the back of the 2002 shirt…
Having completed my fifth MCM, I became a member of the Marine Corps Marathon Runners Club. Benefits of this free club include a guaranteed entry for life into the Marine Corps Marathon – a big deal now that race entry is selected by lottery. I received this patch, and recently received the black and white badge to place on my blog
I returned in 2003 and ran a 3:56:02 (23rd out of 602 in my age group); and for the second consecutive year ran three BQ marathons in four weeks!
I returned to run the MCM in 2004 with my Worldgate friends, Beth, Lisa, and Terri. Terri and I both showed up at the starting line sick. She had been sick for a couple of days, and I woke up with a scratchy throat, aching body, and head ache. We ran the whole race together and around mile 16 her husband joined us. He told us that he had been running next to us for over a mile before either of us noticed him. We were totally focused on just getting finished and oblivious to anything around us and finished with a time of 4:34:09 – not bad for being sick.
Terri’s and my friend John was running his second marathon in 2006 and the three of us decided that we’d hang out together the whole race and finished in 4:26:36. We had a great time running at a slightly relaxed pace compared to what we could do. I probably recovered more easily from that race than any other.
A few of our runners had a hard time walking back to the Metro after the race so we stopped to rest while waiting for them. Since the lines were so unbelievably long to get on the Metro, we hired a taxi to take us back to where we were parked.
The 2006 shirt was a horrible gold’ish yellow color that doesn’t look good on anyone!
The night before the 2008 MCM, the Cruisers (by now our running group called ourselves the Cruisers) and I helped our friend John (from 2006 MCM) celebrate his 50th birthday. After consuming fantastic food and many glasses of wine, I topped off the night with a Baileys on the rocks and took my tired feet home for just a few hours sleep before rising for the race. Also still exhausted from the party, my friend Terri and I ran the race together with a time of 4:51:58.
2009 was my tenth and my last MCM. The Cruisers had a great turnout that year. Here we are on our way to the starting line at zero dark thirty, and yes, my eyes are closed. Note my lovely throw-away layers!
I had hopes of qualifying for Boston again after a few dry years. During the last two or three miles I started struggling and slowed my pace slightly. Just when I needed her, my friend Candy caught up with me and told me she wasn’t going to Boston alone. Her encouragement helped me get my head back in the game, and get back on pace for those last two miles.
Post-race the Cruisers were very happy with three BQ’s (Alan, Candy, and this girl)! My final MCM time was 3:58:53. Ten MCM’s, a sub-four hour race, and a final BQ seemed like a good time to end this race series!
Here’s my tenth and final shirt…
After the race the Cruisers met at a local steak house for a celebratory dinner, while starting to plan our Boston road trip.
The medals changed over the years from basic dog tags to the Marine Corps logo.
The shirts were always the same on the front and made of a pretty heavy cotton fabric. I don’t think I’ve ever worn one other than later in the day after the race, but Bill enjoys wearing his.
Sometime around 2006, I purchased this Marine Corps Marathon vest which became a staple of my winter running for many years. It was the perfect weight, and without sleeves, it kept me from getting too hot with a long sleeved shirt underneath. Sadly the zipper broke and I’ve never bothered to replace the zipper…
If you’re looking for an amazing marathon experience, this is the race for you. It’s incredibly well organized, the course is relatively easy and quite lovely as it winds past many of our DC monuments. The marine volunteers are friendly, helpful, and very respectful. I’m proud to have run this marathon ten times, and wish my body would let me run it again!
Edited note: Click here to read my ten favorite Marine Corps Marathon memories.
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