Marine Corps Cheerleading.

I was sooooooo tired this morning and did not want to drag myself out of bed at all.  But thoughts of anxious marathoners pinning their bibs on all over the city got me out from under the covers, and out the door into the freezing cold morning.  For the first time ever, I headed out as a spectator all by myself.  It was kind of weird.

As far as cheering for this race went, I had to be realistic.  Typically I would wear my running shoes and try to race all over the city – catching runners at multiple spots.  But since I’m dragging around this busted knee, I am moving MUCH slower than usual.  I realistically picked two spots where I would hopefully be able to see all of my friends.  I headed up to the mall to find remnants of yesterday’s rally

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And I discovered when I got there that I was SUPER early.  No one had even come through this water station yet!  (Can I also add that this was the best water stop crew EVER?  They literally screamed the entire time runners were coming through.)

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I was kicking myself for not being able to get to the earlier mile markers since I had so much time to kill, but I knew there was no way I’d get back to my spot if I left it.

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As planned, I camped out right next to mile 19.  Having run 5 marathons myself, I am well aware that support is most needed in the final miles, so I figured that was where I could be most useful.

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The sun was just starting to shine through the trees, and there was a wonderful crisp cool air.  PERFECT weather for running a marathon.

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There was a cute bagpipe trio stationed next to me, and they played every time a handbiker rolled by.  It made our spot so much more festive and exciting!

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I took advantage of my extra time (two hours!) and wandered around the empty mall for a while.  It’s not very often you get the National Mall all to yourself!

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Finally after much anticipation, signs of runners in the distance started to appear…

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The lead pack!

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These guys were FLYING!  I thought it was cool that all four were still together so far into the race. 

Once the lead group passed, there was another long lull before any more runners came.  At this point I realized that my phone battery was on red.  I decided to run into the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum to camp out by a plug and let it charge for about 15 minutes, so that I could keep texting and Tweeting and keep up with the runners I was tracking.

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First time in the Air & Space Museum, and it was only to change my phone.  FAIL.

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When I headed back outside, the runners were finally starting to reach mile 19.

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Including Mario and Luigi!

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And Beetlejuice!  These guys were not only running in costumes – they were running FAST!  This was probably around the 3:15 pace group.  Insane.

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There were also several military members running with full sized American flags.  Very impressive, and made me a little teary.

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Buzz Lightyear was having a good day – moving fast!

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And then just as I was hoping, Erika appeared right on pace!  We are friends from Cincinnati, and we used to see each other running all the time in our neighborhood back home, so it was really fun to see her running up here in my new city.  She was killing it – right in front of the 4:00 group!

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Mile 19 was a hard place to cheer.  Having run so many races myself, I knew exactly how the runners felt, and I didn’t really know what to yell to them.  I saw one girl get to the 19 marker, bend over and start sobbing.  She cried “oh my god, only NINETEEN?”  It was hard to watch.  I just yelled and smiled and told her it was ONE run – she could do it.  I hope it helped.  Others were starting to walk and struggle.  I only hoped I would see them again at the later mile marker!

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This guy was obviously awesome.

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And then she appeared!  The Peanut Butter Runner herself – Jen was looking strong and still smiling!  I haven’t seen her since we said goodbye in Charlotte.  I wished I could have run out and given her a huge hug.  

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As the runners grabbed their water, I grabbed my purse and scrambled back to the Metro in hopes of catching Erik
a and Jen at mile 24.

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As my Metro train crossed the water, I could see the runners tackling the never-ending mile 20 bridge that I had been warned about…

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I made it down to mile 24 and met up with Casey, who was nearby working in a Starbucks.  We got there just in time to see Erika fly past again!  Looks like she ended up finishing around 4:03 – SO totally amazing!  Congrats, girl. 

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She was followed by this scary painted man in a kilt.

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And a few minutes later, we saw Jen again!  Sadly, I thought I snapped a picture of her but when I looked through them she wasn’t in it after all.  :(  I screamed my head off for her, but she must have turned her iPod way up for final mile motivation.  Even though she didn’t see me, it was fun to cheer and see her – I knew she was on her way to finishing strong. 

Casey and I cheered for a few more minutes before heading back towards home to beat the finish line crowds on the train.

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Even though I would much prefer to RUN a race, sometimes cheering for one can be just as fun.  I’d be lying if I said this one wasn’t a little hard to watch.  But I’m glad I didn’t sit at home and pout, and that I was able to hit the streets and cheer for some of my other favorite runners‘

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Realistically, I’ll still be sidelined for a while.  But I’m trying to stay positive and set some goals that seem possible down the road.  If all goes well at the orthopedic doctor, and my leg feels relatively healed in the next month, I may attempt to run Charlotte’s Thunder Road.  That will depend on how much fitness I’ve lost this month.

Further down, (and probably much more probable) I’m setting my sights on another DC marathon – the National Marathon in March.  I am determined to run 26.2 in my new favorite city, and I know a lot of other runners and bloggers who are doing this one too.  Hopefully I’ll be able to join them!

There is something so fun about watching marathons – just a great, positive feel in the air.  Watching the runners this morning left me inspired and excited to get back out there at some point myself.   I’m going to be smart about it and listen to my doctors and my body.  But whenever my body does decide that it’s ready, my heart will be a few skips ahead towards the starting line.