I jumped into the MCM at MP 19 when I spotted my running buddy Leah, she of the 4:51 PR, to pace her during her last 7 miles in her quixotic quest to break 4 hours with very minimal training. That would necessitate a 9:09 pace.
As I settled into running alongside Leah, I told her I was going to sprint ahead 50 yards so that I could get in front of her far enough to stop and turn and get an action shot of her running towards me that would "take" on a digital camera, and since she'd just run 19 miles, she shouldn't speed up to follow me. She nodded in agreement and I ran ahead and turned, but as I brought my camera up she was still practically right behind me. I got the shot but I thought to myself that she appeared fresh enough after 19 miles to be able to do a short burst of speed work, and I wondered just what her possibilities were for a 3:59 marathon.
In any case, I now started running alongside her and we conversed for two miles, and she discoursed readily enough and didn't seem either excessively fatigued or particularly out of breath. We ran at what I thought were 9-minute miles and she kept up with me well enough, with me continuously going literally from side to side of the course to find a space to dart through clumps of runners, what I call sideways running on crowded courses, which seemed odd to be necessary at such a far distance from the start line.
The MCM is a huge race, with many scores of thousands of runners, but to still be sideways running twenty miles into a race suggested that for whatever reason, Leah was among the slowpokes of the race, because with the oddball exception of solitary runners blazing by us occasionally at a fast pace, we were steadily moving up amongst the racers and we steadily started passing runners I recognized as having passed by me while I waited for Leah before she came by. We turned left at 14th Street and started over the long bridge over the Potomac, which represented a major uphill for the weary runners in their twentieth mile as the Pentagon on the Virginia shore comes into sight off to the right. I now assumed a path breaking spot five yards in front of Leah and she doggedly followed wherever I went as we worked our way through runners at about a nine-minute pace, with me wondering how close she actually was to the magic four hour mark, knowing as I did that the four-hour pace group was still several minutes ahead of us.