I have to tell you that this is quite long so if you stick with it - thanks!
The day started with a Very loud alarm at 4:40 am. Everything was all laid out so, I just put on all my clothes and filled up my Camelback. Then we were off to Lori's hotel in Crystal City. That is where the first trial began. Bill and I ended up in the HOV lane and couldn't get to our exit. Thank goodness we had a GPS and we were able to get ourselves back to where we needed to be.
Once at the hotel, I felt much more at ease although I was still a bit nervous. Just being with "the group" offered a level of comfort that I know I wouldn't have felt it I had been alone. From the hotel, it was a very easy Metro ride to the Pentagon where we got off and had a pretty fair distance to walk to get to the staging area. It was here that my nerves started to kick in again. As we sat and waited for the start, there was quite a breeze and my ears don't like wind - I get headaches - and I hadn't brought anything to protect my ears.
Anyway, time moved pretty quickly and before I knew it we were headed up to the start area. As we walked across this big parking lot, I saw something I don't think I've ever seen before - hundreds and hundreds of Porta-pots. There were so many of them that there were actually no lines at many of them. I've often thought, at races, that the organizers really need more places for people to go to the bathroom. Well, leave it to the Marines to follow through - I really think that they thought of just about everything. Back to the race report - we then made it up to the starting area where they had areas roped off according to finishing times (and yes there were still more Porta-pots here at the starting area). We settled into the 4:10-4:30 area and waited for the start.
The weather was beautiful! The rain that had blanketed our area the prior 3 days was gone and beautiful skies and cool temperatures took its place. I don't think we could have asked for better weather. Like I said earlier, there was a bit of a breeze but nothing unbearable. I think the high temps stayed in the low to mid 60's.
So there we are in the nice cool weather and at 8 am the gun goes off and the race begins. Of course with 25 to 30 thousand runners, we didn't move for a while. It took us about 15 minutes to get to the starting line. I was feeling great and excited to be under way. The number of spectators was amazing. It was an awesome feeling to be running down the street with people lined up on both sides of the street. Unfortunately, within the first mile I had to stop and fix my sock - it felt like it was bunching up under my big toe. This was not how I pictured the race starting. I was afraid I was going to have to run the entire race by myself. Thankfully, Helenann stopped with me! I wasn't sure if we would be able to find the other but we were going to five it a try. Sure enough we were able to hook back up with Jim and Lori!!
The 4 of us ran together for a while. There were a couple of times that we lost and then found Lori. I'm not exactly sure at what point we lost contact with Lori but I will admit that I was sad that the four of us couldn't stay together the entire race. We ran so many training runs together - deep down I had this hope (although I knew it was improbable) that the 4 of us would be able to cross the finish line together.
So our group was now down to Jim, Helenann and I and we were running quite well together. We did a pretty good job of working together and keeping our pace pretty steady. I have realized something though - I was so focused on maintaining that steady pace that I think I actually missed a fair amount of the "stuff" going on around me. To some extent, I don't remember many of the specific details of the day. It may also have something to do with the fact that there was so much going on that it was hard to take everything in. I was just in awe that I was actually running in a marathon.
Back to the race. My family (Mom, Dad, Bill, Ally & Will) was planning to be on the Mall so as we approached the monument area, I started trying to scan the crowd. It was really hard to look at so many people and find a familiar face. But there they were at about mile 12. I saw my parents first and then I heard Bill's voice and saw him and the kids. It was such a lift - it almost brought tears to my eyes. I was also able to find them at about mile 14 which was pretty cool! Jim was also able to find some family in that area. Two of us had now found our support people and I was really hoping that Helenann would also be able to find her family! And then it happened - somewhere between miles 16 and 19 - Helenann found her husband and her daughter. I know it made her feel good but I also got a lift because we had all found those special people in our lives - AWESOME!
I guess it was around mile 19 that we lost contact with Jim. Now it was only Helenann and I running together. I can't tell you how much comfort I felt just by having her with me. Neither one of us had ever done this before so it really kept us going. As we approached mile 20 we started going up a highway ramp. The hill was pretty tough but the crowd was awesome! They were almost on top of us cheering the whole time. However, mixed in with these awesome feeling was a bit of fear. Neither of us had ever gone farther than 20 miles and I know we were both nervous about those last 6.2 miles.
After climbing that ramp and passing mile 20, we entered Crystal City. What a lift! People were everywhere. It was an out and back section so there were also runners on both sides of the street. To top it off there was also an awesome band playing. I really can't express just how impressed I was with the whole event - from the crowd support to the race organization, it was a great experience!
As we left the Crystal City area, it became gut check time. We were now between miles 23 and 24 and Helenann said her knees and hips felt like they were going to explode. She slowed down and told me to keep going. I wasn't sure if I would be able to make it if I slowed down so I kept the legs moving as best I could. I just concentrated on putting 1 foot in front of the other. As I neared the finishing area, about mile 25, the crowds really picked up again. However, I wasn't getting much lift from it anymore. I was tired and sore and really just wanted it to be over! My body was screaming at me to stop but I really wanted to be able to say that I ran the entire race. I just kept telling myself to put 1 foot in front of the other. I also dept thinking about Tim and how he never gave up or played the "Why Me!" game. He stayed strong and now it was my turn!
The last 1.2 miles of the race was up hill. The marines put tape on the street, I'd guess every 100 feet or so, that said "Beat the Hill". That saying got me up the hill. The only bad part about a race like this one is that you can't share your joy with your friends and family immediately. Even with my cell phone it probably took 15 minutes before I found Bill. There were so many people trying to get out one section of fence (it was the only way out) that things pretty much came to a standstill. Overall though it was a wonderful experience and one that I will probably repeat.
I need to send out a huge thanks to my running partners! Lori, Jim, Pat, Helenann, Leanne and Lynda. They are great people and great friends. I look forward to many more running sessions and races!
Some interesting stats: based on Gun Time
I placed 9847 overall
I was the 2916th woman
I was 513th in my age group
I was the 55th DE finisher (men and women combined)
I was the 16th female DE finisher
I was the 3rd female DE finisher in my age group
Thank you for taking the time to read this. Here's to the next race - where ever that may be!