Sunday dawned a picture perfect gorgeous sunny breezy 41F day. Then I got up. :)
Good Lord, where do I start this tale, and what do I leave out? Let’s start with timing. For someone who's normally on time, I was late to the RBF dinner on Friday, I was late to the Expo on Saturday, and was late to the race on Sunday. Trifecta! Due to user error with setting the clock back, yes, back, I was strolling out my hotel at 6:19 am when Jeanne and David called me from the starting area.
Jeanne: Rich? Uh, where are you?
Me: I’m leaving my hotel
Jeanne: It’s 7:20
Me: No it’s not, it’s 6:20
Jeanne: No, it’s 7:20
(repeat 3 times)
Jeanne: OK, let David tell you
David: It’s 7:20
Me: No it’s not, it’s 6:20
(repeat another 3 times)
Me: Oh !@%^$#(&@#!
The next hour was a blur. My start time was 8:25. I took the Metro, changing trains once. Each stop along the way was agonizingly slow, as it waited forever for more and more people to get on. By the time we pulled into Arlington Cemetery at 8:00, the train was packed. That wasn’t the problem. Every square inch of the platform was packed with people from the previous train, still waiting to go down the escalator! After much ruckus, I made it through. On the way out of the station, I inhaled my first GU.
I emerged onto a small hill overlooking the start area. As far as the eye could see below, the corrals were already full and snaking their way into the distance. The PA was counting down the minutes. My heart was about to burst. I still had to find the UPS trucks to drop off my stuff, which someone said was clear across at the back, next to the Pentagon. Argh!!! I started rushing down the side of the corrals, wondering how I was going to make it. I passed the 1000’s, then the 2000’s and on and on until mine at the 9000’s. I found a guy holding two bags, obviously someone’s support crew, and asked if he wouldn’t mind dropping mine off for me. Oo-rah. Through the kindness of strangers, I made it by the skin of my teeth.
After all that, the start was delayed about 10 mins, but what a great start it was. It’s a beautiful course, very scenic, and the crowds are truly unbelievable. The first 4 or 5 miles were a complete runners high. We left Arlington and crossed into DC, going up Rock Creek Parkway. We ran in what looked like a nature trail area, tree covered and woodsy. I was beside myself, having passed the 4:00 pace group, and never looking back. Somewhere between mile 6 and 7, I caught sight of Bex coming back the other way, about a ½ a mile ahead of me and past the turnaround. She yelled out to me and I yelled back, and that was about all we could do!
From Rock Creek, we spilled onto the Mall at the Washington Monument and Constitution Avenue somewhere around mile 9 or 10. The crowds continued to be awesome, and I high-fived my way down the mall. At one point, there were a bunch of high schoolers all dressed in orange, I must have high-fived 20 of them in a row, yelling at the top of my lungs while they all yelled back. Kids have unlimited energy. That really kept me going.
We ran down the length of the Mall, looped around the Capitol, came back down the other side, and then spilled onto the Tidal Basin around mile 14 or so. A couple more miles, and we entered dreaded Haines Point. Less crowds, more wind. Time to dig in. From mile 16 to 20, it was soul searching time, or so I thought.
I was still on pace to break 4:00, and I pushed myself to make it on pace to mile 20. I almost made it. Close to mile 20, the cramps started, slowly at first, then building. Both calves, right quad. I've never had these before, and I wasn’t sure what to do. I tried drinking everything in sight. I stopped and walked it out. I ran though it until I couldn’t keep my balance anymore. And then I stopped and walked some more. It was a lonely battle with myself, but I wasn’t alone.
Right past mile 20, the 4:00 pace team caught up with me. I hung with them for about a ¼ mile, and then they faded off into the distance. Damn, I wish I never let them go. From mile 20 – 25, I shuffled, I stumbled, I hobbled, I skipped, I walked, I ambled, I moved every which way but run like the wind. Put a costume on me and I would’ve made a knock out Frankenstein with the way I ran. I was beginning to worry about not making it in, but I was going to be damned if I allowed myself to give up in the middle of the road. All around me were casualties of the same cramps, literally left and right, every few feet. It was weird. Some were literally on their backs on the ground. Most were in various stages of doubling over.
On one of my stops to stretch out, around mile 23, Bex called me from the other side of the street. Once again, she had passed the turnaround and was headed back. I noted that she was on pace to break 4:00, when I saw the 4:00 pace team pass by behind her. I continued this way until I mercifully reached mile 25. Another kind soul had given me a large bottle of water, from which I had been drinking copious amounts every time I had to stop to shake the cramps. I also took every Gatorade offered to me between water stations, again from strangers along the way. At mile 25, I ditched the water bottle and vowed to press on and not stop until the end, no matter what.
It took forever to reach mile 26. Well, 10:55 actually. The others can tell you about a killer short hill past mile 26. Did I mention a killer short hill? I made it up, slowly, but I never stopped. And then suddenly, it was over.
Mile 2 - 19:23
Mile 3 - 9:18
Mile 4 - 8:49
Mile 5 - 8:47
Mile 6 - 8:53
Mile 7 - 8:58
Mile 8 - 8:43
Mile 9 - 8:47
Mile 10 - 8:50
Mile 11 - 8:27 (oo-rah! high-fivin' down Constitution Ave.)
Mile 12 - 8:52
Mile 13 - 9:13
Mile 14 - 9:09
Mile 15 - 9:40
Mile 16 - 9:19
Mile 17 - 9:19
Mile 18 - 9:26
Mile 19 - 9:14
Mile 20 - 10:01 (bye bye 4:00 pace team)
Mile 21 - 11:13 (ouch)
Mile 22 - 12:45 (ouch)
Mile 23 - 12:27 (ouch)
Mile 24 - 11:41 (ouch)
Mile 25 - 11:24 (ouch)
Mile 26 - 10:55 (ouch)
Mile 26.2 - 2:33
A PR over my first marathon at 4:25. Sigh.
A long time later, after I had pushed through the finisher’s corral, taken the race photo, squeezed through an incredibly small food tent, squeezed through another bridge packed up people to get to the other side where the UPS trucks were parked, I finally stopped. I met my wife’s cousin, Candace, who works in D.C. I met up with (a fast) Bex and her husband E., and just as we were leaving, we found David and Michelle.
We compared notes for a while, and then it was time to go. Bex and I were already planning our next marathon. I’ll let her tell you what she wants to qualify for, and I still want to break 4:00. All in all, despite it all, I had a great time, met up with some awesome RBFs, had some good food and even better company. Oo-rah!!