Race Report: Marine Corps Marathon

We were up bright and early, around 5am, to get Casey ready and down to the starting line for the 8am start.  After showering and getting all ready, and quadruple checking that we had everything, we headed out.

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Casey was ready to run!  And I was ready to cheer…

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Hot caffeine on the left, cold caffeine on the right.  It was so cold out too – I was really glad I had brought enough clothes to bundle up!

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Our hotel seemed to also be hosting most of the disabled veterans using hand bikes for the race.  I had never seen these up close and in person – very cool!  It was sad how many disabled young veterans there were there – so many amputees that were literally kids, like 18 and 20 year olds. 

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Like I said before, the meet up area was right outside our hotel, so I made Casey pose with the “M” where we would be finding each other at the end!  We headed to the train station, but as we got there we saw that more marathon runners were coming out of the station than going in, and we realized that it would be faster for us to just walk 1.5 miles from where we were than to try to navigate more trains.

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This isn’t a great picture, but as we walked to the starting area, there was a beautiful glowing view of the monument, and of the rest of the mall, all lit up in the darkness of the morning.  I dropped Casey off at the starting line, gave him a huge hug and kiss, and nervously started walking back on my own.  This was definitely the most nervous I’ve been to watch him run, just totally not knowing what to expect since he didn’t train.  I called Blake to make sure he was awake and headed to meet me, and he was already on the train – yay Blake!  I headed to the first mile marker, which was our first spectator spot, and was thrilled to see a Starbucks waiting for me right at mile one!

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Grande black coffee and hot oatmeal for me, grande hot chocolate for Blake!  So glad I got this oatmeal, since it ended up being the only thing I ate until 3pm!

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The race started and first to whiz past us was the hand bikes!  WOW – these things are so fast!  I can’t imagine doing that for 26.2 miles.  And I can’t imagine how scary the down hills must be!  I have a major fear of flying down hills…

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This man on the left was running with his young son in a wheelchair.  Lots of tears and cheers when he ran past – so emotional.  And when this pair on the right ran past, I didn’t understand why they were roped together until they went past.  On the back of their shirts read “Blind Runner” and “Blind Escort” – aha!  So amazing.  And then came the other 40,000 runners…

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Soooooo many runners!  It seemed like it would never end.  We actually DID manage to spot Casey and wave and yell when he hit mile one, but there were waaay too many people to get a good photo.  Our plan was to run a few blocks down and catch him again at mile four, but we realized once it was too late that we were on the wrong side of the sidewalk – whoops!  There was no way to cross the street with 40,000 runners in motion, so we gave up mile four and took our time getting to mile ten!

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Running all over the city to watch Casey run didn’t leave much time for sightseeing, so I was excited that mile ten was right by the Lincoln Memorial!  We saw Casey zoom past at mile ten, still looking good and right on pace.  Again I got caught up in screaming and forgot to get a picture, and vowed to take them from now on.

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After seeing Casey at mile ten, we headed down the way a bit to mile 16.  Since we were his only spectators, our goal was to make it to as many spots as possible!  Thank god for Blake, who lives in DC, and was an excellent navigator – even with me constantly yelling, “We have to go, we’re going to miss him, hurry up!”  :)

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Finally got a picture of Casey breezing by, right before the 16th mile marker!  He still looked strong, but something about his face told me he was starting to hurt.  He basically did NO training for this marathon – his longest run being 9 miles on a treadmill two weeks ago.  But if anyone can run a ridiculously fast marathon with no training, it’s Casey.  Regardless, I was a nervous wife.  He kept running, and we took off for the next spot!

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Too bad we couldn’t have stayed in DC longer.  We both absolutely love this city, and it was the perfect fall day!  DC is very high on our list of next places to move.  I’ve written about my struggles with running in Charlotte.  Who wouldn’t want to run here??

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Blake and I were moving around on such a time crunch, that we had no time to stop for food, drinks, or bathroom breaks.  I kept trying to remind myself that despite my hunger and bladder, Casey was having a much tougher day than we were!  Here he is running towards us at mile 19.  At the start, he was hoping that having lost a few pounds plus the adrenaline of running such a cool marathon would be enough for him to maintain his 7:10 goal pace, but mile by mile he was starting to slow down a bit.  As he ran towards me at mile 19, he took off his Garmin and handed it to me when he went past.  I knew this was a very bad sign.  He no longer wanted to know his pace, so he must be really hurting.

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I yelled that I loved him and he was doing great, and Blake and I took off running to catch the train to get down to mile 22.  For some reason the train went really slooooowly across the bridge, and we got to our next spot a few minutes later than we had hoped.  Not knowing if we missed Casey or not, we didn’t want to risk it, so we ran up ahead to between the 23rd and 24th mile markers, to make sure we would see him.  Can you see him coming in the picture above – where’s Casey?

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And there he goes…  He was moving much slower at this point (and running UP hill, ugh), but he gave me a smile and stuck his tongue out at me – making me feel a million times better.  I knew he was really struggling, but I could tell that mentally he was fine, and he would finish.  Those final miles are so painful – a LOT of people around him we walking, but he just kept shuffling his feet.

Blake and I took off running, hoping to make it to the finish, but missed the train by about ten seconds because of a stupid guy in front of us on the escalator with a gigantic box blocking our path.  We had to wait 15 excruciating minutes for the next one, and we knew Casey would be done by then.  We finally got off the train, and headed towards the big M at the reunion site, and look who I found!!!

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I was soooooo proud of him, and attacked him in a great big hug, almost knocking him over on his fragile and tired legs.  He said it was the hardest thing he’d ever done, but he never stopped or walked once – his only real goal.  He finished in 3 hours 31 minutes – AMAZING!  Who does that with no training?  So annoying! :)

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I like to think that his super awesome spectator team helped him get from mile to mile:)  I was really happy that we were able to make it to SIX spots along the course!  That is a lot in one marathon, especially in such a big, crowded city.

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Thanks again to Blake for getting up super early and running around all day with me!  I couldn’t have done it without you!  After a few minutes of relaxing and swapping stories, we headed back to the hotel so that Casey could shower and we could pack up and check out.  Here is some of his fun loot!  Great medal – I’m totally jealous that I don’t have one.  (But I will get one next year!)

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After we left the hotel, we headed to Capitol Hill to our favorite lunch spot from our last visit – Le Pain Quotidien.  This place has amaaaazing food, and my favorite part – they have jars of various nut butters, jellies, and chocolate spreads on the table for you to eat with their amazing homemade bread.  YUM!

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After lunch, we said goodbye to Blake and hit the road.  Casey did a lot of sleeping, and I did a lot of singing and energy-drink-chugging.  I also saw one of the most beautiful sunsets of all time, and tried my best to catch it while driving, but the picture does it no justice.

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We got home around 11pm, and I had to be back up at 5am to get to class.  I tried not to complain since I knew Casey was super sore, but I was actually really exhausted too!  I wore my Garmin all day, and logged ten miles following him around the course!

It was an amazing marathon – great spectators, great course, perfect weather.  We are both already planning to sign up the day they open registration for next year!  So I guess I already know where my fall marathon will be…

But I have to get through Thunder Road in December first.  Watching Casey and the other runners on Sunday was a great motivator going into this weekend’s long run.  More on that to come…