As the race gun sounded, all of us cheered & clapped our hands. Let's run people! OORAH! Lesson #6, Always eat breakfast before you run! And so about two minutes later, I crossed the start line. I always find the start line fascinating. Everyone is clean. Some look prepared for a race at the North Pole. Others look ready to sunbathe on South Beach. Some have names of people they are running for pinned on their back. Other usual suspects include the Pink Tutu guy, Superman, the lone solider carrying the United States of America Flag, and the group of soldiers with their packs- marching in uniform & unison for each step of the 26.2 mile journey ahead, the grandpa who is running his 31st marathon, the widow who lost her husband to cancer. Lesson #7, Let the faces of the marathon inspire & encourage you.
True to military fashion, the course starts on an incline. Also known as a "hill". In fact the first 3 miles is pretty much all uphill. Thankfully, people are lining the streets cheering your legs up them. Lesson #8, Always, ALWAYS include hills in your training!
The sun was already shining brightly & I knew that my hat was going to come off. But before doing so, I wanted to keep it on as I ran down Spout Run. Partly to keep my ears warm & the other part to shield my head from any splatter of the guys dashing into the woods as this would be one of the last times to relieve themselves. Every time I see a guy "pull over" it is the ONE time I wish I was guy. Lesson #9, Be careful what you wish for!
Soon enough we were climbing running up the George Washington Parkway hill, then turning on to Key Street Bridge. I love running this section. The Potomac River is beneath you. The Washington Monument is in the distance. Georgetown is just across the way. And don't forget the Kennedy Center! Its like you are running on top of history. Ah, I love running!
Then it was down off the bridge and a sharp left onto Canal Road. Teasing you by hearing the screams in Georgetown, but making you wait 4 hilly miles to actually reap the benefits of them. On this stretch of the course the lead runners were passing us. We all yelled "go man, go!" Lesson #10, Always cheer for other runners!
Soon enough we were at one of the tougher hills on the course- the hill that goes up to MacArthur Blvd. Trust me, its not pretty. A few of us encouraged ALL of us to make it up the hill. It was funny, someone had a sign at the bottom of the hill that read "last hill!" We all quickly told them that was in fact wrong. Iwo Jima loomed in our heads! Lesson #11 Don't always believe what the signs say!
Finally, the top of the hill was in sight and we all caught our breathe. Ah, that felt good. I was happy because I knew that Rick & his wife were waiting for me. They had a cap in exchange for my hat & gloves. They also had Shot Blocks, which I was VERY excited to see! Thanks guys!
Then it was down the hill and into the heart of cupcake-ville (Georgetown). This has to be one of my favorite parts of the course (no, its not the hills just in case you thought they were). As I mentioned before, Canal Road is where the course is an out & back section. Its a sight to behold as you run down the hill and you see thousands of other runners heading out to conquer the hill before them. Lesson #12, Enjoy the sights around you!
I could hear the screams (they rival Boston) of Georgetown & I naturally picked up the pace. I saw more friends & high fived them. After M Street, it was down the hill, quick left onto K Street, then a right onto Rock Creek Parkway & the Kennedy Center. Mile 10, done! Along this stretch, some people were clearly looking for THEIR runner. They had blank stares & were not cheering. I tried to get them in on the action, but I don't think they were amused :) Lesson # 13 Never miss an opportunity to high five kids or people on the course. Even if you have to make them high five you!
I'm in love with the Marines (and all service branches) because they are reason I can run free.
To be continued!
Photo by dbking