"I'll call you in six minutes," Emaad texts the day before the Marine Corps Marathon. He's all excited about his success using the Galloway run/walk system at the Army Ten Miler last week. The phone rings promptly six minutes later. He tries to convince me that using the system and walking one minute will enable us to run MCM in 4:27, ten minutes faster than either of us have ever run a marathon.
After running out of steam toward the end of the Wineglass Marathon I'm more than willing to try the walk/run method with him. But I don't share his optimism that we can run the entire marathon at the pace he ran the Army Ten Miler.
"But I was just as fresh at the end as I was when I started," he states.
"We have to go more than two and a half times the distance," I gently remind him.
He agrees and throttles back a bit on the enthusiasm but he's definitely ready and looking forward to tomorrow.
Tres Amigos Dos
Promptly at 6:00 a.m. Emaad and Wayne roll up to my house. I'm ready and we pile into my car for the drive to the MCRRC hospitality suite prior to the race. Last year we left a bit later and only got across the Key Bridge after some cajoling of the police who had closed it to traffic to Virginia. This year we take no chances and cross the Potomac on the Beltway and earlier time. We make quick time getting to the Rosslyn Holiday Inn and the suite.
This is the second (or third) time the three of us have done MCM together, and coincidentially this year, we are attired in a patriotic combination of red, white, and blue shirts, appropriate for the Marines own marathon. Wayne is also planning to use a run/walk strategy but on a different interval than Emaad and I. We'll start together, but then be on our own, although we all expect to be close to one another as we were last year.
We stroll to the start where we meet Heather H. All of us have something extra on to ward off the bit of chill in the morning air before the sun will warm us up. The Tres Amigos are wearing large trash bags and Heather has a throw-away shirt and a light sweatshirt.
Seventeen seconds after the scheduled 8:00 a.m. starting time the Marine howitzer barks and the marathon begins. It takes us twelve minutes to reach the start line, but we begin to run as we get to the line. This year seems more crowded than last year's MCM, and there are places through Arlington that force walking simply because of the numbers of runners. Headed down Spout Run, a stretch whose descent should allow us to make some time, is crowded and we are forced to weave and walk.
We cross Key Bridge and head out Canal Road and proceed up Reservoir Road onto MacArthur Boulevard. Now that the crowds have thinned out a bit, we are sticking to the run seven/walk one schedule. We leapfrog with Wayne, catching up to him during his walks and falling behind during ours.
Emaad is in good spirits. Part of it is the glorious weather, part of it is the effacy of the strategy and most it is because he is running with the over 87oo women who will make up 40 percent of the 21,856 finishers today. A woman goes past us wearing a football jersey. "I love to see women in football jerseys," he purrs.
As we pass Georgetown University, we pass some cheerleaders on the sidewalk. Emaad, a Syracuse University graduate, tries to get their attention by yelling "''Cuse, 'Cuse, 'Cuse," but they ignore him. Then we are in the heart of Georgetown and the crowds are electric. Loud, boisterous and dynamic they line both sides of the street. Cheering, music playing, shouting, they energize us as we turn first down Wisconsin Avenue, then K Street to begin the long trek down to Haines Point and the halfway point.
Emaad seems to be tiring just a little bit as we approach mile 14 so I tell him that I'll stay with him until at least mile 20. I give him one of my Succeed electrolyte capsules. We make the seemingly long slog along Constitution Avenue from the Lincoln Memorial, and then we are on the Mall. We catch up with Wayne again but as has been happening all day, we start are walk and he goes on.
The Bethesda Rebel Runners have set up an unofficial aid station across from the National Gallery of Art just beyond mile 18. Even though I know it is going to be there, I almost run past it, but at the last moment spot daughter Hilary. I get some pretzels and chocolate chip cookies. Emaad has missed it, but he slows down to allow me to catch up, and then Rebecca R., who has organized the station comes along and asks if she can get us anything. We arrange for her to meet us on the other side of the Mall after we circle around the foot of Capitol Hill.
Passing an aid station as we return to the Mall, I grab not one or two packets of sports beans, but four of them. As we meet up with Rebecca and Hilary, who have brought us more goodies from the Rebel Runners, I give them the packets as I take more chocolate chip cookies. It may be one of the few times in running history that a runner has tried to restock an aid station.
Emaad is starting to obviously fade more now. "There's a woman in a Brett Favre jersey," I point out to lift his spirits. But it doesn't do the trick. "I've got standards," he unfairly replies. It's less the standards than the distance, I think.
Mile 20 comes just before the approach to the 14th Street Bridge. I tell Emaad that I'm feeling good and am going on, and he gives me a farewell wave and wishes me good luck. I credit the feeling to the seven/one method we have been practicing, and the goos and other things I have been eating. I decide to keep it up for the remaining 10K of the race.
In previous MCM's the bridge has often been the low point of the race. There are few spectators on the straight mile-long barren concrete highway with the sun shining down at the time that most runners start to hit 'the wall.' Police boats patrol the waters beneath the bridge. About halfway across the bridge I catch up with Wayne and Heather. They are in the midst of one of their walk breaks as I pass them. This time the bridge is not a problem for me and I cruise into Crystal City looking forward to the beer at the Hash House Harriers unofficial aid station. They do not disappoint.
I'm in good spirits. I ask a pregnant runner if they charged her two entry fees. I'm enjoying the costumed runners as today is Halloween, and I've seen brides, superheroes (male and female), chicken man and even Satan, complete with bib number 666. I note that everyone in the race is actually in costume and could go out for Halloween as a marathon runner.
Run seven, walk one. Only in the last mile do I begin to falter a bit and walk a little bit more. But that has a purpose of making sure I have enough energy to run up the hill to the finish line at the Marine Corps Memorial, the iconic Iwo Jima statue. I do and finish in 4:40:05, my best time of my five MCMs.
With my medal around my neck, place there as tradition dictates by a Marine lieutenant, I leave the finish area, get my USAA finisher's coin from its booth and walk back to the Holiday Inn. I'm eating lasagna and washing it down with a non-alcoholic beer - I've got to drive Tres Amigos home - when Wayne comes in. He finished in 4:48, meeting his goal of finishing under five hours due to his lack of training. Emaad does indeed fade the last six miles, finishing in 4:56. But like Wayne he, too, had his training disrupted by an injury, so he is not particularly disappointed Heather also finishes in 4:56.