Tomorow I will be registering for my first marathon. A half marathon seamed doable, but 26.2 miles just seems crazy! So how did I get here? How did I get to this point to put myself through 26.2 miles of torture?
My husband has ran three marathons. The first was the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon November 2011, the second was the Carmel Marathon April 2012, and the third was the Marine Corps Marathon October 2012. I watched him day in and day out training for hours. Running tempo runs, intervals, distance runs. He ran in the rain, the heat, the below freezing temperatures, regardless of the weather or the distance he was running. Every. Single. Day.
His first marathon in Indianapolis was just to prove to himself that he could do it. He wanted to finish around 3:30. The morning of the race was freezing! Around 40 degrees. I comfortably watched from our apartment as he ran past us at mile 4ish. Then with our family and friends, I cheered him on at different points on the course. He finished at 3:33:44! Amazing for his first marathon! I was so proud of him.
His second half marathon in Carmel was just as cold. This time he didn’t want to just finish but he wanted to shave off fifteen minutes from his previous time to get him that much closer to qualifying for the Boston Marathon. And he did just that. He finished at 3:19:36!
For his third marathon, he wanted to qualify for the prestigious Boston Marathon, and for his gender/age group he had to do that sub 3:10. Ten minutes doesn’t seem like much, but when you calculate the new pace time per mile, it’s a big jump. But he was determined. This race meant more to him than any of his others races, not only was he trying to accomplish a goal that every runner dreams of, but this marathon was the Marine Corps Marathon in D.C. My husband is a Marine. He served from 1995-1999 in the security forces/infantry and was Airborne . Once a Marine, always a Marine.
We drove to D.C. a few days before the race so we could relax and sight-see. We were super tourists. In two days, we saw every major monument and museum. I think I walked a marathon from all the sight-seeing we did. I had never been to D.C. before, so I truly enjoyed this experience with Bryan. And our hotel was next to the White House. I liked sipping champagne at the rooftop lounge of our hotel overlooking the White House and the Washington Monument.
Per usual Bryan mapped out what time he would be at each mile so I could find him throughout the course. We brought my Trek hybrid so I could cruise around the city with ease. Bryan woke up much earlier than me the morning of the race and left via subway to get to the start line. When I woke up, I bundled up and packed my backpack full of essentials (waters, snacks, camera). With course map in hand, I took off on my bike into the dark to find the start. It was very pleasant riding around D.C. solo while the majority of the city was still asleep.
After I crossed the Thomas Jefferson bridge into Arlington, VA, I got lost. Oh no! Where is the start? I could hear the crowds of people and music over the loud speakers, but people and tents were no where in sight. All I could see were trees and highways. I rode around on a bike path for thirty minutes searching for a way to cross the highway to get to the start. At this point I was in panic mode. How could I miss the start of Bryan’s most important race?! I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself. With pure luck, I spotted another rider on the bike path. I turned into creeper mode and followed him into Arlington National Cemetery. The loudspeaker seemed closer so I knew I was headed in the right direction. And then there were people. Thousands of spectators! I had never seen so many people at a running event before. I rode my bike to a hill and parked my bike just in time for the gun start! And they were off! There were also thousands of runners, so I didn’t spot Bryan but at least I was there for the start.
After all the runners crossed the start, I rode my bike back over the bridge to D.C. to wait for Bryan at mile 10.5 by the Lincoln Memorial. I was suprised that there weren’t many people on bikes. Most of the spectators were on foot. I loved having my bike, it made it easier to get around. As soon as the elite runners went by (smoking fast), I knew it was time to look for Bryan. I was getting live updates on my phone and from his Mom in Indy so I should be able to pick him out easily. And yes I did! He was wearing his neon green singlet I bought him specifically for this race. There were two men with the same color ahead of him so for the rest of the race, I knew to look for the third-ish neon green shirt. He looked great! Right on pace, right on target to qualify.
I saw Bryan again at miles 16 and 17 on the way to the National Mall. The next spot I was going to find him on the course was mile 21 in Crystal City, VA, but with the crowds of spectators I knew I wouldn’t make it there in time, even on bike. And I absolutely did not want to risk missing him finish, so instead I rode my bike back over to Arlington National Cemetery to snap some pictures and pay my respect. It was very peaceful and sombering. It brought tears to my eyes looking at the graves of the brave soldiers that gave up their lives for our freedom. From there, I rode my bike to Roswell, VA for the finish.
The finish area was crazy! There was stadium seating for spectators. It was like watching a televised sporting event. Somehow I weasled my way to the front of the fence at the finish with my bike in tow. I was just in time to watch the elite runners finish. A lot of the runners were in the military so it got a little emotional watching them finish. As I looked around, a handful of the spectators were finishers of the 10K race. I longingly wished I had signed up for the 10K, but then remembered I had ran a half marathon the week before and was still sore. At one point, I spefically remember the loud speaker playing Gangnam Style and everyone getting really pumped up. This ended up being right before Bryan finished. He later recalled that song playing as he was approaching the final stretch. I kept looking at my watch and at the live updates on my phone of his pace. His pace was slowing a little and then I remembered that huge hill right before the finish. “Come on Bryan, you can do this. Don’t give up now.” I kept saying to myself. And then I saw him, neon green singlet, running his heart out to the finish. He did it! He did it! He qualified for Boston at 3:07:59!!! I started screaming with joy and crying. Yes, I admit…I cried when he finished. And I’m getting weepy now thinking about it. Bryan qualified for the Boston Marathon at the Marine Corps Marathon in our nation’s capital. It doesn’t get much sweeter than that.
On the drive home, I had a lot of time to think since Bryan was sleeping in the passenger seat. A lot of those runners were not in great shape and young. They were older, they were parents, they were grandparents, some were overweight, and they were running a marathon! They weren’t trying to qualify for Boston or set a PR. They were running the “people’s marathon.” Maybe their goal was to run their first marathon. Maybe it was to run to support someone in the military. Maybe it was to get healthy and change their lifestyle. Whatever their motivation was, it was inspiring watching people of all walks of life running a marathon. The thousands of spectators that supported them was also touching. The Marines in uniform that volunteered to hand out waters to the runners and to organize the event was amazing. I felt the need to thank each and every Marine that I walked/rode by, “Thank you for your service.”
So what inspired me to register for my first marathon tomorrow? My husband, the Marines, the spectators, and all the runners of the Marine Corps Marathon. Semper Fi.