Once upon a time, there was a little race with a hill to kick off the party, screaming HOYA students, pricey shops (that beg you to shop but aren't open), a lonely island called Hains Point, some more hills to keep the party going, the "Gauntlet" and a hill to finish the party.   And some years ghosts & goblins also show up for the big day. What is all this ooh-rah about? Why it's the Marine Corps Marathon! The MCM holds a special place in my heart. It was my first marathon (2005). Now I'm getting to run it for a third time (making it marathon number 10 or 13 if you count the training marathons I've run:)). If this is your first time running MCM, here is a little preview of what you can expect come Halloween race day.

Men (and women) in uniform! For us gals out there, this makes the pain of 26.2 miles worth it. From the start of the race to the bitter sweet end, there will always be a uniform to comfort your sweaty soul. I know that brings comfort to a lot of women :).

Weather! The weather can be a bit unpredictable (welcome to DC!). In recent years it has been warm. For the 2010 edition, the temps are supposed to be in the 70s. Dress for the heat. Your body will warm up. Trust me on this.

Hills. I have run Boston Marathon (forwards & backwards actually) and I think the hills on the MCM course could compete with Beantown. You start on a hill. You end on a hill. Be prepared. Don't go out to fast at the start. You'll pay for it later on.

Party! There are plenty of wild, cheering crowds (hello Georgetown party people!) The first mile that takes you up a hill in Rosslyn, VA is lined with people. Then again in Georgetown, M Street, Constitution  Avenue, before & after Hains Point, Crystal City and the end. The finish is spectacular. You won't even notice you are running UP the Iwo Jima hill. Well maybe you will, but seriously let the  party crowd take you home!

Course. The route has changed from when I ran it in 2005. Hains Point is a very lonely area come mile 18. Today it's mile 13. So you don't have to be worried about that! It does tend to be windy out there, so take note. The 14th street bridge is also another lonely area. One of my favorite parts of the route is running by all the monuments. Sure, I can run by them daily, but running with 34,999 of your closest friends, acquaintances (or enemies) makes it feel like one large, happy, sweaty field trip. Or frat/sorority party. Take your pick:) Be prepared for the loop around the Pentagon. You'll run (or hobble) down a hill and you can hear the screams. You think you are close, but realize that you still have a good mile to go. Let the screams pull you up the hill (it does have an end) and across the finish line into the arms of a Marine. In theory, mind you.

Have Fun! As with every race, I encourage you to have fun, enjoy the sights, sounds and smells. Leave the iPod at home. You are running in the nation's capital for pete's sake. Enjoy it. Relish it. Run it.

The running of the 35th Marine Corps Marathon is about to happen. If you're running it in spirit (injury) or for real, take a moment & thank the men & women who serve our country. And run like the wind!

Sarah Stanley is still deciding what she'll be for Halloween. Perhaps a runner. With a Marine Corps Marathon twist :) What do you think she should be? Leave a comment below! May the best guess win!

Photo by: dbking

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