In its 15th (of 20) weeks, the Reebok SunTrust National Half Marathon Training Program I coach for met on Sunday morning, February 15th, in Greenbelt, MD to participate in the DC Road Runners Washington’s Birthday Marathon Relay race, the 8th oldest continuously-held marathon in the country. Coach Ellen volunteered at the race and dispensed the sweet elixir of life with a beatific countenance to thirsty runners at a water table. Coach Emily ran the full marathon in 4:13 and took third in her age group. Six 3-runner relay teams were fielded by Program participants. (Right: Coach Ellen, in blue, volunteering at last year's relay race with Je, in crimson. Last year Ellen was a Program trainee, this year she is a valuable coach.)
The marathon is a basic three-loop course, with additional distance accounted for by a run to the triple-loop at the start and a slog to the finish line at the end. The relay’s first leg is 9.7 miles and runs down a big hill into a large pastoral bowl bordered on one side by parkland and by rural highways on the other side. Emerging from the sheltered park onto the highway section in the fifth mile, runners brave headwinds, traffic and hills the rest of the way to the relay exchange point. The second leg is the 7.3 mile basic loop, and the anchor leg is 9.2 miles, running back up the big hill leading out of the park to the finish line.
Belying their name, the team formed by coach Matt, Sub 3 or Bust, won the Open Division with a time of 3:00:11. Matt turned in a torrid 6:15 per mile pace on what’s known as the Princess Leg, the middle 7.3 mile leg (which is almost always assigned to the female runner on Coed teams), as Jo and a guest runner ran only slightly slower on their longer legs in claiming the second team spot overall. A pesky Coed team snuck in five seconds ahead of these swift young men to claim the top team spot. (Left: Matt after his blistering run last year, when he did the first leg for his team.)
Coach Lauren did double duty, running the first leg for the White Jackets team of K and F, which finished in 4:07. Then Lauren anchored 2 Babes and a Tall Guy to a 3:42 time, which was good for the best finish among Program teams that didn’t have the rock star Matt on them. S and Joi handled the first two legs.
Right on Lauren’s heels was my teammate Ja, running eight-minute miles for the Satellite Cowboys which was the next Program team to finish, in 3:43. Jam ran an excellent Princess Leg for us after I got swallowed up by the hills on the backside of the first leg. I was glad to hand off the red Coed sash marker after experiencing my speed fall off precipitously during the run from a 7:57 first mile to an 8:46 overall pace.
Mere seconds behind the Cowboys was the Grumpy Old Men team, led by R, who passed me in the first leg as I was walking along in the fifth mile desperately sucking down a GU. Ju was the anchoring Old Man while a guest runner handled the short duty.
The next Program team to finish was Friends of Fleet Feet (an Adams Morgan running store, a community fixture), with St leading off and K and C following to turn in an excellent 4:19.
Many of these Program participants had never done a team race before. Everyone was totally stoked after his or her leg, even those runners like me who had a bad running day. (Did I mention the course is hilly?) The laughter was loud afterwards, bespeaking of the camaraderie on the course!