Several weeks ago I sat diligently at my desk with credit card in hand ready to register for the Marine Corps 17.75K. I was hoping to be one of the 2,000 successful registrants to tackle 11.03 miles and gain my “Access Granted” card to register for the 40th Marine Corps Marathon in October. Gratefully it worked as the race sold out in just over 7 minutes.
I was excited to enter the 40th MCM through guaranteed access rather than try my hand at the lottery but also knew this race was scheduled for not even a full week after the Shamrock Half. My plan was to take it nice and easy and just cross the finish line upright. After signing up I delved into the actual logistics of the race. With a 7 am start and shuttles departing around 6:15 am I didn’t want to get up at the crack of dawn to drive down and deal with that so I booked the cheapest and most convenient hotel I could find.
I left DC late Friday afternoon and headed straight to packet pick up. It was located at VA Runners in Woodbridge, VA which was perfect as I needed to pick up some race day fuel. I was in and out pretty quickly and chatted with some of the volunteers about the course. A volunteer at the running store openly said this is not one you want to race. He described the first 4 and last 2 miles as a mix of trail and gravel the rest being open road. That was helpful information to be aware of.
Following packet pick up I avoided the mess that is I95 by taking some back roads to my hotel. I was booked at the Super 8 in Dumfries. I am all about no frills but can I just say in addition to being just a 3 minute walk to the shuttle lot – I am not mad at the Super 8! My room was really, really nice and SO comfortable!
Courtney stayed a few miles down the road and we both remarked how much of a good choice it was to stay local for the night. It made logistics that much easier. We carb loaded at Ruby Tuesday’s sharing mozzarella sticks and each a glass of wine to start. Dinner for me was Parmesan Shrimp Pasta. Um, yum-my.
Following dinner we said our good-byes with plans to meet at the shuttle lot in the am. I had trouble sleeping Thursday evening so was very ready for bed after a lovely dinner and laying my (winter) outfit out. I lamented a predicted 30 degrees at start with a real feel of 19. Seriously Mother Nature, you’re drunk – go home. 5:45 am came quickly but I did have a decent night’s sleep.
After bundling up and walking the short distance to the lot we got on the shuttle. And no yellow school buses for the Marines – oh no! – we were treated to luxury commuter buses that were so warm I almost wanted to just run 11 miles up and down the aisle instead of getting off the bus. Lucky for us the start and finish was at the Montclair Tabernacle Church. They so kindly opened their sanctuary to runners and we packed inside to keep warm. Courtney and I also waited in line to use the indoor plumbing 😉
We got to the start line just as the race was going off. I wasn’t really ready when we started running as I hadn’t put on my gloves or set up my music/MapMyRun so I lost Courtney at the beginning when I stepped to the side. I had heard about the course located in Prince William Forrest Park. I knew it was hilly and challenging – the DC area isn’t exactly flat anyway – but even the elevation chart didn’t do it justice. We were hit with the first hill inside of Mile 1 and with only so much space we packed in like sardines and it was near impossible to maneuver around.
While I expected the rocky and muddy terrain it was difficult to run on and I actually “kicked rocks” on this portion of the course. Big ones. Finally between Miles 3-4 we hit open road and it thinned out a bit. This part was pretty quiet and serene and with the extra breathing room I was able to establish a bit of a rhythm but my ankle was slightly throbbing. This was my first run since the half as I wanted to give it a rest but trails didn’t help. I just settled in for what I knew might be an uncomfortable, slow and steady run. This race felt more like a trail half than an 11 miler! There is not much else to tell between Miles 4-8. The hills rolled slightly but to me they were not as bad as the beginning or what I would face at the end. There were water stations every 2 miles and the volunteers and Marines on course were fabulous and so super supportive! Mile 9 quite frankly was just rude. Major, major hill. I, along with the majority of those around me, walked up the steep incline.
*Quick runner etiquette rant: after my cup incident last week I’m more aware of these things but the Marines had trash cans lined up at least 6 deep at each water station. This is way more than any race I’ve ever seen yet runners continue to discard their cups on the ground with little to no effort to trash them. I think this is just bad form. Do your best to either crunch the cup or place it in the trash, it’s not that hard. End rant.
When I got to the top I ran the rest of the way. Hitting Mile 10 there was an out and back and then we rounded the corner and it was all downhill from there. I crossed the finish line and I only paused there long enough to grab a quick photo. Then a volunteer handed me my Access Granted card with registration code and I sailed through the refreshments to down some Gatorade and pick up a banana and water to go. It. was. freezing. So off to catch a shuttle I went!
I had missed Courtney by just a few minutes. Sadly as organized as the Marine’s are the shuttle area was a nightmare. There were 3 areas marked as lines to the 3 lots they had set up but people were lined up in only one. The buses just pulled up at random and people shoved to get on. I did my part to wait patiently and was able to squeeze on a bus who let extra passengers on and we stood in the aisle.
Following a long, hot shower and rest (this is where the glory of getting a hotel came in!!) I met up with Courtney again for post-race breakfast at Cracker Barrel. Multi berry pancakes, scrambled eggs, coffee and of course bacon. SO yum!
This is certainly one of the toughest races I’ve ever run but what a great “prize” at the end! I doubt I’d run it again as I think this will be my last MCM (if not last marathon) but glad I had the opportunity for guaranteed access! And with 11 miles down and a click of the mouse…
Where are my fellow 40th Marine Corps Marathon runners? What are some of your runner etiquette pet peeves?