Running With the Marines

It has taken me a few days to write about running Marine Corps Marathon. I didn’t really have a chance to process it until now. We had to get in the car and come straight back home after the finish line so I could work the next day.

And work has been challenging this week. Exhausting. Physically and emotionally draining. So I really haven’t had the brain power to process my thoughts on MCM.

But last night I slept ten hours. Straight. And the other life forms in my house just let it happen. It was magical, if a little unsettling. I thought maybe they’d decided to off the puppy while I was passed out, but turns out even she could sense I’d needed the sleep. (She’s really kinda sweet when she’s not losing her mind over the existence of humans.) And then tonight I got to get back out into the mountains surrounded by gorgeous fall colors and ridiculously excellent humans and I am almost fully restored.

So now I’m ready to talk about MCM. Thank you for waiting. I know you were waiting…

I should probably start by pointing out that my running partner and I were supposed to run with Kim, Ercilia, and Courtney. That was the plan. But y’all know plans and I have a tumultuous relationship, so it didn’t work out that way.

First, there were the injuries. Someone doesn’t know how to ride a bike and someone else lives in constant risk of her Achilles snapping in two. (You should know this. I’ve only been whining about it for two years now.)

Then there was our complete inability to navigate the city of Arlington. Or DC? Imma be real, I’m still not clear on where we actually were. I’m pretty sure we were somewhere between Virginia and Maryland. Maybe Texas. Along with half of the population of the earth. And the shuttle parking lot was located in a part of the world we weren’t allowed in. So we eventually just created a parking space and speed walked two miles to the starting line. (Which is totally what you wanna do before a marathon.)

And then there are the 30,000 people that actually got there on time and were, thus, standing between us and our group. Seriously.

HOW are you supposed to find anyone in there???

So we did what we did at Salem Half and gradually made our way to a the starting line and on through to the actual run.

Now, MCM is flat. Super flat. There’s, like, 700 feet of elevation. So, maybe not Chicago flat, but still. Flat. Around mile five people were cheering and holding signs congratulating us on making it! Five miles in. To 26.2 miles. They were legit cheering like we’d just finished the marathon. And I got a little confused and thought maybe I’d lost time somewhere and started looking for a marine to give me my finishers medal. But then we realized they were congratulating us on making it up the “hill.” That was…that was a hill…a significant hill. Ok…yay us?

I may have gotten a little condescending about the hill, but the joke’s on me, because another ten miles and I would be begging for even half of that hill. My hips. My poor poor hips are not made for that much flat. My Achilles were moderately happy for it, but I’m pretty sure my hip flexors had managed to fashion some sort of shiv out of a sliver of thigh bone and were trying to slice their way out of my body.

And there was so much weaving. In and out of people. So many people. So much lateral movement that my knees and, again, my hips were unprepared for. At one point, I was prepared to do some pretty questionable things if someone would just shoot me up with some ibuprofen. But my running partner shot that idea down since he didn’t have any ibuprofen himself.

And a four hour car ride post marathon is, quite possibly, the worst idea ever. Aside from not taking the next day off work. THAT is the WORST idea EVER.

But now that I’ve had some time to get my brain back online and stop being such a baby, the word that keeps coming back to me about this marathon is gratitude.

I teared up a few times during that race. When you cross the start line, you run through a line of marines holding flags from different countries. I can’t really put into words why it made me emotional. There were these men and women standing in uniform holding a flag for us. For 30,000 of us, most of whom have not done anything as brave as putting ourselves in harms way for people we’ve never met. And they weren’t whining about Achilles and knees and hips. It was humbling.

Later, running the Blue Mile, reading the names and ages of the people who’ve lost their lives. You want to see them all. Commit them to memory. Give them the time and respect they deserve. But then you see one that is your son’s age and your mind tries to comprehend what that mother must have experienced when she learned that her baby was gone and you really just can’t. So instead you focus on your father, a Vietnam Veteran, who did make it home. And so you probably manage to not totally cry like a baby.

And then remembering how and why I was there. I was there because of two friends that couldn’t be there themselves. One who spent all of last year pushing me to sign up for races I had no business taking on, and then cheering for me as I managed to push through every single one of them. And one who runs MCM every year. Until this year when his doctor said he couldn’t. What an unbelievable honor that he would entrust me to run in his place. (Except not really in his place because he would have been up with the super humans while I stay back with the normals.)

We did this. And I’m so grateful that we did. That we could. And my hips have still not forgiven me for putting them through two flat marathons in one month. I didn’t even let them go the whole way up the mountain at Chaos tonight. So I have to give them Doritos. I don’t know why. I don’t make the rules.

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