Wednesday, October 28, 2015

MCM Race Report: Crowded, but with Impressive Crowd Support

The Marine Corps Marathon has a lottery and when I (and Lisa) registered for the lottery several months ago we weren't sure how difficult it would be to get into the race so we registered without considering what other races, if any, might conflict with race weekend.  (Apparently it isn't *too* difficult because everyone we knew who registered for the lottery got into the race.)  Lisa didn't have any conflicts but the MCM marathon, held on Sunday, October 25, was held five weeks after the Run Rabbit Run 100 so I wasn't sure how I would feel but I figured I would feel good enough to give it a go.  

Even though the race started at 7:55am the race instructions recommended getting to the runners village (race corral) TWO hours in advance -- we thought that was a bit excessive since it was forecast to rain in the morning -- so we arrived at the nearest metro station about 7am with, we thought, plenty of time to get through security and walk over to the start line.  Turns out we were terribly mistaken.  By the time we made it through security -- not much of a security protocol but enough to cause a bottleneck and slow the progress of thousands of runners -- the race had already started so we headed straight to the starting area and set off as soon as we crossed the starting mat (~20 minutes after the official start). 

There were 30,000+ runners in this race so running elbow-to-elbow while trying to pass but not cut-off other runners was a real challenge for the first 10 miles.  If we had shown up at the start area the recommended two hours before the start time we could have positioned ourselves in the appropriate corral and run with others at about the same pace as us but since we were late and the start had become a free-for-all, the range of paces varied dramatically.  Flagship marathons in large cities like DC are bound to be crowded but MCM is unreal, although with a large field of runners comes an atmosphere that a smaller marathon just cannot match.  

Since Lisa and I live and train in DC there wasn't much of the course that we weren't familiar with although running on the road, versus the sidewalk, was a novelty.  The blue mile -- a mile featuring the faces of fallen soldiers -- was a somber reminder of the very real costs of war.  Running this stretch definitely put what I was doing in that moment -- running a marathon?!? -- into perspective.  Aside from that (appropriately) quiet stretch of the course, the crowd support and enthusiasm were unlike anything I've experienced in a race.  It was impressive, inspiring, and distracting (in a good way).  

I crossed the finish line in 4h:17m:15s with Lisa one second behind -- I was hoping we would finish closer to four hours -- but we both felt relatively decent for much of the race and Lisa ran a marathon PR so I can't complain.  We were both happy we ran this race and would recommend it to anyone who hasn't run it before but I doubt we would do it again:  there are just too many marathons in great cities to justify running MCM again.  

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