Marine Corps Marathon is called “The People’s Marathon.” The race earns its moniker. It starts next to Arlington National Cemetery, winds through Virginia, Georgetown, Washington D.C. and back across the river to Arlington, Virginia, to finish near the Marine Corps Memorial depicting Marines raising the American flag at Iwo Jima. With throngs of runners and deep, loud crowds, the Marine Corps Marathon is easily one of the best races.
This past Sunday I had the privilege to run with the Marines. It would have been impossible to run the course without feeling inspired, as we passed multiple national monuments to our founding fathers and the men who have died to protect our freedoms as Americans. Runners looped the national mall and ran an entire mile lined with photos of service members who were killed in action. I don’t think I went a single quarter mile without seeing a flag waving in the wind.
I normally judge my race success based on my finish time. If I don’t run an acceptable time, I have a hard time enjoying the experience. For example, two weekends ago I had one of the worst racing experiences of my life at the Detroit Free Press Marathon.
Detroit broke me, and it did so in multiple ways. The weather was rough — 70+ degrees at the start with high humidity and gusting headwinds in the final 10K. I hurt my foot in mile 7 when I stepped in a crack. The pain forced me to slow considerably, and I limped my way to an excruciating 3:33 finish (my worst time in more than a year and a half).
My poor performance kept me from enjoying what should have been a scenic journey along Detroit’s spectacular course. Runners cross over into Canada on the stunning Ambassador Bridge as the sun rises, and multiple waterfront miles and a loop through Bell Island makes the race beautiful. Yet I blustered on and on about how miserable I was.
My Marine Corps Marathon experience was much better, but I still fell far short of my pace goal. Hot temperatures led to a disastrous final 5K for me, as I fell off sub-3-hour pace and failed to Boston Qualify after I thought I had it for sure.
In other races, that disappointing finish would have led to a spoiled overall experience. But the Marine Corps Marathon is special. Yes, I almost blacked out in mile 25. But when I crossed the finish line surrounded by Marines, I wasn’t furious at my finish time (3:08:49).
Instead of crushing disappointment, I felt inspiration. I’m so grateful to live in a country where I can chase my dreams and goals. MCM is truly the people’s marathon. It is 26.2 miles of patriotic celebration, and it is a tribute to our military.
Leading up to running through Virginia and D.C., I raised money for Team Red White & Blue, an organization dedicated to helping our veterans stay active in physical activities as well as giving them a supportive community. I ran the streets of our nation’s capital wearing a Team RWB shirt. I quickly lost count of the times I heard someone yell their support with a “Go Eagle!” It was an honor to wear the colors and support such an important organization.
To anyone considering doing the Marine Corps Marathon: do it. MCM is like no other race, and you will leave D.C. a changed runner.