My Marine Corps Marathon Experience
Confession…I am not a runner. Growing up I was the sports girl. Soccer, swimming, basketball, volleyball, track. If it required short burst of high intense energy I was your girl! The longest distance I ever ran was as the anchor of the 880 yard relay in middle school. I simply did not enjoy running long distances which for me meant anything longer than one lap around the track! So how did I end up at the start line in the Marine Corps Marathon?
As a Marine family we have had the opportunity to live in many different places. Some were quite literally a paradise, some not so much. Our last tour in Twenty-nine Palms, California was the not so much kind. There really isn’t much to do in the desert. And you wouldn’t think running in 120 degree weather would be advisable, but that is what I did. So after one 5K turkey trot in Palm Springs why not jump right into Marathon training! That sounds like a logical running progression doesn’t it?
“..you wouldn’t think running in 120 degree weather would be advisable..”
After months of training, there I was, up before the sun. Eating an 800 calorie whole grain blueberry muffin. Praying it would give my muscles the energy they would need in a few hours when I crossed the start line. My heart was racing as I prepped my gear, laced my shoes and headed out the door of our hotel room. The only thing that calmed my nerves was the sight of my husband walking next to me as we followed the herd of runners crossing the street towards the Pentagon parking lot.
Standing at the start line. Swaying back and forth. Stomach churning. The canon sounded but we didn’t move. I knew there would be a slight delay in movement as the packed runners began to slowly move forward and find enough room to stretch their legs and begin running. I looked over to the sideline, mouthed “I love you” to my husband and I was off. The sound of my own breath and heartbeat was drowned by the sound of thousands of shoes hitting the pavement, it was exhilarating!
“…being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it…” Philippians 1:6
My biggest fear was the bridge! Around mile 20 you have to Beat the Bridge. Meaning you have to be on the George Mason Memorial Bridge before a certain time or the buses will pick you up and you will not be considered and official finisher of the race! So there I am mile 8 it was our first out and back portion of the race. I had already made the turn and was on the back portion when across the street I see a car. A bus. Two trucks. And two more buses. WHAT!!?? How can that be, how can the bus already be behind me on mile 8! Was I really running that slow? Oh my word. This was my one moment of panic. Then right when I needed it most, God’s word popped into my head. “…being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it…” Philippians 1:6 I thought, no, I’ve got this, just keep moving and don’t…look…back!!
I finally made it to mile 10. My head was on a swivel as I searched for the obnoxious lime green shirt I knew my husband was wearing. Praise the Lord there he was just when I needed a boost. The way his face lit up when he saw me was priceless. That look of pride and love all over his face was a wonderful site to see. He accessed my pack and helped me restock my fuel, gave me a kiss and stayed with me for about half a mile before he peeled off to head to the next point where he would see me. Mile 14, or so I thought.
Mile 13 was the hardest.
The Blue Mile. Lined on both sides of the street were pictures of fallen military heroes. It was the mile to remember those who gave all. This was the quietest mile I had endured. No one talked. You didn’t even seem to hear the shuffling of our feet. It was so extremely emotional it was almost overwhelming. After the pictures there was a group of people, each holding an American flag with a black ribbon of yet another fallen hero. But this portion was loud and energetic they were all cheering the runners along. Don’t give up! Don’t quit! You’ve got this. It made breathing hard because I was trying to hold back the tears. Knowing that some if not all of those people holding the flags had lost someone dear to to them. Yet here they were cheering us on and reminding us to never forget those who endured so much more than we are currently enduring.
Don’t give up! Don’t quit! You’ve got this.
Mile 14 came and went. Where was my husband? Mile 15, no Chad. Mile 16, the furthest distance I had been able to run during my training. Still, no Chad. Mile 17, Lord where is he? Will I beat that Bridge? I can’t believe I’m doing this! As I passed the 6th water table I got lost in the sounds. All the empty water cups clanked like rocks being tosses on the shore. The air smelled sweet like gatorade and the ground was sticky for at least a quarter mile. Then finally, I saw him! There he was again, my sweet husband! Ready to jump into action. He unzipped my pack and handed me the next and final round of fuel and energy I needed for the race!
This time instead of taking off to his next location he stayed with me, running along the edges. He said he would stay with me as long as he could. And he sure did! I’m pretty sure he wasn’t suppose to be on the bridge with me, but he was right there when I beat the bridge. He stayed with me all the way to mile 24.5 when finally security caught on and noticed he didn’t have a bib and sent him to the finish line to wait.
He said he would stay with me as long as he could.
Last two miles! I can’t believe it, I’m actually gonna do this. I am going to complete 26.2 miles!!! Crazy thing, there was a smile on my face the entire way. The feeling was indescribable. A girl who does not consider herself a runner. Even when I run my best, I’m still as slow as a turtle. But that didn’t matter now. A mile is a mile and I was approaching the finish line! In true Marine Corps fashion the finish line was up hill! It was also lined with Marines! Can’t get much more motivating than that! On the ground was a sign that read “Take the Hill”. My smile grew even wider as I pushed up the hill! The photographer in me wanted to stop and take a picture, but I kept moving. The end was in sight! Holy Crap! So clearly I remember thinking and saying over and over, Holy Crap! I did it! I can’t believe I did it! Holy Crap! LOL
Thanks Babe, For being my support and personal Corpsman! It wouldn’t have been the same without you! Semper Fi