MCM. Unlike three weeks ago when it was 90 degree and humid at Chicago, the weather today was almost perfect for the running of another of the nation's premier marathons, the People's Marathon, the 32d Marine Corps Marathon. It's either the third or fourth largest marathon in the country. They know what they're doing.
This marathon, a scenic trip through the nation's capital, has never been cancelled. The Marines provided plenty of water for everyone. The police didn't deploy on the course and order runners to walk under threat of arrest. (Below: Does the marathon in your town have a view like this one that greeted today's runners?)
It was in the fifties and breezy for the 20,667 finishers. I waited on the 14th Street Bridge at MP 20 for a friend of mine, H, who was running her first marathon. I had offered to accompany her the last six miles. She wanted to run around a 4:00 (9:09 pace) marathon so I had been practicing running nine minute miles all week.
It's a lot harder to spot people as masses of faces pour past you than you might think. Last year I completely missed Bex when she ran by me at the same spot with A, who is 6-3, running next to her. How could you miss those two women running by you? Bex ran a 3:56:53 MCM last year, having been greatly helped by the accompaniment of A around the wind-blown and desolate Haines Point.
This year they added some hills. It seems they're always tinkering with the course but the core course, a beauteous run down the mall and by the Capitol, remains the same. I ran it in 2002, not very well (5:04:38), and it seemed a lot more crowded this year than what I remembered. There were 14,086 finishers back then. (Above: Old Glory on the 14th Street Bridge.)
H came by, a little off her desired pace. She was running steadily though, looking relaxed and strong. We burned a 9:12 running to MP 21. Off the bridge now, we went though the crowded streets of Crystal City, running a 9:25 mile, then a 9:30 mile. (Right: Running by the Lincoln Memorial in the 2002 MCM, my fourth marathon.)
H had worked hard all summer and fall, running according to schedule every week and keeping on her desired pace in her training runs, including a couple of 8:58 minutes-per-mile twenty milers, but she was hitting the wall now in the twenty fourth mile. She powered through it though, with a 9:59 mile followed by a 10:15 mile. Nice and steady. I ran a little bit of the last mile with her, then stepped off the course before I got penned in by the crowded finish zone. H finished with a really nice time of 4:07 and change. Nice job! (Below: H is on the left. She looks pretty good for MP 20, don't you think?)
If you haven't done the MCM, it's a must-do. There's a great spirit to this race, a great sense of community and excitement. You can have Chicago, although the spectators were terrific.