Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Marine Corps Marathon - October 30, 2016

Vignettes of a Marathon
Rather than give a step-by-step report on my eleventh (and consecutive) Marine Corps Marathon I'm relating vignettes of incidents along the way.

You Are Doing What?!
Andrew at the start
While walking to the start through Rosslyn from MCRRC's suite at the Key Bridge Marriott my phone rings. My son Andrew is calling and he asks where am I.  I tell him. But where will I be at the start?, he want to know. Then he drops his surprise - he is running the race as well.

This is a stunner. I have no idea that he was planning to run it. He had run the Army Ten-Miler (ATM) three weeks earlier but had given no indication that he was enrolled in the MCM.

And he is following two of my (tongue-in-cheek, mostly) adages: "training is bunk" and "if you can go half the distance you can go the full distance."  His training consists of periodic running, mostly shorter distances and running the ATM.  He tells me that he had run 13.6 on Wednesday prior to MCM.  No carefully calibrated ramping up of mileage to a long run. No 16-week training program. No taper. Nope. Just run half the distance and show up for the race.

We text back and forth and before the race begins find each other.  He points out that he is carrying his medical insurance card just in case something goes wrong. His goal is to finish in between six and six and a half hours.  His friend is joining him in the endeavor and as I start out he waits for his friend to come by with the six hour pace group.

I bid him farewell and good luck as I head out after the 4:45 pace group.

Perfect Ken
Crossing Key Bridge and about to turn onto M Street I apologize to a couple of runners as I split the pair.

"Sorry abut that," I say.

"That's OK," the woman runner, replies, "You're perfect."

"I don't have many people tell me that," I quip, "But I appreciate the compliment."

Patriotic Ken I
South on Rock Creek Parkway (about mile 7.5)
Flag ahead.
Running on Beach Drive I approach a runner carrying an American flag.

"May I have the honor of carry the flag for awhile?" I ask.

Certainly the flag bearer replies as he hands it to me.  I carry it until we have passed under Whitehurst Freeway and I return it to him, thanking him for his courtesy.

Ken Gives an Etiquette Lesson
Running the Blue Mile at Hains Point (mile 11) honoring fallen members of the military I'm passed by a blind runner with his guide.  They are running abreast, with the blind runner on the left holding the guide's right elbow.   The teamwork is exquisite with the guide providing quiet directions of "move left," "move right," speed up a bit" and similar cues.  Occasionally he asks runners ahead to move over so they can pass.

Just ahead, running solo while accompanied by more than 19,000 other runners, is a woman with head phones.  She does not respond to the request and the runner and the guide need to veer to their right.

I approach from her left hand side, reach up and pluck the earphone from her ear.

"You need to pay attention," I preach. "You didn't hear so you didn't get out of the way of the blind runner.  Either keep the ear piece out or turn down the volume so you can hear people around you."

She does not respond but moves to the other side of the course.

I relate the story to a runner of a certain age a few miles later.  She nods and tells me that as she has gotten older she will say things to people that she would not have said when she was younger.

I concur with her.  I later decide that it is comes under the "Crazy Old Person" rubric, which gives those of us of a certain seniority the authority and immunity to provide needed instruction to younger persons.

Helpful Ken
Around mile 15 on Independence Avenue near the Tidal Basin I approach a runner pushing a child in a running wheelchair. The phone in one of the compartments by the handle is ringing and the man is struggling to push while answering the phone.

"I can push while you take the call," I tell him.  He thanks me, I put both hands on the handle and he runs alongside taking the call.  When he is done, he thanks me again and resumes his task.

Patriotic Ken II
Along Madison Drive in front of the National Gallery of Art (mile 16) I come upon Ray, an MCM  regular who always carries an American flag. I've carried his flag before and once again I ask him if I may do so, noting that I've done so in the past.

He agrees, but adds, "Don't run. I can't run anymore." I assure him that I won't and I walk with him a bit. Spectators recognize him and shout out his name in greeting.  I return his flag and press on.

At least I did not fly a drone.
Parking Lot
Due to course changes we cross the 14th Street Bridge at mile 18 rather than mile 20, and that requires additional mileage in Virginia.  Much of it is added by running a sinuous section around the Pentagon parking lot.  By then the day had warmed up considerably, and not surprisingly there were not many spectators in the parking lot.

On the other hand, it did provide some closer approaches to Pentagon (although not as close when the course went near the west side on Washington Boulevard.

In Search of a Queen
After finishing the race, I headed back toward the Key Bridge Marriott. But first I'm on a mission to get some watermelon from the Watermelon Queen. From the expo and from two years ago I know that the National Watermelon Promotion Board will be handing out packaged watermelon at the festival area beyond the finish.

Watermelon from a queen.
I see people with their containers and ask them to point me in the right direction.  Soon I'm at the tent where the fruit is being dispensed.  But I want to receive mine from the highest authority and ask if the Queen is available.  She is, and we pose for pictures, completing my day.

I finished in 4:54:24 (11:13 pace) with half splits of 2:19:27 / 2:34:57, good for 49/201 in my age group, 5712/10641 males and 9249/19,745. It was my eleventh MCM, 96 seconds faster than last year and faster than my first two MCMs in 2006 and 2007. (That's putting lipstick on the pig.)

Either the 2:20/2:39 plan was well executed or I I've run enough MCMs and other marathons to know what to expect. Or maybe a bit of both.  In any case, I met my primary goal of staying under five hours, even if I never came within sniffing distance of the stretch goal of 4:45.

Andrew finishes in 5:57:12 (half splits of 2:45:33 / 3:11:39). He says things were good for the first 18 miles and then it got tough. (Andrew, say hello to the wall.) But he finished and exceeded his six hour goal.

Swag: Shirt, Patch, Bib, Medal
and Finish Line Refreshment Box

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