At the end of October, my friends and I traveled down to Washington DC for Marine Corp Marathon weekend. My friends Randi, Aaron and Dawn were all running the marathon. I elected not to do the marathon due to the possible chance of injury before the Dopey challenge. MCM weekend also includes a 10K distance race, so I decided to hang out with my friends and run the 10K.
The race was on Sunday 10/26. On Saturday I met up with my friends and we drove down to the expo held and the Armory. I had been here several times before, as previous races have also held their expos here. There were tons of people out and about, and as we approached the line to gain entrance, we saw that it wrapped around the building. Not unusual, it had done that for Rock N Roll USA too. Turns out.. the line didn’t just wrap around the side of the building, it wrapped around 3 sides of the building. The line did move pretty good though. About 20 minutes later we found ourselves at the front of the building. I noticed a sign on a side entrance that said “CAC/DoD card line only.” Immediately, I kicked myself. I have a DoD card, as I’m an Army Civilian. I looked at it before I left home questioning whether or not to bring it. Ultimately I decided not to because I’ve never needed to use it for races before, and I didn’t want to lose it. Well, now we couldn’t take the short cut. As we were passing the line, Aaron asked if they would take police ID and they DID! both Aaron and Dawn had theirs, so they let us in! Score!
We made our way through the expo and collected our bibs and shirts. We then wandered around the vendors a bit. Dawn bought a new pair of sunglasses and I bought 2 new sparkle headbands to wear with my costumes for Disney. We also checked out the runDisney booth and got to see our future Dopey Challenge Medals… and boy were they pretty!
After exploring a bit, we headed back to the car and drove out to our hotel. Once we were checked in, Randi was able to haggle the manager to giving us a super late check out time. They agreed to let us stay until 3 pm, given that we wanted to shower after the marathon before we headed out. Once we were settled in our rooms (Dawn and I shared one) we headed back out to a local shopping plaza to grab some dinner. We settled on a Mexican place. the food was pretty good, but everything took up every square inch of our tiny 4 person table.
After dinner we took a stroll down to a cake shop and shared a slice of cake before heading back to the hotel. We spent the evening watching TV in Randi and Aaron’s room until it was time to turn in. We also put in orders for cupcakes at Georgetown Cupcake to pick up the next day after the race. Georgetown Cupcake is a small cupcake shop in Georgetown that is the subject of the TLC show DC Cupcakes. Back in April when I ran Nike Women’s, I stood in line for an hour to order mine. The bakery lets you put in orders ahead of time though, for pick up the next day. That way we wouldn’t have to wait in line. So the plan was to shower, check out of the hotel, pick up our cupcakes and go have some dinner. Unfortunately, things didn’t quite go as planned.
We were up at 5:30 and out of the room by 6. We made it fine to the Metro and were all able to get on the same train. The marathoners had a different starting line than the 10K, but everyone had the same finish line. I said goodbye to my friends at the Pentagon station and made my way to Smithsonian station. When I got there and exited onto the National Mall, I followed the signs to the start line. The Mall itself was walled off with a fence. Marines were herding people through a line to check their bags into the start area. Beyond the fence was bag check, bathrooms, and the start line. I followed the crowd of people heading in the direction of the end of the line. We walked all the way down to the road before the line stopped moving, and still had to loop around to head back in the direction of the entrance. As the expo the day before, the line moved steadily. By the time I got to the front, the end of the line was all the way down to the Metro! It took me 20 minutes to get all the way back up front.. so I was thinking the people near the back might JUST make the start of the race in 30 minutes.
I finally make it in and could relax a little. there were HUGE lines for the bathrooms.. luckily, I didn’t have to go. I took a couple pictures of the sunrise and made my way over to the starting line.
I grabbed a water and found a place in the corral. I watched as people filtered in. One lady who saw my Baltimore 10 Miler jacket struck up a conversation with me. Soon after, the announcer told us to look in the sky over the Washington Monument. 5 skydivers had jumped from a plane and two were holding open an American flag as the descended. It was hard to see, but a pretty cool kickoff to the event. Aaron told me later that they had landed in a field by the marathon start.
Soon after the race was under way. One thing I noticed right away that I found rather odd… after crossing the start line there was a water stop. No joke, Marines were handing out water and Gatorade at less than 0.1 miles. It was funny.. but really annoying at the same time because it was pretty narrow at the start, and people were trying to grab cups. Wonder who thought that was a good idea. I got some really nice pictures along the course though.
Along the course, I was paying attention to my foot. Somewhere after the first mile, I became aware of some discomfort, but it wasn’t pain. The soreness crept in somewhere between miles 2 and 3. At this point, I was really worrying about it. It was a very bad sign that the pain was coming back. Although it wasn’t horribly painful, just a dull ache. When I was doing my walk intervals, the pain lessened, but once I started running, it crept back in again. And it was getting stronger with every interval. It REALLY put a damper on how I felt in the race. The day was beautiful, the spectators, volunteers, Marines, and fellow runners were high energy.. but I was not feeling this race and I just could not get into it. Around mile 4, the pain seemed to lessen a bit.. and I figured it was a good sign. but it crept back in in miles 5 and 6. I finished the race in 1:09 and my foot was considerably sore.
My plan moving forward was to get my medal and finisher’s handouts, then find a place to sit down and ice my foot. I ended up wandering around a bit, because everything at the finish line festival was so spread out. I found myself at the bottom of a hill and saw a Dunkin Donuts van handing out coffee samples. I got one and decided- I didn’t want a post race beer.. I wanted coffee! Unfortunately, the van didn’t have any full size cups they were selling, so I looked up coffee places on Yelp. I found there was a Starbucks close to where I was, so I set out to find it. I ordered a nice skinny vanilla latte (wasn’t feeling the whole pumpkin latte thing) and wandered back to the finish festival to find a place to sit and wait for my friends.
I had signed up for text alerts so I knew when my friends were at certain points on the course and when they would cross the finish line. Aaron was leading the pack and finished first at just over 4 hours. I wandered through the crowds and spotted him coming down the hill from the finish line. We met up and found a place to sit and wait for the others. Dawn was ahead of Randi by about 20-30 minutes. When she hit the finish line (at just under 5 hours- new marathon PR for her!), I texted to tell her where Aaron and I were sitting so she could find us. 40 minutes went by and we were still waiting for her. Randi had finally crossed the finish line (yay first time marathoner!) and Aaron left his stuff with me to go find her. Meanwhile, I tried calling Dawn to see where she was. The first time I called no one answered. The second time, a man answered the phone. The conversation went a little like this-
Man: “no, is this Stephanie?”
Man: “Oh, ok, Dawn’s receiving medical treatment right now, she’s in medical tent Alpha.. can you come over here?”
WHAT!?!? OMG. At this point, Aaron had just left me to find Randi, and I was holding all our stuff.. and I had no idea where medical tent Alpha was. I told him it would take me a while, but I would be over as soon as I could. 10 minutes later, I finally saw Randi and Aaron and hurriedly told them what was up. Unfortunately Randi had suffered a pretty bad IT band injury on the course and was not up for trying find the medical tent. It was also 2:15 at this point, and we needed to be checked out of the hotel by 3. We decided that Randi and Aaron would go back to the hotel and check us out, then come back for me and Dawn, and I would go find Dawn in the medical tent.
I rushed back up the hill, fighting the droves of runners trying to come down the hill, and found a medical tent. It was Charlie, though, not Alpha, but they did direct me to where Alpha was. I followed along the fenced off field to as far as I could go without jumping on the highway.. there were no breaks in the fence, no way to get into the field where the medical tent was. I ran back up towards the finisher chute, but there was no way to go in, as all the runners were coming out. I asked a couple of EMTs who were standing by the end of the chute how to get to Alpha.. and they weren’t too sure themselves. They asked a few people, had to get some Marines to move some barriers, had to cross the runners path! Finally they got me over to the tent. (WHO PUTS A MEDICAL TENT SOMEWHERE THAT NO ONE CAN GET TO!?
I got over there and the EMTs found who I needed to talk to. “You are Stephanie?” he asked. I said yes, and he told me Dawn had just left; She was transported to Alexandria Hospital. At this point, I started freaking out a little bit. He told me that she was really bad when she got there.. overheated, dehydrated, not very responsive and vomiting. But she was much better by the time they took her, and that she would be fine. He made sure I had calmed down before letting me go. I called Randi and told her what was up, and said I would call her again when I got to the Metro station where they could pick me up.
I made my way back to the Metro station and the line was wrapped all the way around the building it was housed under. (Seemed to be the theme of this race) I finally got on a train and made it back to the station near our hotel. I waited a while for Randi and Aaron, who picked me up somewhere around 3:30-ish. We headed to the hospital and found Dawn in the ER. She looked pretty bad. The Dr wasn’t sure if he wanted to admit her or not, but he said ultimately she would be fine. He also said that he had seen a number of Marathon participants that day. Randi, Arron and I left around 6-ish, when Dawn’s boyfriend Tony arrived at the hospital.
They ended up releasing her that evening.. and she and Tony even made it down to Georgetown Cupcake to pick up our orders for us before they closed. Dawn later said that she didn’t even remember crossing the finish line. The last thing she remembered was 24 miles. She did finish though.. and got her medal and her PR. Scary stuff though. Definitely re-enforces the need to take care of your body, stay hydrated and fueled properly.. and back off when needed. It wasn’t even a hot day (although the sun was beaming down pretty strong.) Dopey is definitely going to be a challenge in taking care and listening to the body.. we don’t need any repeats of this mess!
The takeaway- these races are crowded. MCM IS one of the Nations largest races.. so I feel like the organizers did what they could to work with the crowds, but everything was a llloooonngg line. If you were to do this race.. get there early. I can’t speak for the marathon course, but Dawn had said it was nice- very scenic, lots of energy, and not too many hills. The 10K was much the same. It helped to have a really nice day too.. despite the disasters!
Anyways, I have more pictures from the weekend posted in an album on my Facebook page- feel free to take a look!