I ran the Marine Corps Marathon in 2011. I don’t want to run it again; it’s far too crowded. Maybe if I get fast enough (or slow enough) that I’m not packed like a sardine in the middle of the bell curve I’ll consider it.
The Boss, though, is determined to run it until she beats her goal time. She missed it by just a few minutes this year. Right after the race she said she was done with this course, but that only lasted a few hours. She’s planning to run again in 2014.
I spent a fair amount of time out on the course in various places trying (and mostly failing) to catch a glimpse of her. I had some good experiences anyway:
- Watching the front of the race come through was sublimely awesome. The wheelchair and handcycle division came through first, of course. The leaders were freakin’ flying. I didn’t care so much about them. Soon after, though, mixed in with the first elite runners, came the real stories – the men and woman who’d lost multiple limbs and were using this race to prove to themselves that they could still do epic things. Or maybe that they would now do epic things for the first time. Screw you, fate, screw you, war. I was standing at the bottom of the first hill, just after they made the turn off of Lynn Street onto Lee Highway. Some of them were already struggling. One seemed to be having mechanical issues, a problem with his chain. One guy was missing both his right arm and right leg; he was on a strange four-wheeled contrivance, but he seemed to be managing OK. Several people seemed to hit an impasse, unable to continue, almost falling back, but were caught and aided by others. Somehow they all managed to recover and continue inching up the hill and out of sight. Only 24 miles to go.
- Soon after this the main mass of runners started coming through. I saw near about every type of runner imaginable. I saw old men who must have been in their eighties, eyes a’twinkling. I saw people running barefoot. I saw a woman holding a bloody rag to what appeared to be a fresh wound on her head, but still moving determinedly. I saw people so overweight that I knew they’d be flirting with the time cutoffs all day, but they were giving it all they had.
- Then there were the families following in the Team Hoyt tradition, God bless them. I couldn’t keep my eyes dry, I admit. They aren’t completely dry as I write this, I admit. Those kids, those parents. What a truly awesome thing.
- I saw Tim Stanley around mile 9. He is one of the Bull Run Run streakers, having finished all 21 versions of that event so far, along with Tom Green* and Frank Probst. Tim was wearing the same purple shirt he has worn at every BRR. He doesn’t know me from Adam, but I called out to him “Tim Stanley, tear it up!” He looked over his shoulder, trying vainly to recognize me. I know what he was probably thinking: “Do I know this guy? I must, why else would he know me? No time to think about it, have to just start calling out a response and hope his name comes to me before I finish it.” He wound up drawling an extended “Heeeee-eey . . . maaan!” It was awesome.
- I saw an older guy wearing a Duke t-shirt and I yelled “Go Heels!” He started to react like “Thanks, man!” then realized what I’d said, and what he was wearing, and he laughed. He was a good sport.
- I saw several people from The Boss’s training group. Rachel T. was running with her husband Robert. I know Rachel is kind of fast, maybe about a 4:15 to 4:30 marathoner, but they were on more like 5:30 pace. I called out to her and gave her the “what gives?” gesture, shrugging with hands slightly raised and out to the side. She responded with a grin and a mock-exasperated gesture at Robert who was happily, obliviously trotting along in front of her.
- I was waiting around at mile 25 in a last ditch effort to finally succeed at seeing The Boss. This is the death march zone. When I got there the 4:00 to 4:15 runners were passing through, and there were already a lot of people walking. Later runners were looking pretty haggard. I started calling out encouragement to them, but I felt a little awkward and self-conscious. I saw one girl who was really looking beat down and I hollered “Looking good!” Then after she passed I turned to this Asian dude standing near me and said “but not really, though.” Kind of a jerk thing to say but he laughed and we got to talking. He was waiting for his girlfriend to finish. He had finished in like 3:09; his girl was a sub-5 runner but she had stayed out late the night before, or something, and he was expecting her in maybe as late as 5:00 or 5:15. We got to talking about his prior running exploits and he allowed as he had run across Tennessee this past summer. “Oh, was that the Vol State?” I asked, shocking him a little. The Last Annual Vol State 100π mile road race is small enough that I had been able to stalk everybody in it while it was going on. Turns out I already knew the name of this guy I’d randomly struck up a conversation with – Sung Ho Choi. The world is always smaller than you imagine.
- I saw Gene P. and coach Bruce W. from The Boss’s training group in this same mile 25 area. I forgot Gene’s name for a second after he recognized me and I was reduced to pathetically calling out “Hey, uh, Glenn! Uh, Gerry! Uh, uh….”
- I finally got to see The Boss when she came by the mile 25 marker. I ran along the sidelines with her most of the rest of the way, but I got stymied by crowding near the finish line and didn’t get to see her go under the arch.
*Tom is a minor legend – he was the first person to complete the “Grand Slam of Ultrarunning” back in ’86. I nipped him at BRR and came in well ahead of him at the Rosaryville 50K this year. Surely he was taking it easy and he’s got 16 years on me, but still: come at me, legend!