The metro was crowded Sunday morning with runners, so I was glad we decided to leave at 6:30 am because we arrived at the Pentagon at about 7:15 with throngs of other eager runners. I left my gear with my dad, hit up the port-a-potty line and was in my corral in time for the National Anthem at 7:45.The National Anthem always makes me a little emotional but yesterday morning's particularly did. In part, it was because the race brought out my patriotism -- I mean I'm standing in front of the Pentagon, about to run through the streets of the capitol, the Army helicopters are flying overhead, and surrounding me are current soldiers, former soldiers, and those running in honor of fallen or injured soldiers. But on a more personal level, I thought of my own family, and in particular, I thought of my youngest brother Sam, who is currently serving in the Army and who will be deployed to Iraq in January (a fact that moves me to tears now just typing it).
So, when they performed the Anthem and the helicopters flew over us, I cried.
I quickly composed myself after the National Anthem, and got ready to run. It was a perfect morning, weather-wise, with temps hovering around 50 degrees with a nice breeze. The gun for the first wave went off at 8 am, and runners who were corralled first were off. 10 minutes later, the rest of us, in wave 2, were also off, and I crossed the start line about 17 minutes after 8 am and joined with the other runners in a hearty "Hooah!" as we crossed the start line.
The first two miles were, by far, my favorite. We ran northeast towards the Potomac, leaving the Pentagon behind us, and we passed Arlington Cemetery on our left as we approached the Lincoln Memorial Bridge. I could see General Lee's house set up on the hill of Arlington, and thought a bit about the fallen soldiers who are buried in Arlington, as well as the tombs that represent unknown soldiers. My thoughts lingered there for just a moment and then were quickly re-focused to the upcoming bridge.
It's always an impressive sight crossing the memorial bridge with the Potomac stretching out below, the Lincoln Memorial ahead and the Washington Memorial silhouetted in the background, but that impressiveness is magnified by running over the bridge instead of driving over it. The sun was rising over the Potomac, and the Lincoln Memorial looked grand and impressive as we approached.
That moment was probably one of the best race moments I've yet experienced.
The course shifted to the right at the Lincoln Memorial, and we headed northwest, passing the Watergate hotel, and then looping around by the Kennedy Center and heading back toward the Mall. I felt pretty good during this time. For a brief bit, I suffered from a side stitch in mile 4, which is weird because I never get side stitches, but I ran through it, and by mile 5, it was gone.
Just before the 5 mile marker, I walked for a few seconds while I drank some water from an aid station, and then I resumed the run.
The course merged us onto Independence Ave, parallel to the Mall, and this is where the crowd support was best: People lined Independence Ave and cheered us on. So, we not only got to pass some of the classic museums, like the Smithsonian Castle and the Air & Space Museum, but we also got to enjoy the spectator involvement.
At the 6 mile marker, the course began it's short loop in front of the Capitol: turned left on Second, then briefly ran on Constitution Ave, then turned right on First and then returned to Independence Ave, this time in the opposite direction.
I got another drink of water, and walked while I drank it, at the aid station at mile 8, and then headed into the last, and most boring, part of the race: Crossing the Potomac again and heading back to the Pentagon, but this time we didn't get to cross the scenic Lincoln Memorial bridge; instead, it was the George Mason Bridge, which is just a lot of highway. So, the last mile and a half was a bit of a struggle: The incline on the bridge sucked, there was no shade and the sun was kinda hot, and the path was narrow because only half of the highway was closed, so it felt crowded. My pace slowed in miles 9 and 10, and I was ready to be done.
The crowds were roaring as I entered the last stretch of the race as we circled back into the Pentagon's parking lot, and I felt good as I crossed the finish line. My Garmin read 1:41:56, and the Chip Time nearly matched: 1:41:57.
The finish chute was crowded, and a bit of a clusterfuck, but I got my chip removed, got some refreshment, and received my Finisher's Coin. Overall I felt good: The race was spectacular on many levels, and I ran a solid race, so all in all, I felt pretty happy.
- I wish they would put that Finisher's Coin on a ribbon, so I could string it around my neck. I'll admit it, I'm a medal-whore, so while the coin is cool looking, I would like it better if it could hang around my neck.
- The military is rigid with their rules, and that sucks. I would've really liked to run with my iPod. Plus, I saw a soldier reprimand a runner who didn't exit "appropriately" out of the finishing chute. No wonder I was never inclined to join the military.
- It was quite the crowd, and I always find that crowds make racing difficult for several reasons, but chiefly because it's hard to establish your own rhythm and pace when you are swerving or maneuvering around so many others.
- Despite those 3 criticisms, I really loved the race, and 10 miles never went by so quickly!