In celebration of today’s 40th running of the Marine Corps Marathon, I’m sharing ten of my favorite memories from the ten years I ran this amazing race. Before I jump into those memories, though, I want to wish all of my friends who are running to have a wonderful day. Run hard, run happy, and take it all in.
The Marine Corps Marathon is called The Peoples Marathon. It’s the perfect race for first-timers, yet is a great race for capturing a PR when run smart. With amazing spectator support, beautiful vistas of our Nation’s Capital, and marines placed at every corner to lend a hand, it’s a definite bucket-list marathon.
Blessed to have had the opportunity to have run the MCM ten times, I’m honored to share ten of my hundreds of fond memories…
- My fondest Marine Corps Marathon memory is from 1998 when Bill, Joseph, and Daniel came down to cheer me in. They were waiting just as I hit the 26-mile mark and Joseph, soccer uniform and all, ran the final .2 miles with me. He ducked out just before I crossed the finish line and waited for Bill and Daniel to come retrieve him.
2. Every year I looked forward to seeing the wheelchair racers. While running up the hills on Lee Highway near the beginning of the race, we passed the slower wheelchair athletes, encouraging them as we passed; however, while running down Spout Run and the George Washington Parkway we were treated to seeing those same athletes as they came careening down the hill. Runners split an opening down the middle of the road for them to pass as we cheered them along.
3. I have very fond memories of nervously waiting for my very first MCM to start. I joined my coworker friends Joe and Katie for a ride to the start. We arrived with plenty of time to spare, and hung out in a McDonald’s near the start. We had places to sit and a clean restroom to use. What more could marathoners ask for?
4. In 2009 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 Cruiser 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. Not only did we finish that MCM together, but Candy and I went on to run Boston the following spring along with our Cruiser buddy Alan who had also run a BQ at that MCM.
5. After twenty-six weeks of coaching a group of runners raising money for the National AIDS Marathon Training Program, I watched every one of my runners who started the race, cross the finish line. After I completed my own marathon, I made my way back to the bottom of the access road to the Marine Corps War Memorial. As I’d see one of my runners approach, I’d either cheer wildly or jump on the course to run up to the top of the hill with them – depending on what level of encouragement they needed. I stayed until my last runner finished who also happened to be one of the last MCM finishers that year.
6. I cannot think of the MCM without remembering the Marines. Their encouragement, organizational skills, and manors just can’t be overlooked. Both at the expo and along the course, a marine could easily be found to assist in whatever was needed. I remember having some chaffing on the back of my arms one year, and just like magic, up ahead was a marine holding a tongue depressor with a glob of Vaseline on it. Problem solved.
7. There are so many snapshots of scenes from along the course burned into my mind, and I can’t help but smile when I think of them…
- The solemnness of running along Arlington National Cemetery
- The screaming crowds lining the streets of Georgetown
- The beauty of running along the National Mall
- The majesty of running past the U.S. Capitol
- The excitement of seeing The Awakening on Hains Point (it’s since been moved to National Harbor)
- The joy of coming off of the 14th Street Bridge
- The satisfaction of turning onto the access road to the Iwo Jima Memorial and completing the long up-hill climb to the finish line
- The feeling of satisfaction when a marine hung my finisher’s medal around my neck, and said, “Nice job, ma’am.”
8. Every year I was in awe of the soldiers running in fatigues, boots, and carrying heavy backpacks. I saw firefighters running in full gear, and saw many people running while carrying huge American flags; and many times these people were passing me.
9. Because the MCM was a local race for us, I always had a group of friends with me before and after the race. In the early days it was Miles and his crew, then the AIDS team, and in later years it was my Worldgate runners who I had coached toward this specific race. Most recently it was the Cruisers who shared the special event with me. We usually rode to the metro together, so we had plenty of time to enjoy each others company on the ride to and from the race.
10. I fondly remember how attached I became to the course – familiar with its every turn, anticipating the next national attraction, and enjoying the screaming spectators along the way. It was because of this, that I ran this course so well and was able to qualify for Boston six times during my ten times running the MCM. Some years the MCM was my target fall race, and some years I used it as a training run for a later marathon. Either way, the MCM never failed to provide enjoyment on a late October Sunday morning.
- 1997 Marine Corps Marathon – 3:45:40 (8:37 pace) – BQ
- 1998 Marine Corps Marathon – 3:46:54 (8:39 pace) – BQ
- 1999 Marine Corps Marathon – 3:48:55 (8:44 pace) – BQ
- 2000 Marine Corps Marathon – 4:40:58 (10:43 pace)
- 2002 Marine Corps Marathon – 3:56:39 (9:01 pace) – BQ
- 2003 Marine Corps Marathon – 3:56:02 (9:00 pace) – BQ
- 2004 Marine Corps Marathon – 4:34:09 (10:27 pace)
- 2006 Marine Corps Marathon – 4:26:36 (10:10 pace)
- 2008 Marine Corps Marathon – 4:51:58 (11:08 pace)
- 2009 Marine Corps Marathon – 3:58:53 (9:07 pace) – BQ
On a side note, after running five Marine Corps Marathons, runners are invited to join the MCM Runners Club. There’s no charge, and being a member guarantees runners an entry into future MCM’s.
Just this spring when I was contacted by the Marine Corps Marathon Runners Club office to update my information, I inquired about adding a badge to my blog. Within hours, I received an email with this badge which I have since proudly displayed on the right column of Deb Runs.
I’ve run a lot of marathons over the years, forty to be exact, and the MCM will always be one of my favorites and hold a very special place in my heart. These Marine Corps Marathon memories will be mine forever.
- Have you run the MCM?
- Are you, or do you know anyone running the MCM today?
- Did you race this weekend?