Marine Corps Marathon 2008: The Long Slog!

Marine Corps Marathon 2008
time: 4:33:10
My Slowest Marathon!

Its been two weeks and now I can write about my slowest marathon.

The Course and the Run:
I loved the first ten miles of this course. Leaving the Pentagon, the course works its way through the narrow streets of Arlington, VA. The mass of runners then worms their way over the George Washington Parkway and through the forests of Georgetown. It was a nice incline and the heavy breathing of runners filled the cool air. As we worked uphill, sunlight filtered through fall trees and only a few feet ahead, runners disappeared in fog mingling with mist from their breath. It was a beautiful slog. Then we raced down to the center of Georgetown to a large and raucous crowd. At that point, it was only mile Ten, and I was ahead of my expected 4:00 h pace!

Then the crowds disappeared and the lonely trek through Hains point began. This wide open, barren landscape was depressing and the next five miles were my worst. I was about a minute behind pace, but the thrill was gone! I hated this course!

Even rounding the monuments, did not bring back the joy of running. Crowds had returned, but much sparser than Boston (or Chicago) and the sun was beating relentlessly on the runners. I was still about a minute behind pace.

The course leaves the monument area and starts on the 385 ramp and freeway. My legs ran heavy and I felt my right thigh tighten and start to cramp. I was only a couple of minutes behind pace and tried to stretch a bit. Interestingly, I never had a cramp during all my previous marathons or training runs (3,000 – 5,000 miles of running?). I knew how to stretch for hamstring cramps, but there on the freeway, I struggled with stretching the quads. The traditional way is to bend the knee and grab the ankle behind you. This works for pre- or post-race stretches, but during a race, it causes taut hamstrings to cramp. I just massaged my thigh and with leaden legs agonized across the seemingly endless concrete. NO spectators once you leave the monuments, and no water stops either.

From then on, the run was not about time, but just finishing. I saw scores of guys cramping on the freeway and stretching on cement barriers. I also did my good deed for the day. As I struggled, I heard a curdling shriek and a fellow runner dropped to the pavement, rolling and screaming in agony; apparently from a cramp. I hobbled over, pulled one of his legs to stretch his hamstrings. Another runner rushed in and stretched out his other leg. He calmed as we held him down. Within a few minutes the medics raced over, we handed over and I continued on my own trials.

Near mile 22, the course returns back into Virginia and Crystal city, screaming crowds lined the streets, but for me the race was over. I ran – hobbled – walked and eyes sought each successive mile marker! More desolation near the Pentagon and finally the grind uphill to the Iwo Jima Memorial where the race ends! Thus endeth my forth marathon!

The Best part? Finishers received the bestest marathon medal! It’s a huge, heavy replica of the US Marines Insignia! On the flight back I kept it in my shoulder bag and M asks, “Will security allow you to carry that?” They did!

But we had a fabulous time in Washington DC. Since we had gone to DC a few days earlier, we got to tour the Museums. Our perennial favorite is the National Gallery of Art with their collections of Dutch Masters and French Impressionists. And it was thrilling to saunter and browse the underground concourse and bustling shopping arcade connecting to the East Wing housing the modern art collections.

I am ever in awe of the lobby of the East Wing Building; itself a masterpiece by IM Pei with the stunning mobile by Alexander Calder!
Alexander Calder Mobile in National Gallery Lobby

During this visit we also met several folks we know from the blogs. Had a wonderful dinner with Sudeepta and her family including the eminently cute twins at Pizzeria Paradiso. Another day, we had lunch at Mai Thai in Old Alexandria, and discussed long over coffee with Smita and N; After the marathon, went back to Mai Thai for dinner with Manjula, Nandu and the delightful Arnav.

All in all, a great run and even more memorable meeting with friends. Thank you all.
Eat Well! Live Happy! Run Hard!

Previous Marathons and Half-Marathons

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