Monday, March 18, 2013

George Washington Birthday Marathon - February 17, 2013

A Cold Day for a Run
Jim and me Keeping Warm Pre-race
Wearing Bull Run Run 50 Mile Gear
(Photo by Mark Z.)

Two nice things about the George Washington Birthday Marathon put on by the DC Road Runners Club are that it has an early start option and the early start is at a very civilized 9:30 a.m.  That allows me to pick up Mark Z at 8:15, get to the Greenbelt Youth Center by 8:30, park three spots from the door and register for the race without getting up any earlier than my usual 7:00 a.m. alarm.

The day promises cold and wind, so I wear a short-sleeve shirt under two long sleeve ones, don tights and shorts, a buff to keep both my head and neck warm and hat and gloves.  I bring along Little Hotties foot warmers to stick in my shoes before we head out to the finish.  They promise to work for "up to 5 hours" and the marathon will be a chance to test out that claim.

At the early start
Ken (center), Jim (behind in red) , Caroline (far right)
(Photo by JeanneLouWho)
There is Always Someone Crazier than the Last Most Crazy Runner You Met

Jim, Caroline W and I start out together at the early start. As we head down the long long about a mile and a half into the race (which you have to run up after 25 miles) Caroline comments that she hears someone with a very hard foot strike.  As she says it, Stephanie C. passes us and the source of the sound is immediately apparent.  Stephanie is running with an orthopedic boot on her left foot.

She tells us that she had a stress fracture last year and that it had healed, but she thinks that she has re-fractured it.  Since she had run a half marathon with the boot last year, she thought that running a marathon in it would be doable.  And then she goes merrily clomping down the road past us.

I catch up with her a little while later and run with her for awhile.  She explains that she had come down this morning with a friend from Philadelphia and didn't want to disappoint her by not running.  She adds that she ran a five mile race the day prior to the marathon - in running shoes, not the boot - and had to hide from the race director, who is also her orthopedist.  Stephanie further explains that after her foot healed last year she ran half marathons nearly every weekend in the Fall, and then ran the Goofy Challenge at Disney this year - the half marathon followed by the marathon the following day.  And now the stress fracture had seemed to returned.  She expresses regrets about running in the boot and thinks that wearing shoes would have been better.  She is alternating running and walking and I finally  leave her.

After the marathon I spot her sitting on a bench in the Youth Center.  She did two loops of the three loop course, completing 17 miles before calling it a day.  But the reason she stopped, she tells me, is not because of the boot but because of the cold.  She also points out that the straps on the boot had started to come apart.  I joke that she will have a difficult time explaining that she needs a new one because this one was failing because she was running in it.

A Tale of Two Courses

Mile 20, Lap 3, along Beaver Dam Road
(Photo by JeanneLouWho)
The course consists of  three 7.5 mile loops with a couple of miles of out and back at the beginning and the end.  The loop is more of a triangle, with a 3.5 mile side along Beaver Dam Road on the grounds of the USDA Agricultural Research facility, then roughly two miles each along Springfield Road and Powder Mill Road.  The stretch along Beaver Dam Road is nearly free of wind, and I remove hat, then gloves and finally a shirt.  The wind is out of the north-northwest, but due to the geography of the course, whether due to trees or being on the low side of a gentle ridge this stretch of the course is very pleasant weatherwise.

But no sooner do I leave the aid station at the end on Beaver Dam Road and make the acute left turn onto Springfield than the wind is blowing and gusting in my face.  I quickly re-don my shirt, pull the buff around my head, and put hat and gloves back on.  Gusts of wind make me turn my face away so that it is not directly in the wind.  I repeat the process each time I approach the turn onto Springfield.  For some reason the wind reminds me of a line from the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, "could it be the north wind they'd been feelin'?"

Mile 13, Lap 2, approaching the turn to windward (Photo by JeanneLouWho)
A couple of snowflakes spit from the sky from time to time, but nothing to threaten visibility or even dampen the ground.  None of the brief moments of flakes last more than a couple of minutes.

The Little Hotties in my shoes work to perfection and my toes, which can often suffer greatly from the cold, stay warm the entire day.  The only mishap occurs when I go to remove them from my shoes in the Youth Center.  One of the packages had torn open and my toes are partially covered in black powder.  No great harm - the powder is non-toxic and is purported to be a combination of iron compounds and a catalyst to speed along oxidation, releasing heat in the process.

The Best Sponsor for an Aid Station
Best Marathon Aid Station Candy 

The National Confectioners Association (Motto: Making Life Sweeter since 1884) sponsors some of the aid stations.  Not only does this assure a supply of M&Ms, jelly beans and some of the other candies that often appear at aid stations, but at the very first aid station I snare a dark chocolate covered Peep.  I'm so stunned by finding such an unexpected treat that instead of gobbling it right down I stick it in a pocket.  Several times as the day wears on I extract it but I can't bring myself to eat it and return it to the pocket.  Toward the end of the I tell a fellow runner of my fortune.  Asked why I don't eat it, I say that it is a bit like a fire extinguisher or AED, and it is to be used only in case of emergency.  The emergency never comes and the Peep makes it home safely with me.

But it is only a temporary reprieve.  After being lovingly photographed it is devoured the next day.

Shirt, Medal and Bib


The new, 2013-dated medal
My fourth George Washington Birthday Marathon is a pleasant and familiar run.  I treat it like a run, not a race, as it is the first long run of the year and is a way to get a nice long run in to prepare for the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail 50K in March.  I finish in a comfortable 4:46:38, which turns out to be a 3-second PR for the race, while also being only 6:02 under my slowest GWB Marathon.  It is a run that I'm very consistent at: 4:46, 4:52, 4:50 and now another 4:46.  I'm 133 of 198 finishers, 107/146 males and 12/17 in my age group.

A nice upgrade this year is a two-color medal specifically for the 2013 race.  In previous years the finisher's medal was always a generic metallic GW Birthday Marathon medal usually, but not always, with a year sticker on the plain back.


  1. Great report --- and many tnx, Ken, for driving me to/from the event! --- ^z (my report is at's_Birthday_Marathon

  2. So sad there was no race this year. Unless they reschedule, but I seriously doubt that can happen.