Sunday, March 22, 2009

What a race

The National Marathon was run yesterday. This is a great race, a must-do. A comer. Even if they did run out of cups yesterday.

I ran the infamous seven hills of hell part of this course in PG County the first year when the race strayed beyond the confines of the District. Bex was doing her first marathon and I accompanied her the last six miles. They changed the course the next year to put it entirely within the District and eliminated these diabolical hills. I still go over to PG County once a year to run those seven hills on Central Avenue/East Capitol Street for hillwork. Whomever I talk into accompanying me never runs with me again. It's like being out on a LRRP patrol over there, they are not used to seeing runners on that vast highway wasteland and the locals do not react well to their presence. During the marathon, scores of motorists, angry at being delayed by road closures, drove alongside runners on the other side of the road and yelled and gave them the finger. When I last did this run one Sunday morning last fall, Redskins fans, obviously well into their cups already, honked and shouted at us for daring to be on the shoulder of their highway as they zoomed off to their hours-long pre-game tailgate rituals at FedEx Field.

The next year I set my marathon PR in this race. I will never forget running over the Frederick Douglass Bridge into the District proper from Anacostia (SE) in the early morning gloom and, when the mist suddenly parted, seeing revealed to me the steel skeleton of the new baseball park being built, arising out of the ground by the river shore. It was a magnificent sight, my most memorable marathon moment ever in this, my second favorite marathon race (NYCM is the best race ever) .

Last year I directed the 17-week Reebok SunTrust National Half Marathon Training Program and I felt I should run the half-mary in support of my trainees. Although a couple of trainees and a couple of coaches beat me, I was gratified to get my second best HM time on the course. I liked the course a lot, with it's challenging hill being in the middle (around the seventh mile) when you're still "fresh." Its long downhill run to its ending point at RFK from the course's high point near McMillian Reservoir (where the raucous Howard University band lifts your spirits with their brassy sound and extreme gyrations) takes you through parts of the District where runners rarely go otherwise.

This year I directed 20-week Reebok SunTrust National Half Marathon Training Program again. We had great turnout each week at our usual meeting place Gotta Run in Arlington, and incredible coaches. (Thanks Matt, Lauren, Ellen & John, and get better soon Emily!) I know a lot of the trainees ran the race and did well, and I know Ellen, at least, had an incredible 11-minute PR. Ellen, a trainee last year, developed an incredibly devoted following amongst her charges as a coach this year.

Since I had run the marathon and had a good HM race on the course already, I saw no need to run either race again. I wanted to learn more about administering a big race so I contacted the race administrators and asked for SAG Wagon duties. Racers know what the ominous SAG Wagon is. Those interesting duties will be the subject of a future post.


Lesser is More said...

It was a great day for racing yesterday. I think I spotted you as I was beginning the 2nd half of the marathon course, near where you said you'd probably be. I was in a bit of a haze at that point though (running 15 miles will do that to you) and kept on running through.

Looking forward to "Tales from the SAG Wagon". Great to meet you on Friday too.

Just_because_today said...

Funny, we were on the same course on the inaugural National Marathon and I didn't get to say hello ;)
I can't believe they are still running out of things (cups this time)! they ran out of food by the time I finished in 2006. How do you run out of bagels in a marathon when there is no race day registration? The night before you know how many runners to expect! Anyway, that's the race director in me speaking. I also remember the last 6 miles having hills after hills when I thought that part of the course was going to be going downhill...the only downhill thing was my splits.
Great report. I enjoyed it

jeanne said...

thanks for the trip down memory lane! though i never ran the national marathon, i've heard it described so many times, i feel like an honorary finisher.

I credit all my success to the ginger ale...and last year's training. That was a fun group friday nite. :)

Rainmaker said...

Thanks for being out there! It was great to see ya, I was definitely looking forward to spotting you at mile 1 (thankfully - and no offence - I don't have to see ya again at Mile 15) ;).

I too am really looking forward to tales from the SAG Wagon.

Rhea said...

Boy, do I remember the Nat'l Marathon in '06! I'm glad you helped me in the last 6 miles. My knee - the one I gashed in the first mile of the marathon - was killing me.

I'm going to come out there sometime this year and we're going to have to run that hilly section again.

You're still up for the Tahoe Relay, yes?!

Anne said...

Sounds like the marathon's really evolved and taken earlier criticism to heart...I wish they all were like that. Nice work supporting the runners this year. Can't wait to hear how it was being on the wagon.

Danielle said...

Hey it was great meeting you, even if we didn't get to chat so much at dinner! And I looked for you at Mile 1 but I didn't see you at all. You must have been hiding or something!

Petraruns said...

GOod for you for supporting the race like this. Well done and it sounds like you had a good experience - can't wait to hear about your time on the SAG wagon.

One day I will be out in DC and you can take me round those hills - I love a challenge and they sound like one...

ShirleyPerly said...

That's one aspect of a race I actually don't know much about. Look forward to hearing about it. Thanks for helping with the event!